Although generators are usually used temporarily for emergencies, you never know how long you may have to go without power. There’s a good chance that sooner or later, you’ll face a prolonged power outage where you won’t have access to the electrical grid for days. For instance, in the middle of a natural disaster.
How long can a generator run continuously without running into problems? What are the different types available? How do you get the most out of the generator you currently own? Here we’ll be addressing all those questions.
Consider the Type of Generator
The type of generator you purchase will determine how much energy it can provide before running out and how well it produces that energy. This includes size, fuel source, and even the brand and model.
Standby generators are installed on your property and keep your home’s systems and supply appliances with continuous portable ac power during an outage. Larger models can produce over 150 kilowatts of clean power to handle all your devices. However, consumer-grade standby generators are primarily in the 8 to 20-kilowatt range.
Portable generators offer an excellent on-the-go option with a smaller size, but they’re mostly only suitable for low-demand, short-term uses. While the largest portable generator is around 17 kilowatts, it’s large, heavy, and so not all that portable.
You also need to consider fuel type. For example, solar-powered generators are a great option if you have ample sunlight and don’t plan on hooking up many appliances. While they generally produce fewer watts and take longer to charge, you don’t have to plug them in or refuel them to get more energy.
How Long Can a Generator Run?
Homeowners can expect a standby generator to run for multiple months without running out of juice. However, you shouldn’t run a generator continuously for longer than 500 hours without a break, or you risk damage to your generator and possibly your home’s electrical devices as well.
How long can you run a portable generator continuously? The run time of a portable generator will vary depending on the generator itself, the size of its fuel tank, and how much power is being drawn.
If your portable generator runs out of fuel while under load, it could damage the internal coils. Once the coils lose their magnetism, your generator won’t function properly. Some models automatically shut down to avoid damage if the tank runs dry.
If your portable generator has such a feature, you shouldn’t have a problem running your generator continuously overnight. At most, you’ll wake up to a generator that has run out of fuel.
Standby generators are made to last much longer and can run continuously for around three weeks. Portable generators can run for about a week straight if they’re refueled.
How Long Will a Generator Run on Propane?
Unlike gasoline generators, portable propane generators can run for multiple days without being turned off. You can’t do this with gas-powered generators because the heat produced by the generator’s engine could ignite spilled gasoline.
If you have a piece of equipment called a changeover regulator valve, you can swap out an empty tank with a full one while the propane generator is still running. The main factor limiting runtime for this setup will be mechanical issues, such as running out of engine oil.
A 20 lb propane tank can fuel a typical portable generator for up to ten hours. A 100 lb tank can fuel a 12-kilowatt propane generator run for roughly 36 hours.
How Long Does a Generator Run on a Battery?
Unlike propane generators, you can’t as quickly refuel battery-powered ones when you’re off the grid. The best power stations can power a few appliances for a day or two before running out. You can always buy one that can be recharged using solar energy, though.
Lighter power stations usually come with smaller watt-hours. Heavier power stations come with larger battery sizes but take up more space. You’ll likely have to pay more if you want to run the battery for a more extended period.
One of the benefits of using a power station is that you can use them indoors safely. They can also be recharged within a day. However, they won’t run for as long as propane or gas generators or power major appliances.
What Affects a Generator’s Runtime?
Buying a used generator can help you save money, but it may not be as good as a new one. Generator technology constantly evolves with additional features to improve fuel economy and safety.
Some of these features include detecting carbon monoxide and preventing power surges. In addition, an older system may have a longer start-up time and use more fuel than a newer one.
An inverter generator increases efficiency by varying engine speed to meet demand. It throttles the engine up and down as needed, so it doesn’t have to run at maximum power the whole time.
Gas generators have a particular limiting factor that propane and natural gas generators do not: their built-in tank size. An open-frame portable gasoline generator usually has a larger gas tank than an enclosed generator. Several Duromax generator dual-fuel models are available that give you the flexibility to use whichever fuel gives you the best advantage in any given situation.
Probably the single most significant factor affecting runtime is the power load demanded. If you need to run a generator for an extended period, consider what’s plugged into it. Some appliances can drain energy even if you’re not using them. Only keep things that need constant energy plugged in, such as a refrigerator or light sources.
How to Keep It Running Longer
There are some tips to keep your generator running well and for a longer time.
Change the oil routinely. This may be every 50 to 200 hours of operation, depending on the brand and how often you use it (check out our how often should I change my generator oil article for more info.
Start it up every month to make sure it’s still working. That will also circulate the oil to lubricate the machine.
Avoid using old gas. You should always empty your fuel from a generator’s tank after each use, even if it weren’t used for long. Doing so helps to prevent varnish build-up that causes poor performance and possibly engine damage. See our generator maintenance pages for more information.
Unless you have a standby generator installed with high gauge electrical wiring, keep all appliances plugged in within 100 feet. The voltage can drop on longer runs, which decreases fuel efficiency and can cause appliance motor or compressor burnout. Click on the following link for more Generator Safety Tips.
