GasElectricDual FuelEnergy Star Certified
Main Content
How Long Can a Generator Run? Hero Image

How Long Can a Generator Run?

Just how long can a generator run? Abt breaks down the lifespan of heavy-duty standby generators and portable generators.
Close Up of Electric Generator

Getting Started

Generators are convenient machines to have on hand for emergency situations. During blackouts, for example, a standby generator can save the day (or night) and all the food in your fridge. Without backup power and electricity, we'd be lost in our own homes. Additionally, a highly versatile portable generator brings extra convenience to a range of activities and chores, from car camping to construction projects and everything in between.
First-time buyers may have lots of questions about generators, including whether or not they can totally replace a home electricity provider. The number one specification a first-time buyer tends to ask about is how long a generator will run. Knowing how long generators last offers insight into what appliances and electronics you'll be able to power. This knowledge will help you understand the difference between running a small unit or your entire home. Let's explore a bit more.
Angled View of Standby Generator on a Patio

How Long Can a Standby Generator Run?

Standby Generator Running Time

As to whether you can say so-long to your power company, the answer is regrettably "no." Single generators should be used only as a backup power device and cannot run indefinitely, with a few caveats we'll discuss later.
While some generator models can run anywhere from eight to 12 hours, or even for multiple days, generators should never be left to run for weeks or months at a time. Essentially, this comes down to generators' engine construction, which requires not just fuel, but regular lubrication and routine maintenance. Portable generators specifically also require unleaded gas, and when the tank dries out, many models are designed with an auto shut-off to prevent damage.
High-quality generator models can run for several hundred hours, but this doesn't mean the engine won't die out without the required lubricant and fuel. Most generator manufacturers offer anywhere from one to five-year warranties along with after-sale services to fix any issues.

Standby Generator Durability

Generator manufacturers will even admit that their products will not last an entire lifetime. Although standby generators can run for hours on end, as we mentioned before, they are meant to be backup for emergency situations. These generators are quite durable machines, but in the end, a generator cannot run continuously. Although standby generators can run for long periods of time, it's important to note that generators' energy is not as affordable as the electricity providers' rates, so it's best to switch back to your primary source of electricity once power is back up and running.
Gas Powered Portable Generator

How Long Can a Portable Generator Run?

Portable generators require unleaded fuel to operate. The power ratings of portable generators are much less than those of standby generators. As a result, portable generators most definitely can not run your home for long periods. Portable generators are optimal for situations such as powering your tools, running small appliances while you camp, tailgating or backyard festivities.
With portable generators, you can't piggyback off your power provider, and the price of fuel is not exactly a cost-effective solution. Because of the fuel-based power source, portable generators also tend to need routine maintenance.

Portable Generator Running Time

Portable generators can usually run a couple of hours. At most, some portable generators might be able to run for a day or two. In general portable generators have a lifespan of only a couple thousand hours, which assumes they are only used on occasion and definitely not continuously. Should you attempt to leave a portable generator running at great lengths of time, the engine will eventually fail.
Are you looking for a standby generator or portable generator? Abt offers many generators for sale from reputable brands. Explore our options and take a look at our power generator buying guide to discover one that works for you.