How Long Can You Run a Generator Continuously? – TECHNIQUES AND TRICKS

Generators can be used to power homes or businesses in the event of a power outage. They can also be used as a backup power source for essential equipment or appliances.

Nowadays, installations of various types, capacities, and purposes are widely used in industry, construction, and households.

When a Genset is used as a permanent or backup power source, the user is interested in increasing the duration of its continuous operation. When a generator is used only occasionally, this requirement is not so relevant.

What Is a Generator?


A generator is a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. The most common type of generator is an internal combustion engine (ICE) that burns fuel to create heat. This heat is used to turn a turbine, which in turn spins an alternator to produce electricity.


When using an electric generator, it is necessary to have a special fire extinguisher that can be used with electrical appliances. You should also store the fuel in a well-ventilated, fire-safe place. Fuel should be stored in special containers for flammable liquids.

The generator must be operated in a well-ventilated room, as it produces carbon monoxide emissions.
Also do not forget your personal protective equipment. You will need safety glasses, gloves with electrical protection, and a respirator.

portable yellow generator on the bank of the pond

How Long Can You Run a Generator Continuously

In order to understand what duration of operation of the power plant will not have a negative impact on its technical condition and will not cause the need for repair, should, first of all, study the features of the main types of this equipment.

Gasoline generators

Structurally, the gasoline generator can have an engine with an aluminum or cast-iron cylinder block. The first ones are characterized by a short service life (a few hundred hours). For engines with a cast-iron block, the resource of the installation can be compared to the characteristics of a small diesel generator, and it can already reach 3-5 thousand hours.

It is worth emphasizing the cost-effectiveness of such generators and the low noise level, they produce during operation. Most often such installations do not have their own cooling system, which does not allow using them in continuous operation.

After a few hours of work, the gasoline unit needs a break so that its motor cools down. Also, you should not forget about the high cost of fuel used by installations of this type.

But if you need an alternative energy source – inexpensive, compact, and lightweight, the choice is obvious. Especially if the generator is not planned to be used often and for a long time.

Gasoline models traditionally have a small capacity (2-15 kW), compact and economical, but are designed for short-term operation (7-8 hours). Such units have a low MTBF (up to 4000 hours) and most often act as emergency power sources. Gasoline generators can be used at home, on a construction site, on a movie set, in nature, etc.

The big yellow generator runs on a can of fuel

Diesel units

Diesel generators can be equipped with high-speed or low-speed engines. Most often such stations have their own, provided the design, liquid cooling system.

High-speed units are more affordable in terms of price policy, but they have a number of disadvantages, similar to those of gasoline generators. This is a relatively short motor life, and, in addition, such units emit more noise during operation.

And to work without stopping such a generator can not work for more than two days. The expediency of using such a station is there if the planned mode of operation is not more than 600 motor hours per year. If the generator will work in a more intensive mode, it is better to pay attention to more expensive, but reliable low-speed units.

The advantage of low-speed diesel generators is their low operating costs. The use of such units gives an economic effect during long-term operation. Moreover, they can work without stopping for an extremely long time.

Diesel generators are available in a wide range of capacities (12-300 kW), have a reliable design, a relatively high service life, are safe in operation, and can operate continuously for more than 10 hours. These modifications are usually used as permanent and backup power sources. Diesel generators are intended for use at critical industrial, construction, and domestic facilities.

The generator manufacturer can provide more precise data on the allowable continuous operation time for a particular model. Most manufacturers take into account the interests of users and are constantly improving the design of their power plants and increasing generator hours.

However, when choosing a unit, one should consider not only the maximum duration of its operation but also other characteristics, as well as the actual operating conditions and needs of the user.

yellow generator and lawnmowers

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about long-running generators

Can I run the alternator without load?

Nothing terrible will happen when running without load, but the fuel-air mixture will be very rich, which will quickly lead to contamination of the spark plug with combustion products, with all the ensuing consequences. And the efficiency in such a mode of operation will be below a plinth. Nothing more terrible will happen.

How long can a gas generator run time?

The operating time of the Genset depends on the operating requirements and the size of the fuel tank does not matter. A generating set with an air-cooled system can run continuously for 8-10 hours, then it needs to stop for refueling and oil checks.

How long does a generator live?

A generator that runs conventionally in continuous operation lives 1-2 years. A generator with occasional use and regular maintenance you buy for life.


When choosing an electric generator, you need to decide on the time of its operation. Depending on how long the generator will work and in what loads you should choose in favor of one or another model.

If you are looking for a long-run time generator we recommend that you pay attention to generators with a cast-iron unit. In contrast to a generator with an aluminum block, cast-iron ones can work longer and have a longer service life.

Ronnie Collins

Ronnie Collins

I’m Ronnie Collins. I’ve been passionate about gardening and woodworking all my life and even earned an MS degree in Botany from the University of Maryland. I’ve been working at a gardening company for a while, so I know the ropes about a whole lot of dedicated equipment such as the table saw, track saw, lawnmowers, chainsaws, garden hoses, and much more.

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