Generator manufacturers generally advise against using a generator when it is snowing or raining. But the power is most likely to go out in a snowstorm, and since the generator needs ventilation to operate safely, keeping the snow off it in a storm is essential. So how can that be done?
Here’s how to keep snow off a generator:
- Buy an enclosure from the manufacturer.
- Use a flexible shelter.
- Use a rigid enclosure.
- Make your own shelter.
- Remove the snow on the shelter.
- Keep snow from accumulating around the base.
No matter what method you use, you also need to keep snow from the shelter and accumulating around the base. Let’s get started so you can get your generator covered before the next winter storm.
1. Buy an Enclosure From the Manufacturer
Purchasing an enclosure from the manufacturer is the easiest option, which will most likely be the most expensive and the safest choice. If your permanent generator is from companies like Generac, Briggs and Stratton, or Kohler, it most likely came with an enclosure.
If you bought a portable generator, you might be able to purchase an enclosure from the same manufacturer. For example, the Champion Storm Shield Portable Generator Cover (available on Amazon) is a running soft enclosure designed for Champion Generators.
However, not all portable generators come with enclosures made by the manufacturer.
2. Use a Flexible Shelter
Flexible shelters come in two kinds—storage and operational. Generally speaking, storage covers are tight-fitting and cheaper. However, although a storage cover is a good investment for keeping your generator clean and dust-free, you can’t use them to run a generator.
Don’t be fooled by the brand name.
For example, the Champion Weather-Resistant Cover for Portable Generators (available on Amazon) is an excellent example of a cover that should be used for storage only. It is tight-fitting and less expensive than the other Champion cover, but it’s easy to gloss over the word “storage.”
Also, make sure to read the fine print when purchasing a cover. For example, although the IGAN Running Cover (available on Amazon) is well-designed and makes it easy to add fuel and access the plug-in, the list of generators that are not compatible includes over 30 models.
3. Use a Rigid Enclosure
Rigid generator enclosures offer the best weather protection and come in a variety of sizes, and the larger the enclosure, the more air can circulate. Steel and aluminum are commonly used for rigid enclosures, although some are fiberglass.
As long as there is adequate ventilation to provide fresh air and discharge exhaust air, the generator will function safely. The cover should have a minimum of 2” (5.08 cm) to 3” (7.6 cm) clearance.
The Zombiebox Running Cover (available on Amazon) is an example of a rigid running cover. It features a galvanized steel construction and can fit most generators. More important than the noise reduction feature is that it can hold up to 180 lbs (81.6 kg) of the snowpack.
A rigid enclosure would be an excellent investment against falling tree limbs.
Note: Although you can store your generator in a storage shed enclosure, like a Rubbermaid Outdoor Storage Shed (available on Amazon), it does not provide adequate airflow.
4. Make Your Own Shelter
You can build a DIY shelter. The key to building your own is providing adequate space for airflow. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube about DIY covers.
The most common material used for DIY shelters is wood. This Make a Rain Proof Instructable has clear instructions with pictures. The author used louvered vents for airflow and sheet flashing to protect the wood from excessive heat around the exhaust muffler.
5. Remove the Snow on the Shelter
Even if you have a shelter for your generator, you should remove the snow from it your generator before it piles up and ices over. Remember that the intake and exhaust vents need a good flow of oxygen.
If the vents are obstructed, the generator can fail. What could be worse than a generator that doesn’t work when you need it to?
So during a heavy snowfall, go outside and use a shovel or snow blower to push the snow off the generator every now and again. Otherwise, you will have to move a ton of snow at once.
6. Keep Snow From Accumulating Around the Base
Sometimes homeowners focus only on keeping snow from the top of the generator. However, the base should also be kept clear of snow. This doesn’t mean getting rid of every bit of snow, just enough to prevent a snow build-up.
However, you don’t want to give accumulating snow a leg up. Clear a perimeter of a couple of feet so snow can’t simply pile up against the generator.
While clearing snow, you might want to make a path for easier access to your generator. You already have your snowblower with you, right? A path will make it easier to access the generator.
In addition, should you need emergency service, your generator repair technician will appreciate the easier access.
Why Is It Important To Keep the Snow off a Generator?
If this is your first winter with a generator, you could ask yourself why you should keep the snow off the generator. It is a legitimate question as it seems that a generator would simply melt the snow off as it got hot.
It is important to keep snow off a generator because it is run by an internal combustion engine similar to the engine in your car. However, instead of turning the axle on a car, your generator’s primary job is to turn the rotor inside the generator’s rotor.
This spinning produces the power that runs your appliances and lights.
The generator cannot work without adequate airflow, both intake, and exhaust. Units that produce less than 16 kilowatts usually have air-cooled engines, so if the air intake is blocked by snow, the generator won’t start.
And if the generator cannot start, it cannot produce the heat necessary to melt the snow.
Finally, if you don’t have a cover, don’t drag your portable generator indoors. Running a generator indoors is dangerous and unwise, as the deadly build-up of carbon monoxide from exhaust gases is poisonous. Unfortunately, since carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, people don’t realize it is poisoning until they need to be hospitalized.
For this reason, carbon monoxide is sometimes called the silent killer.
What To Look For in a Generator Cover
The most important thing to look for is whether the cover is designed for storage or operation. You should not use a storage cover on an operating generator, because if it is, it might cause a fire.
On the other hand, an operational cover is made of fire-resistant materials so that it can be used while a generator is running. It is also larger to create a buffer between the generator and the cover.
Here’s what to look for in an operational cover:
- Snow protection: It should provide snow protection from the top and sides.
- Adequate airflow: Look for sufficient airflow. Bigger is better, and if your generator doesn’t get enough air, it can overheat and shut down. Most generators have an automatic shut-off if they aren’t getting enough air.
- Fire resistance: Both the cover and the shelter should be fire-resistant. Again, the bigger your enclosure, the less risk of accidental fire.
A generator should not be used in the snow without adequate cover. It needs a cover or shelter that covers the entire generator, is fire-resistant, and provides sufficient ventilation. If you don’t use a cover or use one that doesn’t meet these guidelines, then the generator can fail, or you could hurt yourself.