People use generators for a variety of different uses, but it is common for generators to kick into action at the time of power outages and emergency situations. Heavy rain and snow storms are typically things that cause the power grid to go down leaving your home in darkness, and the need to use a generator. It is therefore ironic that most manufacturers very strongly advise against using a generator in wet weather and snowy conditions. The reason for this is quite apparent: electricity and water do not mix very well! Manufacturers are duty bound to protect themselves and others and give their best advice on safety. So, what do you do?
Well, one thing is for sure, you do not bring the generator inside the home! There are countless stories across the world where people have relocated a generator to their garage, only to find themselves quickly suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Generators exhale fumes that are toxic and will soon have you feeling unwell. Some generators are marketed as all-weather, all-purpose machines, but even these generators are advised to not be used in wet weather conditions, as they are not 100% waterproof. Given that the situation where you most likely need to use a generator will be one that involves wet wind and snow, how can you ensure that you can operate one efficiently and safely?
Wet weather options
Thankfully there are several options available for using a generator in wet weather, and if used correctly they can provide a haven for efficient operation.
- Purchase a dedicated wet weather cover
For temporary use around the home, or more likely for someone that is camping or on an outdoor location, the purchase of a special generator cover is a must. Many manufacturers produce temporary covers that effectively act as a mini tent. These cover the generator to ensure rain and snow do not enter the mechanical or electrical systems. Think “pop up” tent for a generator.
The benefit of these systems is that they are made explicitly for generators, and therefore you can be sure of a perfect fit. It is crucially important that they cover all of the essential parts of the generator while maintaining adequate air flow, and most importantly allowing the exhaust fumes to be expelled. Generally speaking, you will buy a cover that is specific to your model of generator or at least size and style, and then construction is typically a three-stage process.
- Usually, a rigid frame is strapped to the corner of the generator frame using a brace, which creates the base.
- You then insert a flexible pole into each corner brace much like erecting a dome tent.
- Fasten the waterproof cover over the frame and securely tie it down to the corner braces with straps to ensure a secure fit.
There are many qualities of products available, usually by price point. It is recommended to buy the best quality you can afford as you never know how extreme the conditions are that you could face. Ensure whatever you buy it is of sturdy construction and has been wind tested to a satisfactory level. It is also important to ensure that you buy the correct model for your generator. It is critical that the exhaust fumes and air flow vents are sufficient and not restricted in any way.
- Build a permanent cover
If you are mainly using your generator for a backup system at home or perhaps as a backup system at a permanent camping or hunting lodge, then it is worth considering building a dedicated permanent generator cover.
The critical thing to consider when doing this is the location of your generator. It is essential that the exhaust fumes from the generator cannot be brought back into your house as this is toxic and could be fatal. It is therefore recommended that the generator is located away from your home, possibly attached to the outside of your garden shed or garage. Generator covers can be made from either brick or plywood, but whatever material you choose to use it must include adequate ventilation and airflow to ensure the unit does not overheat and that toxic fumes are expelled safely into the air.
- Buy a metal generator enclosure
A halfway house between a portable cover and a fixed permanent generator cover is to purchase a compact metal generator enclosure. These enclosures tend to be made from steel or aluminum and feature dedicated exhaust vents and adjustable side vents to ensure air flow. These metal enclosures are sturdy, good quality and generally look neat and tidy when located in your garden. They can be located almost anywhere, which makes them very versatile and a simple solution for enclosing an unsightly generator.
The downsides to these metal enclosures are that they are not very portable. Metal enclosures tend to be very heavy, and some models will need to be weighted to the floor using concrete or slabs. They are only useful when permanently fixed at home and not practical for taking camping. It is possible to find lighter man-made versions for camping, but there are concerns over the heat viability and durability of these cheaper systems.
- DIY Emergency cover
If money is tight, or you are caught in an emergency situation where you don’t have a cover, and you need to use a generator, then you may need to get resourceful and construct a DIY generator cover. This is the least desirable option and not to be used as a long-term solution. It is always preferable to ensure that the generator is not located on the ground so try to place it on top of a piece of dry wood or some form of a raised, sturdy area. Then using whatever sturdy poles you have at hand, such as plastic pipes or tree branches, create a frame that either leans against a wall or encases the generator. Next, drape a tarp over the frame and secure as best you can. It is essential to ensure that the tarp is draped over the generator without touching any of the vents to provide proper airflow and that the tarp cannot be drawn into any air vents.
When building your temporary shelter, you must ensure the following things:
- Make sure the enclosure that you create can withstand the elements; there is no point building something that will be blown away in mere minutes, exposing the generator to the elements.
- Always ensure there is ventilation and air flow between the tarp and the generator.
- Make sure the sensitive areas of the generating are well covered from the elements (rain and snow).
Although most generators will come with safety advice warnings against using a generator in poor weather and rainy conditions, providing you have constructed an adequate shelter, with proper ventilation, it is possible to use your generator in the rain. If you plan on using your generator for camping and out in the open, then a generator tent is an invaluable purchase and may save your life in extreme conditions. If your generator is a backup power for your house, then it is probably worth investing in building a permanent shelter.