Can You Run Portable Generators Continuously?

  • By: Umer.A
  • Date: January 9, 2022
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Generators are such handy pieces of equipment when you’re camping outdoors. So it’s natural for most people to want to run them 24/7. But can you run portable generators continuously? The short answer is “yes,” but with some catches.

You can only run the generator for as long as it doesn’t run out of fuel. But you must shut it off for 5-10 minutes before refueling or doing any maintenance.

Plus, you can’t run your generator on full load for longer periods. It will shorten the lifespan of your unit. But when you control for all these factors, it’s possible to run your generator without a break.

Average Generator Run Time:

Portable generators can run non-stop for 8, 12, and even 24 hours, depending on the model. The average generator runtime falls within that threshold. The Honda EU2200i, for instance, can run for 8 hours on a single gallon of gasoline.

Eventually, how long your generator can run comes down to the efficiency, the wattage rating, and the load. A generator with a 2,000-watt rating, for instance, will take up fewer resources than a more powerful 5,000-watt generator.

Portable Generator with Gasoline:

Most portable gas generators can be run for up to 24 hours per gallon of fuel. This number is key to calculating how long you can run your generator.

If a 1-gallon generator can run for 8 hours, then a 2-gallon generator will run for 16 hours. You can start by multiplying the generator’s per-gallon runtime by the number of gallons the tank can hold.

Luckily, in many scenarios, you won’t have to do this. Most probate generators come with a standard runtime mentioned in the instruction manual. For instance, the Westinghouse WGen3600v has a runtime of 18 hours for the whole tank, at 50% load.

But why stop there? Why can’t you refuel the tank while the generator is running and get a few more hours of runtime?

Well, as it turns out, it’s not recommended to keep the generator running during refueling. It poses a fire hazard that could get very dangerous. You should switch your generator off for 5-10 minutes before refueling.


So now you know how long you can run your portable gasoline generator continuously. But should you do that? After all, just because it can be run for that long doesn’t mean you should, right?

You see, whether your portable generator can be run until you exhaust its fuel isn’t all that black and white. Many factors such as efficiency, power dissipation, durability, and load capacity come into play here.

Portable generators meant for short-term use are not designed to run for extended periods. Their components will overheat and become subject to abuse. Generators that are designed as backup power for residences, however, can run for longer.

Running your generator all the time will produce a lot of heat. This heat can affect the internal components of the generator and may reduce the output of the product.

Additionally, running a generator without a break at 100% load is a big no-no. It’s recommended to use portable gas generators at 50% load if you’re going to use them non-stop. So a 5,000-watt generator should run fine at 2,500 watts of load.

Things to Consider When Trying to Run Your Generator Continuously:

Portable Generator with propane

Gas vs. Propane Generators:

There’s a lot of heated debate regarding whether gas generators are better for continuous use or propane generators. We’ll state the main points:

Gas generators are more efficient than propane generators. They don’t consume as much fuel, resulting in longer runtimes.

They’re also pretty useful when faced with temperatures below 20 F. However, they tend to produce a lot of residues that can clog the carburetor. In this sense, a portable propane generator will do you better.

Propane generators, while less efficient, run off a cheaper fuel. So even though you need more propane, it doesn’t cost that much.

Load Capacity:

The first thing to consider is the load capacity. Not all generators are designed to run 24/7 on full load. Most generators do fine on 50% load. Any more than that, and you’re harming the integrity of the generator as well as shortening its lifespan.

Manufacturer’s Recommendations:

Finally, consider what the manufacturer has to say. After all, you don’t want to run a generator continuously if your manufacturer is against it. Read the instruction manual or contact customer support to find out if it’s safe to run your generator continuously.

How often should I run my portable generator?

There is no upper limit. But there’s a lower limit. Portable generators should be run without a load fortnightly or monthly. And they should be run with a load monthly or quarterly.

What happens if I run my generator continuously?

Not much. Your generator will produce a lot of heat. And there will be heaps of residue buildup if you’re using gas generators. But with frequent maintenance intervals, a portable generator can run 24/7 with no issues.

Why do you have to shut off your generator when you refuel it?

Gasoline is highly flammable. When your generator has been running for hours on end, it will start to heat up. This heat can travel backward through the fumes into the gasoline bottle, which could pose a potential fire hazard. And that’s why it’s recommended to turn off your generator and let it cool down for 5-10 minutes before refueling.

Are there generators that can run non-stop for 24 hours?

Yes, some portable generators can run for 24 hours without a break. In most cases, these are the ones employed in houses and RVs as your backup power supply.

How much fuel do portable generators consume when running continuously?

Depends on the generator. The more the wattage, the more fuel it will consume. The continuous fuel consumption shouldn’t be any different from the regular consumption rate mentioned in the manual.


Running a generator all the time may seem worrying, but it’s mostly safe. But you need to take care not to overload the engine and to shut it off 10 minutes before refueling.

So yes, you can run a generator continuously with little to no restrictions. The only two reasons you should stop the generator in between are to refuel and for maintenance purposes. Gas generators, in particular, can get very dirty very fast.

But with that being said, remember to consider the cost of running the generator like this. Perhaps it’s better in your favor to run it at frequent intervals.