Can you Run a Portable Generator Overnight?

Generators can be a life saver in extreme situations. I live outside of the Kansas City area and am right in the middle of Tornado Alley. That means every April, May, and June we get severe thunderstorms. I’ve only seen a few tornadoes in my forty years but what I have seen is countless power loss after a severe storm passes through. To top it all off we get blizzards and ice storms in the winter here as well. In some cases these power losses can last for a few days. The worst one I’ve been through was over a week. I am no stranger when it comes to power loss.

Having a portable generator in these situations can make a miserable experience into a tolerable one. Even if it is just getting a few appliances back on like your fridge or freezer… it can make a big difference. The question is when using these portable generators how long can they run for? Are you OK to run one of these generators overnight? Before I answer this question I first want to make sure that we’re following proper safety protocol.

Never, under any circumstances, should you run a generator in your closet, garage, or anywhere near your home. This is a gas powered engine. That means it produces Carbon Monoxide just like your car would. You need to ensure this Monoxide has a viable escape path to open air. The second point is NEVER back feed the generator into your home. This is very dangerous and can actually result in fire or even an explosion. The danger occurs when the power company turns the electricity back on. The moment that happens you now have two different power sources flowing into your home. This will result in an overload which can result in your generator catching on fire… and even exploding if the fire ruptures the gas tank. This is NOT something to play around with.

Can I Run my Generator Overnight?

Alright folks, now that we’ve got the safety concerns out of the way let’s really look at your question. To put the answer simply, yes. Yes, you can run a portable generator overnight.

That being said it gets a bit more complicated then that. Not all generators are equal. What I mean by that is that you will find some generators are only rated for a few hours of continuous usage whereas others can run for days. Now, obviously the continuous use ones are going to be more expensive… so be prepared for that. Another limitation here is the size of the fuel tank. Obviously, the generator will not run overnight if you run out of gas in the middle of the night. So, you will need a unit with a decent sized fuel tank as well.

Here at ToughAssTools we typically recommend the Westinghouse WGen generator models. You’ll find all kinds of models if you click that link. As to which one you’ll need it all depends on how much you want to run when your power is down and the starting/surging watts on each of those appliances. For more information on sizing your generator click here to visit our guide. When reviewing the available Westinghouse models pay extra attention to the size of the fuel tank and the expected run time. For example, the WGen5300s comes with a 4.7 gallon fuel tank with an estimated run time of thirteen and a half hours. Whereas the WGen12000 comes with a 10.5 gallon fuel tank but has a run time of only ten and a half hours.

If it was me selecting a generator to run overnight I would look for models that have a minimum of ten to twelve hour run time. There are models out there that state up to eight hours… but that is the maximum rating. Variables could occur or the unit could lose efficiency over time and you could run out of juice in the middle of the night. That is why it is suggested to go a bit over the estimated hours. Better to over shoot then under.

The other key factor when running your generator overnight is the weather. Firstly, your generator should be placed away from your house on a flat surface that ideally has a ceiling. This could be with a custom two or three sided shelter to protect the generator. Or, in emergency situations, it could be under a tarp. Either way, you need to protect the generator from rain. Water on a running engine that is producing power is NOT a good combination.

This ties into my previous point. If your generator is protected from the rain but there is a severe storm rolling through it is still not a good idea to run the generator. An example would be here in Kansas we have a lot of ‘wind storms.’ These are basically straight line winds with very little rain. The generator is not in danger from water… but if that generator was blown over by the wind then a fire could start. Always better to be safe then sorry.

Lastly, please note that you cannot refuel your generator while it is running. Yes, I know this sounds like an obvious statement but I need to ensure that everyone is protected. As I stated before, these generators are an engine. They are burning fuel. Adding more fuel to a running engine is not a good idea. The safest way to do this is turn the generator off and then wait for the entire unit to cool down. Otherwise, there is risk of ignition.


Now that I have bored you with my big long answer we can wrap this up. Yes you can run a generator overnight. Just be sure to follow our guidelines we mentioned above. I know that this seemed like a rather simple question but like with so many things concerning generators there is much more happening behind the scenes. It is very rare that we can offer a simple yes or no. There always has to be more details. Either way, I hope this article helped you out.

Thanks for visiting,

Alec Johnson

You may also like