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View Full Version : Does a generator need weather protection to run during a storm?



gellfex
10-27-2012, 04:50 PM
Here we go again in NJ with a damn hurricane, and I'm trying to figure out where to place my new generator. I can put it in the unattached garage and leave the door open, against mfr directions, but then I'd need to run 100' of cord. Or I can place it nearer the house with a 50' cord, but unprotected. Some people seem to think this is no problem. Is it? Should I build a plywood lean-to for it? Gassing it in the rain would be a PITA I'm guessing.

914Wilhelm
10-27-2012, 05:00 PM
See you said "unattached" garage. Was a family in PDX in the past few years accidentally die with the generator in the "attached" garage. It's generally ok to have the generator outside for a few days rain or not. There designed for that. I bring mine in otherwise for the rest of the time as the sun rots the paint and rubber. With the big winds and such I'd worry more about any lean to stuff damaging or overturning the generator or starting a fire if something ends up resting on the muffler.

sasquatch
10-27-2012, 05:06 PM
i'd be putting it under a roof/shelter of some kind.

PTSideshow
10-27-2012, 05:13 PM
If the rain is moving sideways, it can cause some problems and they aren't really made to run in heavy downpours,with or with out winds. I have a wood frame that was a ticket stand in a previous life. It is about two foot above the generator gas tank. I have a small trap that I bungy to it. With the trap covering the side with the plugs and openings. I have the transfer switch and plug set up. so it is just a plug and go. Does make it easier to fuel and check it out. But then we generally don't have the same weather problems you are going to have. I also keep it 10 feet away from the building.
My only regret is I didn't pop for the extra money for a natural gas one, in 98 When I bought this one.

Weston Bye
10-27-2012, 05:15 PM
A couple of times when I had to run my generator in wet weather I put a fold up card table over it. Then I put a plastic tablecloth on the card table to protect it. Tarp would work well also. Then some bricks to weigh everything down.

'Course, the wind wasn't blowing much at the time.

alanganes
10-27-2012, 05:48 PM
I always mostly just put mine out. My older one that had the "roll cage" style frame, I would just lay a small piece of old plywood on top of the frame with a sandbag or two on top to hold the plywood down. That kept the direct rain off the top. My new one is the more common style now that has the fuel tank essentially covering the top of the cage and shields the engine and alternator from most of the direct rain. Once when rain was really hard and driving, I have just propped some plywood lean-to style against the cage to deflect the rain. I put mine out next to a wooden fence away from the house a bit, and it provides a bit of shielding from the driven rain. And you are correct, refueling in the rain stinks. Beats having no heat & lights however.

Good luck, hope it's not as bad as predicted.

darryl
10-27-2012, 05:50 PM
I would at least place it outside. You might put it near a wall of an out-building, then build two sidewalls and a top cover around it. Plumb the exhaust out of that cubby hole. You can always make a sort of door to close off the front when you're not using it.

This assumes of course that the building isn't going to disappear during and because of the storm.

One option that I've considered is to mount it on a bit of a trailer, something that could be towed. Chances are the lightest towable trailer that you can buy would be good enough. That would give it a more stable platform, and it's something which you could build a bit of a storm deflector onto- just three sides and a top cover. It would be a place where you'd keep extra fuel cans, etc, and you'd have the option of chaining it down to a ground hook- something that you would cement in place in a suitable location. I would still want to pipe the exhaust up and out, with a 180 at the top to keep rain from driving down the pipe. You can make a removable extension for this, for safer transportation. With the extension in place, the exhaust exits with enough height that it minimizes the chances of it infusing into a building.

If you have a good need of a backup generator, then you can elaborate on this trailer to some extent. A sort of yard light built onto it would make sense, and maybe a lockable storage container for extension cords, some basic tools, etc. I dunno- what's a person likely to need if a storm cuts off your power for days or more-

justanengineer
10-27-2012, 05:52 PM
Go get/build yourself a big dog house and some long tent stakes. Stake everything down good and run the generator inside that with the door off.

sasquatch
10-27-2012, 06:04 PM
Even drive four steel posts into the ground, "T" bars or whatever, then bolt an old washtub to them , which should cover the generator, and get it elevated on timbers or something off the ground.

