Can a Portable Generator be Stored Outside?

Whether you’re a homeowner, live in an RV, make frequent camping trips, or own some construction business, portable generators are great investments. They can also present a bit of a storage problem when you’re not using them, especially if you live on a property without good storage options. Sometimes, storing your generator outside is your only option, but is it a good one? 

Harsh weather can damage your generator if left outdoors without a proper covering or overhang. Storing a generator outdoors is risky, but you can make it work by adequately covering it. Also, ensure your generator is in a dry spot, out of direct sunlight, and won’t get hit by falling branches.

While outside is a viable option for generator storage, it isn’t always the best option. To learn more about the best way to store your portable generator, keep reading this article. We’ll also discuss the best way to store your generator outside if that’s your only option. 

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Can You Store a Portable Generator Outside? 

It’s ok to store a portable generator outside as long as you take measures to protect it. The last thing you want is to run into a situation where you need your generator only to discover damage due to the rain or wind. As long as you keep it covered and out of the way of flying and falling objects, storing your portable generator outside is generally acceptable. 

There’s a difference, however, between short-term outdoor storage and long-term outdoor storage. Here are some steps to follow for both short-term outdoor storage as well as long-term storage. 

Short-Term Outdoor Storage (One Month or Less)

When storing your portable generator outside on a short-term basis, you’re operating under the assumption that you might need it at any point. For this reason, it’s essential to make sure that the generator is ready to go when needed. Here’s how to store a generator in the short term. 

  1. Dust off your generator and make sure it stays clean up. 
  2. Get any large debris or pieces of equipment out of its direct path so that you can get to it easily and unimpeded. 
  3. Take extra time to clean off any grease, grime, or old stains. 
  4. Make sure that you change the oil on your generator. 
  5. Perform a more detailed visual inspection of the inner working on your generator to ensure the wiring is intact. 
  6. Fill the fuel tank on your generator, and make sure you have some gas on hand if needed. 

By following these tips and tricks, you’ll ensure that your generator is ready to be fired up at any point soon. Power outages aren’t going to catch you by surprise! 

Long-Term Outdoor Storage (More Than a Month)

If you’re not planning to use your generator for an extended period and want to get it ready for long-term storage, here is the best way to make those preparations. 

  1. Thoroughly dust off and clean your generator. This process is similar to how you prepped your generator for short-term storage but even more thorough. You’re not going to be using the generator for a while, so make sure it’s cleaned up and ready to go for next year. 
  1. Perform a thorough inspection of the inner workings of your generator. Once again, this inspection involves removing the outer cover of the generator and inspecting the inner workings. This inspection includes the fuel tank, the oil filter, and the wiring to ensure that everything is intact and that no major repairs are needed. 
  1. Drain the fuel tank or add a stabilizer. For true long-term storage, the best thing to drain the fuel tank rather than add a stabilizer. Draining the fuel tank will ensure that it doesn’t go bad, which could cause big problems if you try to start it up. Adding a stabilizer is a solid secondary option, but there’s still the potential of gas going bad or of tipping your generator and having a gas spill. 
  1. Add a touch of oil to the generator. Once you have drained your fuel tank or stabilized the gas inside, it’s time to add 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil into your sparkplug cylinder. To do this, make sure that the generator isn’t running and remove the spark plug. Next, dump the oil into the cylinder, replace the spark plug, and reconnect the attached wire. For good measure, you should pull the start cord a few times to disperse the oil. 
  1. Choose a safe place outside to store your generator. Finally, you’re ready to pick a spot to store your generator. Make sure you choose a spot away from trees and limbs that could fall on top of it. You should also keep your generator covered to protect it from the rain and snow. 

Can You Leave a Generator Outside?

You can leave a generator outside, whether it be for storage purposes or operating purposes. You should take proper precautions to protect the generator from the elements, whether it be a portable one or a stationary one. Stationary generators are always outside, but they have protective covers that keep them out of harm’s way. 

Should You Leave a Generator That’s Running Outside? 

If you’re actively using your generator, you should always have it outside rather than inside. Generators give off toxic carbon monoxide exhaust fumes, similar to a car, that will kill you if you’re in an enclosed space with them for too long. If you have your generator under a covering or in an open building, make sure you place it near a door or window. Putting it near a window or door will make sure that the fumes have a means of escape. 

How Do You Protect Your Portable Generator from the Weather? 

Next, let’s take a look at how to protect your generator from every kind of dangerous weather. From rain to snow to heat, each of these things can harm your generator. 

How to Protect It from the Rain 

The best way to protect your generator from the rain is to store it under a roof of some sort. Garages, shops, sheds, overhangs, or anything else with a roof is best, but this isn’t always an option. If you don’t have a roof under which to keep your generator, then wrap it in a waterproof tarp or wrapping. Make sure that your tarp is situated so that water drains off the sides and doesn’t pool in the middle, which could cause a flooding implosion. 

