Generators provide a quick and reliable power supply for homesteaders. Whether you use a generator for primary use or use one only as a back-up option, you have to be aware of the safety risks. There are serious hazards to operating generators and I am going to break down one of the most important ones: water.

A generator should never get wet. A generator will most likely continue running if it gets wet, but there is an increased risk of electrocution and electric shock. Too much prolonged exposure to water and you also risk certain parts of your generator to rust and decay, decreasing its longevity.

As a generator owner, I believe it is our responsibility to be aware of the hazards of running a generator. Water is one that many people overlook. I know I have. So letʻs dive into how generators and water do not mix.

Potential hazards caused by a wet generator

The most serious hazards of running a wet generator are electrocution or electric shock. Yes, you could get seriously injured, or potentially, even killed by running a wet generator. This includes touching a running generator with wet hands; so, make sure your hands are dry before handling the generator.

Do not ever take the risk: set up and store your generator in a dry location. Make sure water, like from eaves of a roof, can not reach your generator. If you are building an outdoor shed, pay attention if the area has good drainage. If it floods after a heavy rain, you want to store your generator in a dry location.

Is It OK For A Generator to Get Rained on?

A generator can get rained and still operate, but should you let it? A wet generator carries with it an increased risk of electrocution or electric shock, as well as can shorten the lifespan of your generator, so why risk it? Make every precaution to see that rain cannot reach your generator.

Itʻs just like whether or not you can let your generator run out of gas. You can let it happen, but should you? Read more about why you shouldnʻt let a generator run out of gas in this post.

If your generator ever does (accidentally) get wet, follow these steps to ensure your own safety.

What Should You Do If Your Generator Gets Wet

If your generator does, unfortunately, get wet, know there are safe things you can do to dry it up.

First, check out the owner’s manual for your specific generator (if you don’t have one, search online and download a PDF version).

Check and see if your generator has a built-in ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). If it does, when your generator gets wet it should shut-off automatically as a safety precaution.

You will need to follow all the protocols directed in the owner’s manual (including drying time, if it is stated) before attempting to re-start your generator.

Do not attempt to dry off the generator while in use. The generator must be shut-off and stay off, with nothing connected to it until it is completely dry and the area around it is dry, as well.

Type of Water

It is very, very important to determine what type of water got your generator wet. This is especially for us homesteaders in the tropics; if salt water (i.e.: sea water) got your generator wet, you will need to follow a slightly different approach than for fresh water. 

Salt water is a very good conductor of electricity, making it even more dangerous in regards to risk of electric shock.  Salt in sea water can also corrode parts of your generator. Even if you completely dry up the water, the salt will remain and ruin your generator over time.

What To Do for a Wet Generator (Fresh Water):

  1. Shut off the generator (unless it automatically shuts off when wet).
  2. Disconnect everything from the generator.
  3. If there is water under and around the generator, move it to another location.
  4. Refer to your owner’s manual and open the generator’s cover to access the interior.
  5. Dry the interior completely

The best method is placing your generator outdoors on a hot, sunny day. Allow at least 6 hours of hot sun, longer if you can. Do not leave it outside overnight, as it could potentially get wet again with dew.

  1. Check the area thoroughly to ensure it is completely dry before returning the generator cover again.
  2. Set up your generator on a dry and level platform (concrete slab, piece of plywood or rubber mat) before attempting to re-start.
  3. Make sure your generator runs smoothly on its own before attempting to connect anything to it.

What to do for a Wet Generator (Salt Water)

  1. If your generator does not have automatic shut-off (or GFCI) then you must shut off your generator.
  2. Disconnect everything from the generator.
  3. Move your generator away from standing water or risk of more salt water coming in contact with the machine.
  4. Refer to your owner’s manual and open the generator’s cover to access the interior.
  5. Use a strong flashlight or other bright light to investigate the interior of the generator and look for any water droplets or moisture that could be from salt water.
  6. Use clean, fresh water to rinse away all salt water. 
    1. You may need to dismantle your generator to complete this thoroughly. It is essentially that you completely rinse away all salt water before thoroughly drying.
  7. Once all salt water has been rinsed, completely dry the generator. Start with dry cloths/towels for saturated areas, then finish drying outside in the hot sun. Give at least 6 hours of hot sun, longer if you can. Do not leave your generator outside overnight, as it could potentially get wet again with dew.
  8. Check the area thoroughly to ensure it is completely dry before returning the generator cover again.
  9. Set up your generator on a dry and level platform (concrete slab, piece of plywood or rubber mat) before attempting to re-start.
  10. Make sure your generator runs smoothly on its own before attempting to connect anything to it.