Can I Power My House With a Generator Full Time?
Portable generators have a life expectancy of 1000-2000 hours of operation, while standby generators can last about 1500-3000 hours before needing to be rebuilt. This means you could only run a generator for about 1.5 to 4 months before needing expensive repairs.
Even then, you would be unable to run a generator continuously in that period as you would need to change the oil at least.
So trying to power a house full-time with a generator would be impractical.
Find the Best Generator for Your Needs
A generator must be able to provide the energy you require in a time of need. But how long can you run a generator continuously before running into problems?
As it turns out, most portable generators will run out of fuel or battery capacity long before they overheat or start developing issues. They should also have safety mechanisms set in place, so they turn off before completely running dry.
If circumstances and your power requirements allow it, the ultimate portable solution for continuous power supply would be one that never runs out of fuel: a solar generator.
- 9500 Running Watts and 12500 Peak Watts (Gasoline); 8500 Running Watts, 11200 Peak Watts (Propane); Remote Start With Included Key Fob, Electric and Recoil Start; Up to 12 Hours of Run Time on a 6. 6 Gallon Fuel Tank With Fuel Gauge
- Features Two GFCI 120V 5–20R Standard Household Receptacle, One Transfer Switch Ready 120V L14-30R, and One RV Ready 120/240V 14–50R; All Outlets Have Rubber Covers for Added Safety
- Powered by a Heavy Duty 457cc Westinghouse 4-Stroke OHV Engine Featuring a Long-Lasting Cast Iron Sleeve With Automatic Low Oil Shutdown and Digital Hour Meter. VFT display gives you real time updates with the voltage output, frequency, and lifetime hours
- Plug-and-Play: Comes With a Remote Start Key Fob, 12V Battery Charger, Oil, an Oil Funnel, a Tool Kit, and a User’s Manual to Get You Started Right Out of the Box (Minimal Assembly Required)
- All Westinghouse Portable Generators are Functionally Tested in the Factory and May Contain Minimum Residual Oil and/or Fuel Odor; EPA and CARB Compliant; Backed by 3-Year Limited Service, Labor, and Parts Coverage with Nationwide Customer Service Network
- 【Powerful Engine and Safe For Sensitive electronics 】The GENMAX 1200 Starting Watts Inverter Generator is powered by a 57cc 4- stroke OHV gas engine,with inverter technology produce 1200 Starting Watts/ 1000 Running Watts clean power (less than 3% THD), confidently connect your sensitive electronics such as TV, lights, fans, small power tools and more on camping trips, etc.
- 2550 Peak Watts and 1800 Rated Watts at Less Than 3% THD – Weighs Only 42.4 Lbs. – Gas Powered – One RV Ready TT-30R Outlet, Two 120V 20 Amp Outlets, and Two USB Outlets
- Great Choice for Home Use as an Emergency Backup in a Power Outage – Strong Enough to Run All Your Home Essentials
- Extremely Quiet, Extremely Fuel Efficient: As Low As 52 dBA Noise Output and Up to 12 Hours of Run Time on a 1.16 Gallon Gas Tank – Features “Economy Mode” for Maximum Fuel Efficiency
- Led Data Center: Rotating Digital Display Shows Fuel Level, Power Output, Remaining Run Time, and Voltage Output
- All Westinghouse Portable Generators are Functionally Tested in the Factory and May Contain Minimum Residual Oil and/or Fuel Odor; EPA and CARB Compliant; Backed By 3-Year Limited Service, Labor, and Parts Coverage and Nationwide Customer Service Network
- SPEED UP YOUR RECHARGEABILITY: It takes only 2 hours to recharge 80% battery of the power station through the wall outlet and 60W PD USB-C port simultaneously. You can also recharge your power station with an AC adapator when at home, through the car outlet during a road trip or simply use a Jackery SolarSaga 100.
- SAFE & STEADY POWER SUPPLY: Armed with a 293Wh lithium-ion battery pack, the Explorer 300 features 2 Pure Sine Wave AC outlets that deliver stable and safe 300W power. The portable power station weighs only 7.1 pounds. You can simply rest assured in outdoor off-grid activities.
- POWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS: Featuring 2* AC outlet, 1* PD 60W USB-C port (input/output supported) , 1* fast charge 3.0 port, 1*USB-A port and 1* DC car port, the power station can recharge itself and charge (up to) 6 devices (e.g.Drones, Macbook, Cameras, etc.) at the same time to satisfy your outdoor needs.
- GREEN POWER SUPPLY: The power station is compatible with the Jackery SolarSaga 100 solar panel. The integrated MPPT controller enables the solar generator set to operate at its max power point, so that it speeds up the battery recharge, making them ideal portable power kits for tent camping, overland journey and etc.
- WHAT YOU GET: 1* Jackery Explorer 300 Portable Power Station , 1*AC adapter, 1* car charger cable, 1* user guide