How long Can You Continuously Run a Whole House Generator?

Updated On: November 8, 2020

The generator is an important device that restores power in the event of a blackout. When power cut happens, our options get limited on the type of backup we ought to opt for. Although there are many variations in the generators and how they provide power, the point is we are still dependent on generators for our primary backup solution, especially if we want diminishing returns; a relatively superior choice is to go for a generator.

This article’s basis is on a whole house generator, so cost-to-price performance remains critical. A generator is a great device to rely-on when a power cut happens, and the options regarding the type and power of the generator are plenty. Generators can power most of your home peripherals, but the question is,

for how long?

This article’s focus will be to answer that question accurately and concisely, leaving no room for confusion.

How long can your whole house generator run at a single go?

The answer concerning how long a generator will run depends on different variables, for example, the model of generator you have will matter extensively. It’s not a single-line answer, and it may change depending on the output, type, and quality of your generator. Usually, whole house generators have higher outputs since their target is to handle higher loads. What kind of fuel your generator uses can also help us assess your generator’s runtime to a certain extent. Whether your generator runs on gasoline, propane, or generator that can utilize both, they create variances in the runtimes.

Standby Generators / Whole house generators

When you want to run generators for more than 24 hours or even for a few days, a portable generator is not something you can work with. If you want to power most of your house’s utilities and your home isn’t small, then a standby generator will be much more relevant. Portable generators are handy for the standard power cuts and load shedding. They can also back you up during blackouts lasting a whole day.

However, your portable generator’s rating and brand will play a vital role when the runtime is concerned. A portable generator’s regular use is not targeted for long hours of power backup; neither is it for powering all the appliances of your house. You can use a Power Calculator to determine the total required wattage, and you will soon realize it’s not sustainable.

Things like these are more suited for much larger standby generators, having more efficient engines and tougher builds. Standby generators are designed in such a way so that they can handle long sessions without issues. A typical standby generator will avail you to have continuous electricity for 7-8 days (around 200 hours). If you have enough fuel, you can run a standby generator for 21 days (which nearly approximates to 500 hours). You should monitor your generator when running it for weeks because standby generators can only handle so much abuse until they break down. A 500-hours run time session is sustainable for most standby generators, anything above that can damage the generator, and the appliances plugged to it.

Standby generators have specific design choices to avail it to connect to massive propane tanks. Propane based generators are advantageous for many different reasons. They offer control to the owner of the generator. For starters, you have control over the fuel tank and some extra options to keep your generator running continuously by keeping it fueled continuously. 600 to 1000-gallon tanks are standard for standby generators, and they can work just as well with natural gas lines allowing it to run for extended hours at a time. Sometimes, it’s best to turn standby generators off and let it rest for a bit.

Extending Runtimes on propane-based generators

One of the easier ways to extend the runtime of your generator would be to add 2-propane tanks. Both tanks will be hooked up to a single gas line with a change-over-regulator or a stopcock valve. With that, you can use one container at a time, and when one is depleted, simply switch the flow. It is done by twisting the stopcock valve turning the tide from one tank while the other is closed. Since only one container is utilized at any given time, you can refill the empty tank keeping the generator running as long as you wish. Let’s say you have an unlimited supply of propane.

How long can you keep a propane-based generator running?

Usually, portable generators require maintenance after 100 hours. However, it isn’t a strict timing as your time limit will be set by the amount of oil that’s present in your generator engine. After approximately 200 hours or sometimes less, conventional generators will shut down automatically when low oil is detected. It is different for standby generators as they last for much longer hours. In a portable generator that runs on propane, auto shut down is done to protect the motor from harm. Heat is another issue that you need to take notice of. After one day of full use, portable generators will build-up a considerable amount of heat. If the generator is running for too long, permanent damage can be inflicted on the engine. Using more output will also generate additional heat.

Considering the weather is warm, try giving your portable generator a break after 24 hours or apply a cooling method to keep your portable generator for longer hours. Even implementing cooling methods does not extend the runtime by much. This is why standby generators become the obvious choice once you want to opt for higher output generators that will run long hours to produce an insane level of electric power.

Can you do the same for gasoline-based generators?

Gasoline based generators are limited in their capability to run for a prolonged period. The main reason behind that has to do with their refueling system. Generators that utilize gasoline should never be refueled while running. Not just that, these generators should not be refueled when they are hot. It’s extremely dangerous, as the fuel can cause fatalities. When a generator runs, it gets pretty hot, and fumes from the fuel you are using can quickly spark. This will cause the generator’s tank to burst out in flames. Always turn off your gasoline generator, let it sit for a while, make sure it’s cooled off, and then refill it with fuel.

Check generator safety tips to get a clear understanding of the matter. All of these intricacies limit a gasoline generator to a specific runtime. Usually, run time is mentioned in generators, and you will be limited to that mentioned runtime. Although, it might differ based on how much power you are pulling from the generator at any given time. As a rough estimate, you will get somewhere around the ballpark of 10-14 hours of runtime if you haven’t invested in a more powerful whole house generator that utilizes propane and natural gas lines.

Is it Safe to run whole-house generators for an extended period?

The whole house generators that are used in medium-big apartments are standby generators. Most of them can run safely up to 500 hours, which is around 3-weeks of continuous run time. However, it’s advised that you let it rest for a few days between long sessions. There are portable generators that can be used as a whole house generator, but they are built in a way that a standby generator is.

So, it’s better not to get a portable generator if you are often running it for an extended period. Check the top whole house generators’ list to find your pick potentially.

About Steven Smith

For the last 20 years, I have been working as a professional contractor in many construction projects. From my childhood, I love to work with different kinds of power tools. In my spare time, I love to do a different kind of DIY project. It gives me a kind of inner satisfaction.

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