How to Protect It from the Snow

The same principle applies to protect your generator from the snow. Additionally, there are even generator canopy covers specifically designed for generator protection. These canopies form a roof or covering for your generator, and you can get one to fit your specific model and size. 

How to Protect It from the Heat of the Sun 

The sun isn’t quite as much of a hindrance to your generator except for cases of extreme heat. If you store your generator in direct sunlight, there’s a chance that it could overheat when you try to operate it. It will start up like normal but will overheat faster than it should if the engine was hot before it even started to run. 

How to Protect It from the Wind 

High winds can have a significant impact on your generator. Trees, limbs, and other blowing debris can collide with your generator and dent it or cause damage to critical components such as the engine. A simple tarp or canopy will protect your generator from the rain, but not a falling tree branch. 

The best way to keep the wind from damaging your generator is to store it under an overhang of some sort inside a shed. If this isn’t an option for you, make sure you keep your generator close to your house and out of the direct path of trees and shrubs. The house will protect it from the wind on several sides, which reduces the risk of an accident. 

Where Should You Store Your Portable Generator? 

The best place to store a portable generator is in a place that is dry and protected from the outside elements. Things like rain, snow, and heavy winds can have a detrimental effect on your generator, and avoiding these things is a good idea. Here are a few of the best places to store your portable generator. 

Garage or Shop  

If you have a garage or shop where you park your vehicles and store your tools, then you shouldn’t have any issues adding a generator into the mix. Garages and shops offer protection from the elements. Some of these spaces even have air conditioning, which is even better for your generator. 

Garden Shed or Lean-To 

While a shed or overhang doesn’t offer weather-proof protection for your generator, it will keep it from the direct impact of rain and heavy winds. This option isn’t as good as a garage or shop, but it’s better than leaving your generator completely outside. For good measure, wrap your generator in a tarp or protective cover to keep it as dry and safe as possible. 

Work Trailer or RV 

This is an excellent option for generator storage if you have a covered trailer or RV that doesn’t get used frequently. However, you do not want to store your generator inside your RV if you plan to go camping with it. Generators are bulky and difficult to move depending on their size, and they will quickly become an obstacle for camping preparations. 

Barn or Woodshop 

Barns and woodshops are nearly as good as garages and shops for generator storage. The only difference is that most barns and woodshops don’t have air conditioning, while some garages are. 

Can You Store Your Portable Generator Inside Your House? 

You should never store a portable generator inside your house if you can start it. If you’ve prepped your generator for long-term storage and have drained the fuel and oil tanks, then house storage isn’t as bad of an idea. Storing a generator in your house that contains fuel is a fire hazard and can stink up your house with nasty gas fumes even if it isn’t running. 

How Long Can You Safely Store Your Generator Without Using It?

If you follow the proper precautions laid out for long-term generator storage, you can store a generator without running it for 1 to 2 years. Storing it for this length of time, however, requires some additional precautions. Make sure that the sidewalls of the generator are well-oiled to keep it from rusting. 

You should also have some extra rubber gaskets and oil filters on hand as the old ones may have become compromised. Additionally, if you plan to store a generator for this long, you should keep it indoors in a dry area. Tarps and canopies will not keep your generator from rusting, and this can result in malfunction. 

Why is it Important to Safely Store Your Generator?

Properly storing your generator, both long-term and short-term, is extremely important for your generator’s health and personal benefit. If you improperly store your generator, there’s a chance that it won’t start up when you need it most. In the middle of winter, this will mean that you can’t start your furnace and risk freezing your water lines or yourselves. 

Improper storage compromises your generator for several reasons. Bad storage can lead to: 

  • Rain, snow, and moisture can cause rust or infiltrate the engine and cause it to misfire. 
  • Not covering your generator will allow rust, dirt, and debris to pile on top of it and damage crucial components 
  • A clean and neat generator is ready to operate when you need it most. 
  • Keeping your generator stored properly means that it will not only startup when you need it to, but it will run smoothly and efficiently for however long you need it to. 

Final Thoughts

Portable generators are great appliances that can improve any home or workspace and can provide you with electricity when you need it most. By properly storing and caring for your generator, you’re ensuring that it is ready in turn to take care of you and your loved ones. 

The most critical thing to remember when storing your generator outside is to keep it covered and out of harm’s way. Rain, snow, and heavy winds are the bearers of bad news for your generator, and protecting it from these elements is crucial. Don’t allow yourself to be caught with your pants down when you need a generator during a power outage. 

Sources

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and an FHA 203k Consultant. I started PickGenerators.com to help people better understand whole-house and portable generators.

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