A portable generator can be a lifesaver. This is particularly true if you live in areas frequently hit by natural disasters such as hurricanes. A portable generator will keep your essential electrical appliances such as a sump pump, fridge, lights, and HVAC unit running even after a power blackout. However, running a generator indoors can be deadly. Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can be fatal when inhaled.
Therefore, you need to run your generator in an open space about 20 feet away from your house. But with the strong winds and heavy downpours when hurricanes, you will need to cover your generator. You need to protect it from getting wet when it is running. Besides protecting it from the rain, covering a generator will greatly reduce its operating noise. While there are many portable generator covers in the market, making one by yourself can save you hundreds of dollars. Read on to learn how to make a DIY generator cover while running.
Why You Need a Generator Cover/Enclosure
There are several purposes that a generator cover serves. Here are some of the best reasons to build a generator cover.
To protect the generator from harsh weather
A generator cover safeguards your generator from tough weather conditions such as storms, rain, snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures. Apart from damaging your generator, harsh weather can void your generator’s warranty policy.
To lower the generator’s operating noise
Generators can be very noisy, mainly when operating a conventional model. A loud generator can be a nuisance to you and your neighbors. Besides, there are places like national parks when loud generators are not allowed. By investing in an enclosure, you can lower the amount of noise your portable generator produces when it’s running.
Keep wildlife away from your generator
If you live in rural areas, you will likely encounter squirrels, birds, wasps, and rodents roaming in our compound. In order to keep these animals away from your generator, a generator cover will come in handy.
Making a DIY Generator Cover
You can save money by making your generator cover. But before we look into the easy procedure, let’s collect the required materials.
Materials You Will Need
The materials you will need for making a DIY generator cover while raining will depend on how much you want to spend on the materials. Here are the inexpensive materials you can use:
- Prefabricated louvered vents
- An aluminum sheet
- Waterproof material
Steps to Building DIY Generator Cover
The making of a generator cover involves several steps, which include:
Step#1 Designing the Cover
While designing the generator cover, you should consider breathing space. The generator cover should have some ventilation that allows adequate airflow to the generator’s engine. Without proper ventilation, the generator will overheat, which can lead to the malfunctioning of the generator. Apart from the ventilation working as a breather for the generator, the ventilation should also be big enough to allow the generator to dump its exhaust.
Take all the measurements of the generator in terms of length, width and height. These measurements, which differ from one generator to another, will determine the size of the generator cover. Once you have the measurements, decide on whether to use plywood or sheet metal. The latter is expensive, so most people prefer using plywood. Even though plywood is an affordable material, consider adding an aluminum sheet on the hottest part of the generator, such as the muffler area. The aluminum sheet will protect the plywood from direct heat.
Step#2 Start By Making the Top
Now that you have the measurements of your generator start by making the top part. You will use the top to cover the other part of your structure. To protect the generator from rain, ensure to put some water-resistant material on your plywood top. You can use polyester fabric with PU coating to ensure water does not get to your generator when it rains. Remember to stick to your measurements.
Step#3 Make the Front and Side Panels
Cut the pieces of your plywood according to your design in step#1. You can use prefabricated louvered vents for your ventilation. You will need to use a jigsaw to cut the slots in the plywood to match the rectangular size of the prefabricated louvered vents. It is advisable to fit the vents on one side and the front of the generator. This is to allow adequate airflow into the cover. Lack of enough airflow may cause your generator to overheat. You can use half-inch screws to fasten the vent onto the plywood.
Step#4 Make the Rear Panel
Now that your generator top, front and sides panels are ready, it is time to make the rear panel. The back panel usually is smaller than the other panels because this is the exhaust side. And since this is the side where the muffler will be positioned, you need to protect the plywood from direct heating from the muffler. You will need a heatproof material such as an aluminum sheet and attach it onto the plywood, making the rear side panel. At this point, you have the top, front, sides, and back panels ready.
Step#5 Attach all the Panels to the Top Panel
You will need 1-inch deck screws for attaching the four panels to the top panel of your DIY generator cover. L brackets may come in handy to fasten duo panels together on a corner joint. While at the joints, you can use outdoor sealant caulk to ensure water doesn’t penetrate the cover when it rains. Fill all the weak or open spaces with caulk.
Your inexpensive DIY generator cover is now ready for use. Cover the generator from the top with the open side of the cover facing downwards.
Features of a Reliable DIY Generator Cover
An excellent DIY generator cover should have the following specs.
