How Long Can You Safely Run a Portable Generator? Answered

Researched & Written by Craig

In today’s electricity-geared world, running out of power is simply not an option.

Are you wondering how long you can safely run your portable generator? Then make sure you check out this article to find out!

The Portable Generator’s Fuel Type How Long You Can Safely Run the Portable Generator
Gasoline Up to 16 hours. You should not refill the generator while it’s running.
Propane If managed well, between 150 and 200 hours.

There are lots of external factors that could change how long it is safe for you to run your portable generator. Some of them are:

  • How cool you can keep the generator
  • How much oil there is in the generator’s engine
  • How much fuel you have to hand
  • The temperature outside

Are you ready to see how these factors can change your portable generator’s runtime? Then make sure you have a read of the portable generator guide below!

How Long Can You Safely Run a Portable Generator?

A portable generator provides you with a reliable power source anytime and anywhere. It’s great to have one on hand for emergencies if you lose power at home. They can also bring life and light to any camping trip.

Portable generator on campsite
Portable generators provide more freedom: especially when camping

You may wonder how long you can run a portable generator without running into problems. The runtime of your portable generator depends on the type of fuel that your generator runs on. Aside from the fuel type, it also depends on some other factors that we will consider shortly. But first things first, let’s consider how your generator’s fuel type will affect its runtime. Take a look below. 

Gasoline vs Propane Portable Generators

Are you interested in buying a new generator? If you’re basing your choice on runtime alone, then you should opt for a propane generator. They can run for a lot longer than gasoline-powered generators. 

But there are some other major differences between gasoline and propane portable generators. Take a look at them below.

Portable Gasoline Generators Portable Propane Generators
Should not be refueled while the generator is running.  Can be refueled while the generator is running
Should be cooled down before refueling the generator. Can be refueled continuously as long as the engine is kept cool.
Their runtime depends on the size of the fuel tank and the amount of energy you consume. Their runtime depends on the amount of oil in the generator’s engine
Can run for up to 16 hours. Can run for between 150 and 200 hours.

Portable Gasoline Generators

Why is the runtime so different between a gasoline and a propane portable generator? Because you should not refill a gasoline portable generator while it is hot. You have to wait for the generator to cool down before adding fuel. This is because the fumes that come from the gas as you pour it into the hot generator could spark a fire. 

The runtime for a portable generator depends on the size of its fuel tank and how much energy you use. Some gas generators come with fuel tanks that can run for up to 16 hours. But finding a generator that will run for longer than that is unusual. Other gas generators run for only a few hours because they have small fuel tanks. 

Portable Propane Generators

Are you looking for a generator that you can run continuously? Then a propane generator will be the best option for you. Unlike gas generators, you can refill your propane generator while it’s hot. This gives you the potential to run your generator for between 150 and 200 hours.

There are a few things that could affect the runtime of your propane generator. Here is a list of some of them and what you can do to stop the problem from affecting your generator’s runtime. 

Problem How to Stop it From Affecting Your Generator’s Runtime
A Build-Up of Heat A generator will begin to overheat once you have used it nonstop for more than 24 hours. You should try packing the generator with ice to keep it cool. You should also try to blow cool air from a fan on the engine to prevent it from overheating. 
The Amount of Oil in Your Generator’s Engine

Most generators will shut off when the oil levels are low in the engine. Make sure that you top up the oil levels before you begin using the generator. The generator should run for 150-200 hours before you have to refill the oil.
The Temperature  Running the generator at high wattages will make it heat up more. If the external temperature is hot, the generator could overheat. Consider running the generator at a lower wattage. Keep the generator running away from direct sunlight.
Portable generator
Propane generators can be refilled while hot, which gives them a higher runtime

Can a Generator Run in the Rain?

When you go out camping, you prepare yourself for all kinds of weather. You may pack an extra snug sleeping bag for chilly nights. Or a waterproof tent for damp mornings. You may even consider an insulated sleeping pad or a windbreaker. But what about your generator? Is it prepared for a turn in the weather?

It is not typically safe for you to run your generator in wet weather. This would include:

  • Rain
  • Snow or sleet
  • Hail

 It’s worth emphasizing that a wet generator is a dangerous one. So, if you suspect there’s some inclement weather on the way, you should avoid using it. But let’s be honest, no one plans to be in a tent in the woods in the middle of a storm. So, what can you do if you get caught out and need to run your generator in wet weather? Here are a few tips that could protect your generator from the rain. 

Special Canopies

You can buy a canopy for your unit that looks like your generator’s own private tent. The canopy does the following:

  • It protects the generator from high-speed wind.
  • It protects all the areas of the generator that you don’t want to get wet. 
  • It maintains good airflow to the engine so that it doesn’t overheat.

Here are some pros and cons of using a canopy to protect your generator. 

Pros Cons
-The canopy is portable and is easy to set up and dismantle.
-The canopy protects the generator from bad weather.
-It is inexpensive to buy.
-The canopy may not be very effective in heavy rainstorms. 

Steel Enclosures

You can buy a steel enclosure that locks over the entire generator. The steel enclosure does the following:

  • It stops water from leaking into the generator. 
  • It protects the generator from high-speed wind.
  • It maintains good airflow to the engine so that it doesn’t overheat.

Here are some pros and cons of using a steel enclosure to protect your generator. 

Pros Cons
-The steel enclosure protects the generator from bad weather.  -You will have to hire a professional to install the steel enclosure. This could be pricey.
-A steel enclosure is not portable. 
-It is expensive to buy.

Retrofitted Plastic Enclosures

You can buy a retrofitted plastic enclosure that locks over the entire generator. This type of enclosure tends to be cheaper than steel enclosures. A retrofitted plastic enclosure does the following:

  • It stops water from leaking into the generator.
  • It protects the generator from high-speed wind.

Here are some pros and cons of using a retrofitted plastic enclosure to protect your generator.

Pros Cons
-The retrofitted plastic enclosure protects your generator from bad weather. 
-It is cheaper than a steel enclosure.
-A retrofitted plastic enclosure could easily become subject to overheating and possibly fire. This could happen if you use your generator for extended periods or on very hot days. 

Conclusion

If your power is down, you likely want to keep your generator running as long as possible. But there are a few things you should know and do before you attempt to keep a generator running. I am sure this article has given you some tips on how you can safely extend your generator’s runtime.

If this article has helped you, then why not check out some of our other articles and free guides? You could even sign up for our email list!

Have a great day!

-Craig