Can You Run a Generator in the Rain?

Learn if and how you can safely run a generator in the rain.

By Timothy Dale | Published Apr 4, 2022 4:07 PM

can you run a generator in the rain

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Q: Recent power outages prompted me to head to the store and pick up a generator, but it operates on gas, so I need to set it up outside where it would be vulnerable to rain. Can you run a generator in the rain or will I need to think of a different solution? 

A: Can you run a generator in the rain or can a generator get wet are common questions many people ask because emergency power is often associated with rain or lightning storms. It turns out it isn’t recommended to run portable generators in the rain, but if you need to, it’s important to use a generator tent to keep the generator safe and dry during use. There are also many generator cover ideas that are easy to find online so you can make a DIY generator cover if you don’t want to look for a prefabricated cover or tent.

Recurring power outages can also often be solved with a whole-home generator designed with a protective cover so it can operate outdoors. Continue reading to learn more about safely operating a generator in the rain.

Related: Solved! How Big of a Generator Do I Need?

can you run a generator in the rain

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Whole-house backup generators can seamlessly operate in the rain.

There are significant differences between portable generators and whole-house generators, so it isn’t as important to ask can generators get wet or are generators waterproof when your home has a whole-house backup generator installed. This is because whole-house backup generators are made with protective covers to keep them safe in rain, sleet, and snow, making these generators the best option for providing power to the entire home in an emergency.

If you are concerned about the usual rush to the gas stations during a power outage, then it may be a good idea to invest in a whole-house backup generator that operates on natural gas. You can also get models that run on propane or diesel fuel and produce enough energy to run the home for several days.

Portable generators without protective covers should not be used in the rain.

While you don’t need to worry about rain with a whole-house backup generator, it’s important to know if you can run a portable generator in the rain before purchasing a portable generator or using one during stormy weather. Most manufacturers will clearly state that a portable generator is not designed to be used in the rain or other wet conditions because the water can damage the generator and pose a safety risk to anyone nearby.

Don’t forget that generators operate by burning flammable fuels. Generators are designed to produce powerful voltage and when moisture gets into the outlets or seeps into the engine, it can result in electrocution or an explosion. Do not allow a portable generator to get wet or operate uncovered in the rain.

can you run a generator in the rain

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Portable generators can be stored—but never used—indoors.

The entire purpose of a generator is to create electricity that can be used to power your electrical devices, lights, and appliances. However, in order to generate that electricity, a portable generator must burn a fuel source, like propane, gasoline, or diesel. When these fuels are burned, they produce fumes that can quickly accumulate and become toxic in a sealed or enclosed space, like the garage or inside the home.

Some people may feel that it’s okay to use a portable generator in the garage as long as the door is open, but carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that can easily be blown into the confines of the garage instead of safely outdoors and you wouldn’t know until it became a hazard. You can store the generator inside when it’s not in use, but always make sure that you only run the generator outdoors.

Related: How Much Does a Whole House Generator Cost?

Operational generator covers allow for use during precipitation, but not severe weather.

You won’t be able to use a portable generator in severe storms, even with an operational generator cover because the cover can be blown off or otherwise dislodged, leaving the generator vulnerable to rain. “Operational cover” is the term used to describe a generator cover that protects the generator while it is being operated. This is distinct from a cover that can only be used when the generator is off, because an operational cover needs appropriate ventilation to allow for proper use without overheating. An operational cover can be used in tandem with a generator running in light to heavy rainstorms to provide power to the home or to the campsite. Choose between a steel enclosure, plastic shed, pop-up canopy, or opt for building your own DIY generator cover.

  • Steel enclosures offer the highest level of durability and safety, though it’s recommended to have these enclosures professionally installed to ensure that they are waterproof.
  • Plastic sheds can work as a generator cover and are more durable than a light cloth or plastic covering, but plastic sheds often have problems with overheating because they insulate the generator. If you choose this route, make sure the shed is properly ventilated.
  • Pop-up canopy tents are affordable and easy to use, though they lack durability and are prone to being blown away by powerful wind.
  • Custom DIY generator covers can also be effective, but you need to know what you are doing, otherwise the cover may not be properly waterproofed or it may not have the right ventilation, resulting in the generator overheating.

Related: The Best Standby Generators for Backup Power Solutions

can you run a generator in the rain

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How to Protect a Portable Generator So It Can Be Used in the Rain

Follow these steps to help keep your portable generator safe in the rain.

1. Designate a solid, dry, outdoor space for operating the generator.

When it rains or snows, you will need to protect the generator from all sides, including the bottom, so it’s important to find a solid, dry space outdoors where the generator can sit. Do not select any areas that tend to puddle or pool with water during rain; instead look for a place that sits higher than the rest of the yard. If you don’t have a solid, dry place for the generator, consider doing some landscaping to create a safe spot for the generator.

2. Add an operational cover suitable for the generator.

With the generator located in a suitable location, the next step is to find a generator cover that can protect the top and sides of the generator without causing the machine to overheat. Consider whether it would be best to invest in a steel enclosure, a plastic shed, a simple pop-up canopy, or to build your own custom generator cover. Just make sure to take into consideration the ventilation requirements to keep the generator cool and running efficiently if you choose to tackle this project on your own.

Our Recommendation: GenTent Generator Running Cover on Amazon for $159.99
A sturdy steel pole attaches to the generator’s frame via a set of clamps, making this cover strong enough to resist winds up to 70 miles per hour or 18 inches of snow.

3. Ensure the power cord connected to your home is weatherproof.

Where you position a generator and keeping it protected from the elements aren’t the only things to worry about. You also need a weatherproof power cord that can travel between the generator and your appliances. Locking power cords help prevent the cord from coming loose during heavy winds— just make sure you choose a power cord that is both weatherproof and compatible with your generator.

Our Recommendation: Yodotek Generator Locking Power Cord on Amazon for $58.88
The weather-, water-, and fire-resistant design ensures that this locking power cord will stay safe during rain, sleet, and snowstorms.

The prices listed here are accurate as of the last update on 4/4/22.