You must ensure the cover you are making is waterproof. You will need to run the generator when it is raining or snowing. A generator cover that is not waterproof will not be of help to you when it is rainy or snowy. While plywood is the affordable construction material for your DIY generator cover project, ensure to add a waterproof material at the top. If the polyester fabric is not accessible, you can use plastic material to cover the top.
Besides causing electrocution to anyone operating a wet generator, dampness can promote corrosion of the engine parts.
When a generator is operating, it releases heat to the environment. If this heat does not escape the environment, your generator may overheat. You can avoid this by making a generator cover with sufficient airflow by considering vents in your design stage. The vent will allow natural air to flow while the exhaust fumes go out. This will help the generator to operate at the required temperature. An overheating generator can cause a fire; avoid any scenarios where your generator cover will make the generator overheat.
Apart from overheating, a generator requires oxygen for combustion to take place. Without adequate airflow, it may be difficult for the generator to maintain optimum performance. You can boost airflow by mounting an exhaust fan in the cover or enclosure.
A DIY generator cover must be strong enough to sustain normal wind flow. While it may be challenging to make a DIY generator cover that withstands high-pressure wind, the cover must withstand the average wind that blows when it’s raining. You can reinforce your homemade cover by wrapping it with a bungee cord. This will stop the high-pressure wind from blowing it away.
Portable generators are made with considerations to be mobile. You need a generator cover that you can move from one place to another whenever you are moving with your portable generator. Therefore, the materials you use to make the DIY generator cover must be lightweight and cost-friendly. Even so, do not compromise on durability for a light cover; ensure the materials are also durable.
Factors to Consider When Making a DIY Generator Cover
When it comes to getting a generator cover, there are two options: buying one or making one yourself. Settling for the latter is better because you can cut down on your costs and customize the cover to fit your desires. Here are key factors to consider before making one.
Building a generator cover on your own is cheaper than buying a ready-made cover. However, if you are not careful, the cost of making a DIY cover can surpass that of buying one. Think about the cost and durability of the materials you are going to use,
Type of materials
You should find weatherproof materials. You don’t want your generator to become wet when it is running. Additionally, weatherproof materials will protect your generator from corrosion.
Size of your generator
The size of your generator will determine the size of your generator cover. A good-sized generator cover is slightly bigger than the generator itself. The extra space allows plenty of airflows and easy access to the generator.
Do you want the generator cover to protect the unit from harsh weather or to lower its noise output as well? Answering this question will guide you in selecting materials to use in making the generator cover. There are particular materials such as MDF, MLV (Mass Loaded Vinyl), and foam mats suitable for creating a generator box that dampens the generator’s operating noise.
Accessibility of the generator
An ideal generator cover should offer an easy time to access the generator. You can design a lift-up top cover, side doors/double front doors, or swing open flaps. The more the accessing channels, the better the airflow and access to the generator.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you run a generator overnight?
It is perfectly safe to run a generator overnight. However, you must ensure that the generator is placed at least 20 feet from your house. Also, ensure that the generator has sufficient fuel levels. Typically, most portable generators can run 8 to 10 hours using 1 to 2 gallons of fuel.
How far should a generator be from a window?
It would be best to place your generator at least 20 feet away from your window. Additionally, you must direct the engine exhaust away from your RV or house windows and doors. This ensures the wind does not blow the exhaust fumes containing carbon monoxide to your house or RV.
Should you turn off the main breaker when running the generator?
Yes, it is advisable to switch off your main breaker or circuit breakers whenever running a generator. Doing so will ensure your generator power does not flow back to the electrical grid lines, which can electrocute the servicemen working to restore the primary grid.
Where should a generator be placed in a storm?
Whether it is raining or sunny, you should not operate your generator indoors or in the garage. You should place your generator about 20 feet from your house down-wind away from your open windows, doors, or vents.
How much ventilation does a portable generator need?
For optimal and safe operations, portable generators require adequate ventilation. According to OSHA, a portable generator should have 3-4 feet of clear space on every side to guarantee a good ventilation.
Can you run a generator in a plastic shed?
Yes, a plastic shed is a reliable and affordable option for covering your generator to enable it to run even when it’s raining. However, you should ensure the plastic shed is big enough to leave spaces that allow free flow of air.
How do you make a generator soundproof enclosure?
The process of soundproofing a generator is almost similar to making a DIY generator cover. Start by taking the measurements of your generator, considering the length, width, and height. To allow more space inside the soundproof enclosure, add a few inches on each side of your measurements.