SGW
10-27-2012, 08:32 PM
I built a flat aluminum cover that bolts to the top roll cage bars on brackets that hold it about 6" above the roll cage. It overhangs all around. It's made so it hinges up on the brackets at one end so I can get at the gas tank. I'm not sure the brackets to elevate the cover are strictly necessary, but I wanted to be sure there was plenty of space for airflow.

I use I just roll it outside the garage door and then close the door. There's enough slop so it will close on the power cable. If it's out at night I put a steel cable through the roll cage and back under the door to secure it.

About the only problem I've found with this setup is that it makes a dandy place to pile all manner of junk, which makes getting at the generator difficult.

http://i1338.photobucket.com/albums/o686/sasgw/GeneratorCoverOpen.jpg

Bill736
10-27-2012, 09:19 PM
I know this is something of an emergency question , if hurricane Sandy is headed towards you. I'm in the same boat, so to speak. I have my generator under a plywood A shaped tent , hinged along the top , with some plastic stapled along the top to keep the water out. It's essentially a " pup" tent made of plywood, open at both ends. It's been through some windy weather over the last four or five years, although Sandy will likely be more severe . I do have 4 concrete blocks attached with rope to the four corners , and I position the tent about 10 feet from my garage doors where it's somewhat sheltered from the winds . The generator does, of course, have to be positioned sideways so that the engine exhaust exits out one end of the tent, and away from your house. I've refined the design somewhat over the years , but the nice thing about it is that it folds up flat for storage. I used 1/2 inch plywood , which makes it a bit heavy and awkard to move, but in winds under about 45 mph it stays put without the concrete blocks.

sasquatch
10-27-2012, 09:20 PM
SGW, nice looking cover.

oldtiffie
10-27-2012, 10:24 PM
If the house is on stumps that are high enough off the ground - put and run the generator under the house.

Other than that if the house has a covered verandah on the lee (down-wind) side of the house, run the generator there - but close any near-by windows.

Highpower
10-27-2012, 11:10 PM
I keep my generator in one of these. You can swing open the doors and/or slide the front half of the roof back for easy access.

http://www.rubbermaid.com/Assets/images/Product/5l40-rn-new-open-large.jpg

gellfex
10-28-2012, 11:02 AM
Thanks all. So far I like the plywood on top of the roll cage best for simplicity and what I can do fast. I've got a few extra sandbags to put on it. The problem with any lean to/pup tent idea is i'd still have to peel it off to fuel unless it was quite tall.

This is what I have http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/300/48/48addbcc-bfa7-48da-aaac-64b85c38cd13_300.jpg

Peter.
10-28-2012, 11:59 AM
It'll run fine in a closed shed. Years ago I had to run one just for a single night because the power company shut down the local substation where cables under the pavement in our road had been damaged years before by the contractors rolling out cable TV. The first we knew about it was when the fridges in our local grocers all packed in from receiving a live phase down the neutral line giving them 415V instead of 240.

I brought home a 5kva diesel genny from work, cobbled up a lead by fitting a plug both ends, shut off the isolator for my supply, plugged in my lead and and fired up the genny giving me lighting, heating and refrigeration for the night. That genny ran all night in my outside shed with the door locked shut.

datsun280zxt
10-28-2012, 01:50 PM
Covered is best, but the other important thing is to keep it locked up somehow. If its outside, chain it up! You don't want someone else to decide they need your generator more than you do.

Black_Moons
10-28-2012, 02:26 PM
When we had a generator running for a week, we covered it up in sheets of plywood. Just littarly put some scraps of plywood on either side and some on the top.
Made it half as loud and kept the rain off, With more then enough huge gaps that ventilation was no problem, Just the fact that most of the sound had to bounce around in there REALLY dampened it (And the 'open' areas where pointed away from the house)

Mind you, with high winds, you might want to put some screws in it. And yea, try and keep the wood away from the muffler. And away from your house, so if it does catch fire, your just out a generator and the end of an electrical cord.

