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How Long Can You Run A Whole-House Generator?

September 13, 2022

One of the questions most homeowners ask before getting a power backup system is how long can you run a whole house generator? Read on to find out.

How Long Can You Run A Whole-House Generator?

A whole-house generator keeps your home running and gives you peace of mind during a blackout. There are different whole-house generators available in the market. Some can run for long hours while others can only run for a few hours at a time. Depending on your needs, buying a generator requires critical thinking and the help of an expert.

How long can you run a whole-house generator? Several factors dictate how long a whole-house generator should run. These include how well you maintain it, the type of fuel a generator uses, the model, and engine speed when turned on.

Whole-house generators, also known as backup generators, should only run when you don’t have power from your local grid. As long as a generator has fuel, it can run until it needs maintenance. As with your car, one rule of thumb with generators is to keep a strict service schedule.
For mid-sized homes, backup generators can run non-stop for up to 3,000 hours. However, most manufacturers recommend that you turn off your generator after 500 hours of running to give it time to cool off.

How long can you run a whole-house generator - A comprehensive guide

The length of time you can use your whole-house generator depends on the type of generator you have. There are two types of backup generators - portable generators and standby generators. The main difference between these generators is how long they can run continuously.

Residential Cummins Generator

How long can you run a whole-house generator?

Portable generators

Portable generators have a run time of up to 2,000 hours before they’re due for service. However, these manual generators can only run continuously for a few hours. Some portable generators run longer than others, depending on their fuel source, model, and tank capacity.

Gas-powered portable generators can run continuously for up to 16 hours. On the other hand, portable propane generators can run continuously for up to 200 hours.

If you add up the hours you use your generator, you get a correct estimate on when it is due for service. Maintaining generator efficiency depends on how often you adhere to the service schedule.

Backup generators

Backup or standby generators connect to your utility power source. They automatically start a few minutes after your power goes out. By design, standby generators run longer than portable generators. With a run time of up to 3,000 hours, residential backup generators are a long-term solution for your power needs during blackouts. They support more appliances and electronics to keep your home running as though you still have electricity.

While most backup generators run on propane or natural gas, some models run on diesel, gasoline, or LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). A backup generator’s fuel source determines how long it can serve your needs before refueling.

With enough fuel in their storage tank, propane-powered backup generators have a maximum run time of up to one month. A reliable gas supply helps natural gas-powered backup generators run indefinitely. However, consulting the manufacturer’s manual gives you the recommended run time before your backup generator needs to cool down. Adhering to such recommendations prolongs your generator’s life for a good return on your investment.

New Generac Residential Generator

How long can you run a whole-house generator?

How long can you run a whole-house generator? Factors determining a generator’s run time

Before buying a whole-house generator, most homeowners wonder, how long can you run a whole-house generator? The answer to this question depends on several factors which affect a generator’s run time. The factors to consider before buying a generator for your home include its fuel source, heat, and oil.


The more appliances your generator powers, the more fuel it burns to fulfill your home’s power needs. Using your generator to only support what is essential conserves energy. Whether you have enough fuel or not, running your backup generator non-stop compromises its durability. To ensure usability when needed, never run your backup generator till it’s completely drained.


A backup generator requires oil as much as it does fuel. Additionally, the oil requires well-maintained filters to ensure your generator runs smoothly. Oil breakdown in a generator running non-stoop happens quickly. Depending on a generator’s cooling system, you should have an oil change every 50-100 hours of use. Frequent oil change ensures your generator runs as recommended.


Like any other engine, a generator is prone to overheat when running continuously. The heat your generator produces depends on how its engine runs. Generators run between 1800 and 3600 revs per minute. A whole-house generator running at 3600 revs per minute burns a lot of oil and is more prone to overheating.

On the contrary, a generator running at 1800 revs per minute needs less oil and doesn’t overheat. This type of generator is more expensive than the former, has better fuel-saving capabilities, and is reliable. Once they overheat, generators automatically shut down and can only come back on after cooling down.

To ensure overall safety for your generator, have a remote generator management system. The system allows you to monitor and control crucial aspects of your generator from anywhere. Such a system is convenient as it allows for secure connection and multiple users.

Safety tips for whole-house generators

Backup generators require careful handling to ensure safety from injuries and damage. Some of the safety tips to keep in mind are:

  • Never fuel a generator while it’s running. A running generator emits heat. Refueling it while in use poses a grave danger as it can burn you. The heat can also cause explosive sparks when in contact with fuel.  
  • Keep the generator from water. Contact with water can cause a short circuit in your generator, resulting in appliance damage or electrocution.
  • Never operate a generator in an enclosed room. A running generator emits carbon dioxide fumes. Breathing in these fumes is dangerous and can cause suffocation.
  • Buy the right generator for your needs. The right generator should support all your devices and appliances without straining. Buying a generator that doesn’t meet your electricity requirements can damage your household electronics. 
  • Use proper extension cords. The right extension cord for your generator can handle its power output. Choosing the right power extension cord protects your generator and electronics from damage and prevents fires.

Osburn Services is Here to Answer All Your Questions

Working with a generator installation expert has advantages. Such a professional ensures you choose the right generator for your needs and helps you maintain your purchase to ensure usability for the maximum recommended lifespan. Through engaging a generator installation professional, you enjoy a free generator estimate pre-installation and after-sales service post-installation.

Osburn Services is a leading generator company with extensive experience installing and maintaining generators throughout the lower Michigan Peninsula. Throughout the years, we have consistently combined this experience with quality parts to help create an unbeatable installation and maintenance experience for all our clients. Today, we sit among a handful of authorized Cummins and Generac installers in Michigan, making us an ideal partner for the installation and maintenance of your generator.


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