Can You Run a Generator in the Rain? A Guide for Homeowners

May 8th 2024

Graphic showing a generator without a cover running in the rain

Generators are essential, especially during the rainy seasons when power outages are more common. But is it safe to run a generator in the rain? While you can run a generator in the rain with the right safety precautions, neglecting the proper protection may turn tragic.

So what should you do when you need to power up your generator but it's raining or snowing outside? Understand the potential dangers of operating your generator in the rain and take safety precautions to protect yourself, your household and your power back-up equipment. This guide covers top generator safety tips and hazards to keep you and your family safe.

Generator without a cover running in the rain with someone pulling the starting cable

Understanding the Risks of Operating a Generator in the Rain

While generators are reliable power outage solutions, running a generator in the rain carries many risks. For starters, touching a wet generator or a dry one with wet hands poses a high risk of electrocution or electric shocks that could result in injuries or fatalities. Generally, running a generator in the rain presents the same dangers as operating utility-supplied electric equipment in wet conditions. Some other common risks of running a generator in the rain include:

  • Shock Hazard: Operating a portable generator in wet weather poses a significant risk of electric shock due to increased conductivity and exposure to moisture. The combination of high voltages and water creates potential pathways for abnormal electricity flow, increasing the likelihood of sparks and even electrocution. Additionally, the metal construction and exposed outlets of generators make them vulnerable to water ingress, leading to corrosion, short circuits, and electrical system damage.
  • Short-circuiting and explosions: When running a generator in the rain, there's an increased risk of water seeping into the engine. Generators operate on flammable fuels that can react explosively with water.
  • Ruin the generator: When the generator's components, such as the motor and AC sockets, get wet, the generator is likely to short circuit, causing extensive and expensive damage.
  • Destroy other appliances: If your generator short circuits, the damage may extend to the connected appliances.

Safety Precautions for Running a Generator in the Rain

Numerous safety measures for using generators in the rain can help you stay safe while powering your home with a generator:

  • Always run your generator outdoors: Whether it's raining or not, you should always operate your generator exclusively from outside — at least 20 feet away from the house and any windows, vents and doors leading in. Running a generator inside, even in your garage, is risky because it exhausts harmful fumes, including the odorless and colorless carbon monoxide that can cause illness or death.
  • Place on dry level ground: The best spot to operate your generator during a downpour is a dry level surface that doesn't easily puddle or pool with water. Look for a place higher than the rest of your yard, but if you can't find one, use dry solid blocks or boards to raise a section, making it safe to run the generator. Operating a generator on wet ground poses the risk of overheating, which may impact its performance or melt nearby products.
  • Ensure it's properly grounded: Test your generator's grounding to protect it against electric shocks, overloading or explosions caused by excess or stray electricity. Some generators are already grounded, and you can confirm this by checking your owner's manual.
  • Ensure proper ventilation: When protecting your generator from the rain, you must ensure a sufficient supply of oxygen in and around it. A generator requires oxygen to burn fuel, so there must be a constant stream of fresh air getting in through the inlet, and the exhaust should stay open to help expel the harmful gases produced.
  • Check cords and cables often: Before powering your generator in the rain, check whether any cords or cables are broken or fraying. Wires left open to the elements increase electrical hazards. Heavy-duty weatherproof cords and cables are the best for outdoor use because they can withstand sleet, rain and snowstorms.
  • Wear rubber gloves and shoes with rubber soles: Because electrocution is among the top hazards for operating a generator in the rain, you need rubber gloves and shoes with rubber soles to prevent you from creating a circuit through your body. Rubber is an insulator, so it limits the transfer of electricity.
  • Invest in a high-quality generator cover: A weather-resistant cover, such as GenTent Canopy, keeps the generator dry, ensuring it's safe to operate during a downpour or snow. It reduces exposure to rain, snow and strong winds while ensuring proper ventilation.

Understanding Generator Specifications

Generator brands and models determine how well they can withstand the rain. To be sure it's safe to operate your generator in wet weather, read the owner's manual. Note that while some generator models can withstand minimal exposure to moisture, it's best to cover it and follow the other precautions shared earlier.

The most common generators for residential use are portable and standby generators. With standby generators, you don't need to worry about covers because they come with protective housing to prevent damage to the engine and electrical components. With portable generators, however, you need a weatherproof cover to keep them safe in extreme weather.

Additionally, regular generator maintenance and repair, including replacing worn components and cleaning your generator's cover, are essential to ensure it performs optimally in extreme weather.

How GenTent Canopies Protect Your Generator

GenTent manufactures the best generator covers or enclosures to keep generators safe when running in the rain and other severe weather. Our generator tents are made using marine-grade weatherproof dual-coated vinyl material, which are NFPA rated, and covers the generator's electric parts to protect it from weather damage. You attach the canopy using sturdy fiberglass rods to keep the tent in place even as strong winds blow against it.

The generator tents are easy to install in only three steps and come with wheels and a handle to ensure the portability of your generator. With GenTent canopies, you don't need to worry about the generator overheating because the design allows sufficient ventilation — meaning the fumes and heat can escape during operation.

They're tested in an independent third-party lab and rated safe to operate in the following harsh weather conditions:

  • Up to 70 mph forecast winds
  • Hurricane-force precipitation, up to 12 inches per hour
  • 18-inch snow load, up to 55 pounds of canopy pressure

Ensure Generator Safety During Severe Weather With GenTent Canopies

GenTent launched the first portable generator tents and running covers in 2012 after realizing a need for a reliable way to run generators in severe weather. Our high-quality solutions are engineered with customers' safety in mind, backed by third-party tests and an NPFA 701 rating for the canopy and other components. We have waterproof generator covers for portable, inverter and larger generator types, so there's an option for everyone.

Get more generator support and resources in our library, or enter your generator make and model to find the right GenTent for your equipment.

graphic showing three GenTent generator cover models on generators with text calling out GenTent capabilities