And yes, detatched garage is OK, except you might find everything in the garage go walking as you leave the door open. Its attached garage that equals death.
if your generator starts sucking its own exhaust, it will just run rich, so thats fine (Till it fouls the plugs, but I doubt it will). Some cars even inject exhaust gas back into the intake to throttle down the oxygen intake. (Instead of using a valve, just inject 'inert' gases and you have the same volume of unrestricted, full throttle air to expand, with less fuel, but still a proper fuel/air mix)

danlb
10-28-2012, 03:18 PM
The other thing about running a generator in a detached garage is that the garage is likely to have a high carbon monoxide level when you are done. Make sure that it is aired out a bit before working in there.

My generator runs well, but I can smell the exhaust when I run it in the space between the houses, and that is an 14 foot wide alley with no obstructions other than a 6 foot tall fence. I move it away from the house now when it needs to run.

Dan

Peter.
10-28-2012, 04:04 PM
Oh yeah, I meant to say that - when I had to go in to re-fuel my genny I came out with my eyes streaming even after only a minute or so. Not nice.

gellfex
10-28-2012, 04:24 PM
Thanks all. I put it next to the back stairs and used the rail as one support for a tilted 4x4 of ply, supporting the other side with 2x3's screwed to teh deck. And yes, I have a bike U-lock fixing it to the rail, even though it's behind a locked 6' steel gate on my driveway. I've read enough end of the world novels to know that some peoples idea of preparation is spotting the people who've prepared.

Black_Moons
10-28-2012, 05:06 PM
PS: Another warning about exhaust, CO (Carbon monoxide) does not just sufficate you when you inhail it.
No, it stays in your body and binds with your blood, lowering the transport capacity. thats why its so dangerious, small quanitys over a long period of time, or large quanitys for a short period of time WILL kill you, even if you get to fresh air while still breathing you might still drop dead.

Don't go into a shed where you have been running a generator. Open the doors and stay the hell away untill wind blows the exhaust fumes out (And cools the generator down.. Don't refuel a hot generator!)

100% oxygen is first line of defence if you suspect CO. And yes, whatever contaminates are in your welders oxygen, (lets not start that debate again) are better for you then droping dead of CO poisoning. (Consider how many contaminates are in the air you normaly breath!)

gellfex
10-28-2012, 05:50 PM
PS: Another warning about exhaust, CO (Carbon monoxide) does not just sufficate you when you inhail it.
No, it stays in your body and binds with your blood, lowering the transport capacity. thats why its so dangerious, small quanitys over a long period of time, or large quanitys for a short period of time WILL kill you, even if you get to fresh air while still breathing you might still drop dead.

Don't go into a shed where you have been running a generator. Open the doors and stay the hell away untill wind blows the exhaust fumes out (And cools the generator down.. Don't refuel a hot generator!)

100% oxygen is first line of defence if you suspect CO. And yes, whatever contaminates are in your welders oxygen, (lets not start that debate again) are better for you then droping dead of CO poisoning. (Consider how many contaminates are in the air you normaly breath!)

Even if it was an actual shed, not the low open lean to I built, in a hurricane I think the CO would be blown away pretty quick!

How am I supposed to refuel to keep the pumps going if I have to let it cool? Sure, I figured to turn it off, But cool?

oldtiffie
10-28-2012, 07:25 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CO2_Poisoning

I have a Honda 2Kw generator where the engine is isolated pretty well from the fuel filling point (which never gets hot) so its easy to fuel in any weather at any time.

No auto start but manual start is very easy.

Has two engine speed settings - one for "economical" - which works fine and revs the engine up when a load goes on it: and

one for continuous power *full revs".

At 20Kg (~ 45 pounds) its is a one many job to carry or put into a buiders barrow and wheel it where you want it.

