Can I Run My Generator in Cold Weather?
With severe weather in colder climates inevitably comes the possibility of the occasional power outage.
Luckily, a portable generator can help keep your home warm and well-lit until your main power comes back on.
This is one of the many situations a portable generator is intended for, but you may need to take some extra steps to ensure yours works properly in cold weather. Below you’ll find a guide that outlines the challenges you could face when trying to run your Generator in cold weather and tips on how to winterize a generator to help ensure it operates as smoothly as possible.
Do Generators Freeze in Cold Weather?
As winter sets in and temperatures drop, it can become more difficult for your generator to function properly. Generators are built to endure weather conditions like extreme cold, and they might not “freeze,” per se, but low temperatures can still present challenges for various generator components.
When a generator won’t start in cold weather , here are a few common reasons why:
- Engine oil can gum up when it gets too cold, which prevents it from lubricating the engine parts it needs to. This can result in serious damage.
- Cold temperatures can drain batteries more quickly.
- Falling snow can accumulate around a generator and block its ventilation.
- Skipping essential maintenance and storage steps could lead to damage when you need your generator for winter use.
How to Properly Run a Generator in Cold Weather
With the right awareness and preparation, running a generator in cold weather could go just as smoothly as during any other season.
Take a look at these steps you can count on to help ensure your generator runs smoothly when you need it this winter.
#1 Give your generator manual a close read
Before operating your generator, be sure to read your specific generator’s manual cover to cover—even if you’ve operated other generators in the past. It probably won’t take as long as you think, and it will likely save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Once you’re finished, you’ll have a head start on knowing:
- What procedures to follow (like how to start a generator in cold weather based on the fuel type you’re using)
- What actions to avoid
- What troubleshooting methods you can try if you’re experiencing technical problems
#2 Use the right kind of oil
The viscosity of the engine oil your generator uses will impact how well it runs in extremely cold temperatures.
DuroMax Generators can generally use 30W, 10W-30, or 5W-30 conventional or synthetic oils. But if you’re using 10W-30 engine oil in your generator, you could start to experience problems when temperatures dip below 0°F.
In below-freezing temperatures, 5W-30 oil is recommended for DuroMax generators.
#3 Store the battery properly
Cold weather can cause car batteries to drain faster; the same goes for generator batteries if they’re exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods.
Using a battery tender while your generator is in storage can help preserve its battery life, so it’s charged and ready to go when you need it. But keep in mind that most 12V batteries only have a shelf life of a few years, so you’ll need to replace yours at some point.
A battery warmer can also help extend its capacity in extreme cold temperatures.
#4 Keep your fuel source functional
Your generator’s fuel source will also impact how well it performs in winter.
DuroMax’s Dual Fuel generators, however, can run on either propane or gasoline—both of which tend to perform well under cold conditions. And propane can perform particularly well in cold climates compared to diesel since it's already in a gaseous state, potentially avoiding cold-start problems.
In extreme cold conditions, however, it might still be necessary to use a propane tank warmer if that’s your fuel of choice.
#5 Clear the operational area of snow
Just like you would in any kind of weather, make sure the area where you’re operating your generator is well-ventilated. The surrounding area must remain clear of snow, leftover fallen leaves, and any other obstacles so that nothing is blocking your generator vents.
If snow is still falling, keep monitoring the area to ensure it stays well-ventilated. Be careful, too, of the risk of water getting into the engine or fuel tank.
#6 Keep your generator usage outside
While it might seem tempting to run your generator from a warmer space like your garage, you should never operate a generator indoors. It doesn't matter how well-ventilated you believe space is. Doing so puts you and others in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Your DuroMax generator should be at least 20 feet away from any doors or windows to avoid the risk of fumes making their way indoors.
Aside from the exhaust, operating a generator inside poses the additional risk of overheating. If it’s placed inside, this can pose a severe fire risk.
#7 Use a Ventilated, Weatherproof Cover
Generally, it’s best to wait for severe weather to subside before you set up your generator.
After the peak of a winter storm passes, a properly ventilated running portable generator cover will help protect your generator from falling snow, rain, and high winds.
An added bonus: for the protection these covers provide, they’re also relatively inexpensive.
#8 Inspect the Generator Before Startup
To safely start up your generator, make sure to look out for any signs of leaks or damage that might need attention. This may add to your time spent out in the cold, but it’s well worth it to avoid possible issues.
#9 Give Your Generator Time to Warm Up
There’s no across-the-board answer for how long generators take to warm up. It can depend on different factors like:
- The current outdoor temperatures
- Your generator’s engine type
- What type of fuel source you’re using
- What your power output needs will be
Recommendations for different generators can range from as few as several minutes or up to several hours to properly warm up.
#10 Practice proper storage and maintenance year-round
A portable generator could be your saving grace at a moment’s notice, but only if it’s properly taken care of over its lifetime.
By regularly inspecting and maintaining your generator based on your manual’s recommendations, you can catch items that need repairing early on. That way, they don’t become more serious and expensive over time, and they won’t have to become an obstacle when you need to use your generator the most.
That includes items like:
- Changing the oil as needed
- Cleaning and re-oiling the air filter
- Adding a fuel stabilizer for short-term storage
- Cleaning other generator components when necessary
- Addressing problems with rust, leaks, or corrosion
The same goes for preparing your generator for long-term storage. With the right preventative maintenance, you can avoid the risk of your generator developing problems while it's stowed away.
#11 Run your generator periodically
Running your generator regularly helps keep its many parts well-lubricated and in good working order. It’s generally recommended that you run your generator at least once every three months. Still, in conditions of extreme cold, it may be helpful to run it for a brief amount of time every few weeks—especially if you anticipate needing to use it in the near future.
#12 Keep up with weather alerts
Staying up to date on local weather alerts can give you a heads-up when severe winter weather may be on the horizon—giving you time to inspect and prepare your generator for use in advance.
For example, if you have an engine block heater for your generator, you don’t have to keep it plugged in constantly. Perhaps you only do so following winter weather advisories.
Keep the Lights on with a DuroMax Portable Generator
When winter weather leads to power outages, a portable generator from DuroMax can give you power independence when you need it most. Our generators are designed to weather severe conditions. As an added security, our Dual Fuel and Tri Fuel generators can give you even more flexibility when fuel options can be in short supply.
Do you live in a place where a snowstorm isn’t the biggest threat, but maybe a hurricane is? DuroMax can help you with all of your hurricane-related questions as well, whether it be how to prepare for a hurricane , what to do during a hurricane , or if a hurricane generator fits your home’s needs.
Ready to prepare your home for whatever this winter brings? Find the right DuroMax portable generator for your power needs today.