Cut six pieces of MDF (one for each side) according to the measurements of the enclosure you want to make. Make some halls for ventilation and allow your outlet cables to pass through. The ventilations allow adequate airflow into the generator and outflow of fumes the generator produces. If possible, have at least three ventilation ducts.
Before joining the MDF board, you will need to stick MLV (Mass Loaded Vinyl) on each side of the panels. You can use green glue to ensure the MVL is appropriately fixed on the boards. Proceed by adding another layer of foam mat on the MVL layer. This is to make the enclosure soundproof.
Use screws and green glue to join the five panels together. The sixth panel, which is the top or ceiling panel, should be attached using hinges to allow easy opening and closing of the box.
Lastly, add the vents on the halls made earlier when preparing the panels. Use the green glue to seal the halls with the vents. To ensure no noise travels through the vents, you can add links in the vents.
Your homemade soundproof enclosure is ready.
Will a generator overheat in a box?
Yes, your generator is likely to overheat if the box has poor ventilation. To avoid this, ensure your DIY generator enclosure has adequate vents. Three vents are enough, one for the air intake, the second one for cooling the generator, and the third one for letting out the fumes. Your generator will not overheat when running it inside the box with such ventilation ducts.
How do I vent my generator to my shed?
You can rent a generator shed by installing a louvered steel grill on different sides of the shed. Proceed by installing a small box fan against the louvered grill. The box fan will move more air inside the shed while blowing out hot air and fumes from the generator.
Can you run a generator in a vented shed?
Yes, it’s perfect in order to run a generator in a vented shed. A vented shed means there is sufficient airflow to the shed.
How do I cover my generator while running?
The only way to use a generator when it is raining or during a hurricane is to cover it. There are different covers you can use to cover the generator while it is running; they include:
- Generator tent
- A generator cover
- A generator shed
You can use any of the three options above to cover your generator when using it in snowy, windy, or rainy weather.
What can I use to cover my generator in the rain?
You can either use a specially made canopy, enclosure, or tent to cover your generator when raining. You can either choose to buy ready-made enclosures, tents and canopy or DIY your cover.
Can I enclose my generator?
Yes, you can enclose your generator using a sound box or a DIY baffle box to reduce its operating noise. However, when enclosing your generator, ensure that it does not overheat and that you have easy access to the power outlets.
Can I put a tarp over my generator?
Yes, however, you must ensure the tarp does not contact the generator. You can use poles to elevate the tarp over the generator. With the hot engine parts, draping a tarp over the generator can burn through the tarp.
Can you run your generator in the rain?
You should not operate your generator in the rain. However, if you have to, ensure that it is protected from moisture and is not operated with wet hands. You can use canopy structures, sheds, or covers to protect the generator from getting wet when it is running.
Can you run a generator during a storm?
Portable generators come in handy during a storm, and they can provide power backup. However, when misused during a storm, generators can be dangerous. You must have a good generator cover or enclosure to run it in the storm though it’s not advisable. Running a generator in the storm or rain can cause rusting or worse electrocution to the operator.
How do you protect a portable generator from the weather?
You can protect your generator from the weather by using a specifically made canopy, enclosure, or tent. These tents and enclosures are portable, and they are open at the bottom to allow maximum air circulation.
Where is the safest place to put a generator?
The best place to put a generator when running it is in an open space that is at least 20 feet from your house or RV. While at this distance, the engine exhaust should be directed away from your windows, vents, and doors. Regardless of whether it is raining or not, never operate a generator indoors, in the garage, or any other enclosed space that can capture carbon monoxide.
Does a generator use more gas with more things plugged in?
Yes, a generator consumes more gasoline when it is serving a higher electrical load than when the load is small. Plugging in more appliances opens the engine’s throttle, further increasing the amount of fuel the engine consumes. It explains why generators with small loads tend to have an extended runtime compared to those with bigger loads.
How far must a generator be from the house?
It should be at least 20 feet from your house whenever you are operating your generator. To place your generator this far from your home, you will need to have reliable extension cords.
Generators come in handy when the storm hits or a heavy downpour causes a power outage. The generator will keep your life going by powering our essential electrical appliances. Furthermore, a portable generator will also help when camping or holding tailgating parties. However, you cannot operate a generator when it is raining, snowing, or a storm. If you have to power your generator during such weather conditions, you will need a generator cover. Luckily, you can make a DIY generator cover at an affordable price. Use the steps outlined in this article to make your generator cover at home.