My guess, without checking the manual is that its very water-proof. I got caught out in the rain a couple of time and it re-started perfectly. I left it on once to see how it would go in the rain - no problems at all.

http://powerequipment.honda.com.au/img/Honda_EU20i_Generator_medium.jpg

http://powerequipment.honda.com.au/Super_Quiet/EU20i

sasquatch
10-28-2012, 07:37 PM
In a driving heavy rain, we're talking upwards of what?-300-400mm's so the news reports state as posible, i'd be putting the thing where it is protected.
I'd also be lag screwing it down to some heavy timbers to get it UP out of any surface water, and with that much rainfall, there will be surface water ,, and Flooding.

Rosco-P
10-29-2012, 06:31 PM
Short answer is yes, those portable generators are not weather proof, not the engines, not the control electronics. At best their are meant for short term construction/temporary power use. Outside in a light rain may not ruin them outright, but continuous exposure in heavy rain will shorten their lifespan dramatically. Hope all you genny users have them grounded to a driven ground. Otherwise you will have non-functioning GFCI's and potentially a floating neutral. And yes, working occasionally as a spark/juicer/film set electrician/genny operator, I do know this for a fact. It's part of my job to keep the film crew safe.

sasquatch
10-29-2012, 06:38 PM
Good reminder Rosco about the grounding, i'd forgot about that!!

Black_Moons
10-29-2012, 07:17 PM
If you are backfeeding your house, your houses grounding rod will ground your gen for you. Theres no disconnect on the neutral.

If you don't have a grounding rod... like.. me... sigh, you'll be grounding to the pole's ground... Hopefuly the line to your house does not get snaped by a falling tree...

As for refueling, Well, they all say to let it cool, but you would pertty much need to spill on the muffler to ignite the fuel, I think.

However, I refuse to start motors if I have spilt gas untill it has all evaporated away. that might be the more important point.

There are also systems/spouts designed for very low chance of spillage.. those would help.

Rosco-P
10-29-2012, 07:25 PM
If you are backfeeding your house, your houses grounding rod will ground your gen for you. Theres no disconnect on the neutral.

If you don't have a grounding rod... like.. me... sigh, you'll be grounding to the pole's ground...

I disagree with all the above, dangerous and bad practices. Backfeeding can/will get your meter pulled if caught and a day in court if any lineman is injured as a result. Don't care about your assurances that you're doing it right, or being careful. No generator transfer switch....no dice.

sasquatch
10-29-2012, 07:36 PM
Re: Refueling a generator:

The "Lincoln Weldandpower" i had, i installed it in a separate shed, (insulated), and not wanting the fuel tank inside there, i installed one of those 5Gal Boat tanks outside on the wall , elevated slightly higher than the original inside tank on the engine. Then ran regular fuel line through the wall into the engine connected to the feed on the carb.
This worked trouble free for 13 years.
(The best boat tank to get is one of the older tanks from an outboard with the double line, You don't need the double line, i removed that and welded a fitting in the bottom of the tank. The benefit of these older tanks is they have a float gauge in the top. -Nice to check the fuel level.

Black_Moons
10-29-2012, 07:45 PM
I disagree with all the above, dangerous and bad practices. Backfeeding can/will get your meter pulled if caught and a day in court if any lineman is injured as a result. Don't care about your assurances that you're doing it right, or being careful. No generator transfer switch....no dice.

You disagree with what exactly? I never suggested anyone do anything in that post and put forth no pratices.

Just saying if you ARE backfeeding, you already have a neutral/ground tie and theres no way to remove it. If you are NOT backfeeding (running extention cords, etc) yes you absolutely need another ground rod.

Even if you have a generator transfer switch, its still not going to cut your neutral and won't cut your neutral/ground tie.

sasquatch: I would suggest poking at the hose now and then to make sure its not getting stiff/UV degraded. Shielding the hose from direct sunlight wouldn't hurt either.

sasquatch
10-29-2012, 07:53 PM
The hose was out of sunlight and it lasted 8 years before i changed it due to age.

BigJohnT
10-29-2012, 07:55 PM
What do you guys think will happen if you don't disconnect from the grid? The generator will be pulled down by all the load from a zillion houses and trip the breaker on the generator in seconds...

John

JMS6449
10-30-2012, 09:13 AM
If you don'tisconnect from the grid, the linesmen will hunt you down. They frown on being shocked.