Running a generator in the rain or snow can be a difficult proposition. Most generator manufacturers recommend against using their products in wet environments. However, the question remains, when do you need a generator most? You need it during the inclement weather. Whether it is due to a hurricane or a blizzard, loss of power happens in bad weather. Sometimes you can’t wait for the storm to pass before you need critical power restored. This is where generator enclosures come in.
You can NOT run the generator indoors. That is a massive safety issue that can kill you. The exhaust fumes are toxic and will cause a dangerous build up of Carbon Monoxide. “CO” is an odorless fume that is responsible for hundreds of hospitalizations and deaths each year.
For the sake of safety, waiting for the sun to come out before running the generator is the better choice. However, in many cases you don’t have that option. So in addition to proper cover during storage and maintenance, here are a few options to safely run your generator outdoors in the snow and rain:
- Rigid generator enclosures
- Flexible generator shelters
- Customized cover options
- Do-It-Yourself generator options
Benefits of Generator Enclosures
A rigid enclosure is a great option for your generator. These are solid wall structures that stand up to the elements through strength. They can range from large and roomy to small and confining but almost none of them are portable.
A generator enclosure is constructed to withstand the harsh weather of being outdoors year round. Often a concrete pad would be laid down or poured on site with the enclosure mounted to the concrete. Rigid enclosures are often made of steel, aluminum, or even fiberglass. Your generator would be enclosed within this box and is capable of safely functioning while the lids are shuttered. There will be vents to allow the flow of fresh air necessary for any internal combustion engine as well as the expulsion of the generator’s exhaust fumes.
The rigid enclosures offer more than the ability to run your generator during damp and wet weather. The enclosure can be locked when shut, keeping your investment safe and sound during use and also providing a secure storage facility all year long.
Another benefit of using the rigid structured generator shelter is the possibility of using sound-deadening features. Many generator enclosures incorporate foam encased in heat reflective protection to absorb some of the noise your generator will make. Normal enclosures won’t be able to completely silence your engine but the drop of a few decibels will be a welcome perk when using the hard shell enclosure.
Our top recommendation for rigid portable generator enclosures is the Suncast BMS2500.
Potential Drawbacks to Generator Enclosures
The drawback to purchasing the enclosures are obvious. They are larger than the generator and take up a lot of space. The nature of the structure dictates a proper installation, often with the assistance of a professional. And most importantly, they are not portable. When you bought your portable generator, you wanted to use it at home but also out at the campsite or on the job. The generator can be moved but the steel structure is going to stay put which means, if it’s raining at that campfire, you’re going to need another solution to running your generator in the rain and snow.
Flexible shelters are also available. They come in various styles and sizes but all offer you the ability to use your generator during inclement weather while remaining completely portable.
These lightweight covers look like small tents that fit over the top of your generator. Small fiberglass rods bow the fabric into a dome over the workspace exactly the same way you would set up a small two-man tent. The water resistant fabric remains free of the generator while repelling rain and snow.
Our top recommendation for flexible portable generator enclosures is the IGAN Generator Tent Running Cover. Other solid options include the GenTent 10k cover and the Champion Storm Shield (perfect for Champion generators).
Custom Enclosure Options
Some manufacturers offer custom shelters fit for the specific generator you purchase, but there are plenty of universal flexible generator shelters that will offer you protection from the elements. These fabric defenders are much less expensive than the rigid frame enclosures. The durable metal enclosures can cost nearly as much as a lower end generator itself, while the flexible shelters commonly go for a small fraction of that cost.
The open air nature of the flexible shelter is a natural fix to the real concern of air flow. Your engine will receive plenty of clean fresh air and you won’t have any need to worry about the poisonous gas exhaust as it vents naturally beyond the shelter.
However, the portability and lower cost of these types of shelters have their own category of concerns. Lightweight fabric will eventually wear out, in storage, through prolonged use, or even during operation due to storm debris. Care must be taken to inspect the shelter to ensure it maintains a dry enclosure surrounding your generator.
This class of shelter also offers no security from theft or protection from damage. A running generator left unattended in the rain or snow is not secure. This must be kept in mind not only when considering theft, but also high winds. Flexible shelters are rated to maintain their integrity in high winds, but must be watched to make sure the heavy rain, high winds or building up snow has not caused the cover to fail, getting your generator wet and endangering your safety.
The Do-It-Yourself Option
Another viable option would be to build your own shelter for your portable generator. The type of enclosure you create will be tailored to your needs and limited only by your level of skill. There are plenty of tutorials on-line in the form of step-by-step instructions as well as full videos showing how to build your own generator shelter from snow and rain.
Building your own shelter will let you create according to your needs. It’s possible you only need a temporary shelter from the weather. A large lean-to or a tighter fitting PVC pipe and tarp creation is a simple rig you can create in minutes. Or perhaps you are looking to build a more permanent home for your generator. You can build to your own specifications and even match the shelter to blend in with your existing landscape or home facade.
Whether your needs have you making a quick rain shield or a long term structure, when building your shelter you must remember the following key components to a good snow and rain shelter.
- Generators need airflow. Be sure your creation allows for adequate air intake.
- Exhaust fumes are dangerous. Be sure you properly vent the exhaust gases from out of your enclosure and into an open clear space.
- Generators build up heat. Keep plastics and other flammable materials (even wood) away from the generator’s heat shield to prevent melting or fires.
- Maintenance and refueling. You will need to change the generator’s oil and spark plug from time to time. Be sure your build allows access to the moving parts. Also, when it comes time to top off the gasoline tank, make sure you left plenty of access so you can safely refuel the generator.
Wrapping Things Up
Purchasing or building a shelter or generator enclosures will allow you to run your generator when you need it during heavy rain or snow. Proper use of any shelter will make sure your power connections are clean, dry and remain clean and dry during operation allowing you to safely restore power during the storms that come your way.