Dismantling your Generator

The above steps are the basic approach if your generator gets wet on the outside. However, if the inner parts of your generator have been affected by water, then the machine may not operate properly. 

In this case, you must dismantle your generator and allow each part to dry.

For this, refer to your owner’s manual or check out Youtube and follow the directions for how to decouple your specific make and model.

Note: if you do have to dismantle your generator to completely dry it out, make sure to oil components that require lubrication. Salt water, especially, can have negative effects on such parts.

Note: If your air filters or fuel filters get wet, you will need to replace them in order for your generator to operate optimally again.

How to Store A Generator So It Does Not Get Wet

Prevention is always better than repairing a problem. Avoid your generator getting wet in the first place by storing it in a way that it does not get wet; this includes rained on, dripped on, or allows puddles forming underneath it.

The three best ways to protect your generator from rain are with a shed, portable cover, or under eaves. 

Generator Shed

I think of this as a dog-house for my generator. Essentially, a generator shed could be just a small box with a slanted roof (to ensure the water runs off) to keep your generator dry.

If you’re making your own, I recommend having two small ‘french doors’ that open outward. I find this creates much more space for manipulating the generator into its little home.

Build a floor for the generator shed, so that it is up and off of the grass (remember, dew is a type of moisture, too). Put in a tiny ramp to make it easier to wheel your generator right into its shed.

Portable Cover

Nowadays, a lot of generators have custom portable covers designed for storage. They don’t just keep dust away from your generator’s engine, but many of them are also waterproof. 

If you don’t mind paying over $100, you can even get a cover that is approved to use with a running generator. 

If you want only a cover for storage purposes, you can find them more reasonably priced ($20 – $40)

But, you don’t have to go all fancy and buy a specially-designed generator cover. You can protect your generator from the rain with a simple tarp.

If you decide to use a tarp to keep the rain off your generator, you should remember not to just ‘drape’ a tarp over the generator while it is outside. This just means water will pool in the dips of the frame and probably form a puddle around the generator. 

You need to have a structure to the tarp, like creating a tent over the generator; poles, trees or building structures can all be used as good places to anchor the tarp. 

Tarp designs could be an ‘A’ frame around your generator, with sloping sides so that the water easily runs off, or using the side of a house or barn, with the tarp protecting only the side and back of the generator, like a lean-to. Ensure that the sides of the tarp are a good distance (3 ft or more) on either side of the generator.

If you intend to operate your generator while there is a tarp over it, make sure that no part of the tarp is touching the generator; that the exhaust has plenty of space and is not blocked, and there is free movement of air all around the generator.

Under Eaves

A no-built method that is easy and cost-free: store your generator under eaves. This could be your garage, house or barn which provides a cover for your generator.

If you intend to store your generator under eaves, make sure that the generator is not close to the edge of the eaves, otherwise, a heavy rain could result in water dripping from the eaves onto the generator. 

Remember, storing your generator in a corner of your porch, under eaves where it cannot be wet is a storage option, only. This is not appropriate for running the generator, because it is too close to your home and carbon monoxide is a serious risk.  

How Far From The House Does A Generator Need to Be

According to US consumer reports, the minimum distance a generator should be from a house is 20 feet.

Generators produce carbon monoxide gas through their exhaust. The safest approach is to make sure this deadly gas is at an appropriate distance from your residence.

Always run a generator outside, point the exhaust away from where people are, and ensure there is free airflow around the exhaust.

Yes, you’re probably going to need an extension cord if the generator is 20 feet away from your home, but remember, carbon monoxide is lethal and an extension cord is not that expensive in comparison.

Can You Run a Generator on the Grass?

Technically, yes — but with caution.

If you plan to use your generator as a primary source of power, then establish a more dependable system than placing it uncovered on the grass. 

But, if your generator is not your primary source of power and you’re only wheeling it out onto dry grass every once-in-a-while, then you’re probably in the clear. 

To run your generator on the grass, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Make sure the grassy area is level and clear of any debris (like dry leaves or grass clippings).
  • You might consider stationing your generator on top of a piece of wide plywood or a rubber mat (that also helps reduce noise and vibrations from the generator).
  • And remember – the grass is a temporary location; you must store your generator somewhere out of the rain and other elements.

A generator should not get wet. It is incredibly dangerous for a generator to get any type of water on it, including rain. However, if your generator does ever get wet there are safe ways to dry it out – but only once you shut it off completely.

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