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 bouts of inclement weather.
Whether due to a hurricane or blizzard, loss of power happens in bad weather, period. Sometimes you can’t wait for the storm to pass before you need critical power restored. This is where generator enclosures come into the mix.
You can NOT run the generator indoors. Running a generator indoors is a massive safety issue that can kill you. The exhaust fumes are toxic and will cause a dangerous build up of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, or “CO”, is an odorless, colorless fume, responsible for hundreds of hospitalizations and deaths each year. It is truly the silent killer.
For the sake of safety, waiting for the sun to come out before running your generator is the better choice. However, in many cases, you don’t have that option. The power in your home or office will likely go out in the midst of the inclement weather. This can leave you with major issues.
Different Types of Generator Enclosures
That being said, 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, such as a wooden, plastic, vinyl or permanent enclosure option. Our top recommendation: Suncast BMS2500
- Flexible generator shelters, like cloth covers that are portable and collapsible. Our top recommendation: GenTent 10k
- Customized enclosure options, which usually come straight from the manufacturer and are custom-built for the dimensions of your specific generator model.
- Do it yourself generator options, consisting of building your own enclosure based on specific steps that will protect your portable generator from the elements when in use.
Rigid Generator Enclosures
Our top choices for rigid generator enclosures include:
- Suncast BMS2500: SEE LATEST PRICE
- Lifetime 60103: SEE LATEST PRICE
- Outdoor Home Design Shed: SEE LATEST PRICE
- Rubbermaid Horizontal: SEE LATEST PRICE
A rigid generator enclosure is a wonderful option to ensure your generator is protected from rain and snow.
Rigid generator enclosures are typically solid wall structures that provide the greatest protection from the elements. These range in size from large and roomy to small and confining for your generator. Regardless, almost none of these are easily portable.
Generator enclosures that are solid, such as this Rubbermaid option, are typically constructed to withstand harsh outdoor weather year round. Often, concrete pads are poured, and the rigid enclosure is mounted straight to the concrete. This, in effect, turns it into a pseudo-permanent generator.
Rigid enclosures are usually constructed of steel, aluminum or fiberglass. The generator will be housed in this rigid enclosure. Thus, it will be capable of functioning safely and effectively with the lid closed and proper ventilation. Vents allow for the flow of fresh air necessary for internal combustion engines. They also allow for expulsion of the generator’s exhaust fumes.
Benefits of Rigid Generator Enclosures
These rigid generators provide a strong, solid foundation to run your generator during damp, wet weather. The generator enclosure can also be locked when shut in many cases. This helps keep your investment safe and sound when in use. It also provides a secure storage option for year-round use.
Another benefit of a rigid generator shelter is the ability to utilize sound dampening options. Many of these generator enclosures provide heat-reflective foam protection. This serves to not only deflect heat, but also to absorb some of the noise that generators make. These enclosures will by no means silence a generator, however a decrease of 10 or more decibels will be more than noticeable when in use.
Flexible Generator Shelters
Our top choices for flexible generator enclosures include:
Flexible shelters for your portable generator are also available. These shelters come in various styles and sizes. However, regardless of style or sizing, all offer the ability to use your generator during inclement weather. This is all done while remaining completely portable.
These lightweight covers, in most cases, 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. The distance and material creation also provide ample venting through the top.
Flexible generators are usually a one-size-fits-all situation. However, there are some cases, like with the Champion Storm Shield, where the flexible generator enclosure is fitted specifically to the model. More on that below.
Benefits of Flexible Generator Enclosures
Rigid metal or plastic enclosures can cost nearly as much as a lower end generator itself. Comparatively, 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. You also won’t have any need to worry about the poisonous gas exhaust as it vents naturally beyond the shelter.
Potential Drawbacks to Flexible Generator Enclosures
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. However, they must be watched to make sure the heavy rain, high winds or building up snow has not caused the cover to fail. This can lead to your generator getting 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 online 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.
Here are some great DIY tutorials:
- The Ultimate Guide to Building a Portable Generator Enclosure
- How to Build a Durable Portable Generator Enclosure or a Generator Baffle Box
- Portable Generator Enclosure Plans
- Generator Shed Plans – Generator Enclosure Plans
Benefits of a DIY Generator Enclosure
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.
Potential Drawbacks to All Generator Enclosures
The drawback of purchasing generator 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.
- 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.
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.