How long can you run a generator continuously: Essential Guide 2020


If you work outside of your home enough and or have a love for camping, there’s a good chance you’ve used a generator. A generators purpose is to create electric power to areas without access to an electric line. There are several different makes and models of generators; all of which accomplish different task or needs. The question is; how long can you run a generator continuously?

That question will be asked by anyone who is about to be in a situation where they’ll need one. What we aim to do is walk you through a brief description of different types of generators. Furthermore, we’ll elaborate on how long these models can run continuously and what they're most often used for. The focus will be on portable generators.

 How long does a generator last? Gas or Propane?

how long will generator run on gas

This is one of the first things you must decide when selecting a generator. There are several pros and cons to choosing one over the other. We’ll examine propane generators features and find out how long a generator can run on propane.

One of the strongest benefits of using a propane system is it’s cheaper and can be easier to store. When the time comes to use it, all you need to do is grab a tank and hook it up. Propane also holds value when it comes to a crisis situation.

Gasoline will be one of the first resources that will replenish in a regional or national crisis. Having a propane generation system means you’ll have the upper hand on obtaining a much-needed resource.

However, for every day needs a propane generating system can fall short. Propane is not as efficient as gasoline producing fewer BTUs per gallon of fuel. Gasoline, though not the cleaner choice, is going to be the stronger option. If you’re looking for pure run time look at a propane method. On average propane generators can run for 6-10 hours fuel life up to 24 hours recommended.

  • If you’re seeking some quality propane generators check out these models:

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Moving on to propane close relative, gasoline. Gas generators are a common choice for those who are seeking convenience. Gasoline is easily accessible, all you need to do is run down to the nearest station and you’re in business. Convenience might be the biggest selling point to push the consumer over the edge.

When it comes to power and time propane and gas generators are relatively similar. You might wonder how long will a generator run on gas? About the same time as a propane generator, 6-10 hours depending on which type you choose.

  • Here are a few great gas models:
DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator,...
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DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator,...
  • Plenty of Power – With 4,000 peak watts and 3,300 running watts, this unit can handle heavy loads, from lights and a refrigerator to a home air conditioner and high amperage power tools
  • Powerful Engine – The DuroStar 208cc OHV engine is a workhorse that provides plenty of power to handle multiple jobs, from powering high voltage appliances to heavy duty power tools
  • Low Oil Shutoff – Protects your investment by automatically shutting the generator off when it senses that the oil is low
  • Power Panel – The power panel includes a selection of outlets for maximum compatibility in your applications including: 2 120V household outlets and 1 120V 30A twist lock outlet. The panel also includes a voltmeter for measuring voltage output
  • Complies with Emissions Standards – All DuroStar generators are both approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and CARB (California Air Resources Board) and follow strict guidelines to ensure our generators are as environmentally friendly as possible

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The bottom line is they’re both great choices. If you’re buying a generator for emergencies look at propane. If you’re looking at a generator for common use look at gas.

How long can a generator run non-stop?

Generator Size

The main factor that ties into how long a generator can run non-stop is size. The generators I mentioned earlier are some of the larger sized portables. However, if you’re seeking something that will be easier to haul around with you there are smaller options.

The smaller the generator the smaller the fuel tank and power, it’s a tradeoff. If you’re needing something light that will power a few items for then a small generator will be effective. The duration will be significantly shorter, but it will accomplish smaller tasks.

Generator Stress

Generator engines are not built like car engines. They’re not built for running long durations and are prone to overheat if they do. A generator’s life can be lessened by putting stress upon the engine. It can be tempting to run it over and over again in a time of need.  However, if you choose to do so you run the risk of overheating.

It’s recommended that you don’t run the generator more than a 24-hour period. Typically, this is roughly around three to four cycles. Overall you want to give it a break and not run it too long.

Common Use

A portable generator is used for many scenarios. It may be the power surges and your out of power for a certain duration. Unfortunately, the generator does not have enough power to supply power to the whole house, but you can power a few appliances if need be.

Most likely generators come in hand when you’re working off-site and you need to power your tools. A generator could easily power a power saw. This is where the generator shines, powering tools or appliances in remote locations. This is why generators are commonly found on beaches and campsites. They’re perfect for times when you need significant power but you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Can you put gas in a generator while it's running?

One thing to note is you never want to fuel the generator as it’s powered on. Like any combustion engine, it’s much safer to use precaution, refueling while it’s in operation is dangerous. This is one of the most significant safety concerns with generators.

Another thing to keep in mind is to operate the generator in an open space, never indoors. The reason being is the engine will produce carbon monoxide, which is deadly if enough is inhaled.


To answer the question, how long can you run a generator continuously, you need to examine several variables. First, you need to consider the type of generator, is it gas or propane? Propane tanks will hold more fuel, but the generators require more fuel to output power. Gas generators hold less fuel but need less fuel to generate power.

The size of the generator plays a significant role. If you have a larger generator you will get a bit more use out of the run. However, smaller engines don’t require much fuel and can still have a long run life from their fuel tanks.

You also need to ask if it’s good for your generator to run continuously? The max amount of time recommended is 24 hours. As we mentioned early running your engine longer than this period of time can put stress on it.

One of the last things variables to consider is what your main use for a generator is. Under what conditions will you be using it and in what environment? You might be wondering the answer to how long your generator can last, but you might not want to test it.

Generators are meant to be used for in short durations and given rest in between uses. Yes, you can run it over and over again, but it’s not the best for the lifespan of your generator. If you need a generator more than 24 hours straight you might consider two or find another power source.

Further Readings & Resources

  1. What I Learned About Portable Generators One Dark and Stormy Night -
  2. Air Conditioning BTU’s: What Are They & What Do They Mean? -
  3. Generator Maintenance Tips -
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Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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