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Why you need to exercise your generator regularly

Read this blog post to learn why you need to exercise your generator regularly. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Follow the China generator manufacturer is recommendations for exact details on exercising your generator regularly and ensuring peak performance when needed. Depending on the purpose of the generator, local, state, or federal regulations may also require specific exercise cycles. For example, Collier County, Florida, requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to test emergency backup generators in a way that regularly simulates power outages.

Collier County has this special requirement because there are two types of generator operation: no-load operation and on-load operation. Running on load is to prepare the generator and other components needed to use the generator to generate electricity for emergencies. Running the generator under load for extended periods also prevents moisture and moisture buildup.

As a general rule, generators should be run at no load once a week to once a month. Load testing should be done monthly or quarterly.

The run cycle of your inverter generator can be automated by a timer, ensuring regular testing of the generator. Whether you rely on automation or run your generator manually, it should be done under supervision. If a problem is detected, an in-house technician or generator expert can remedy it as quickly as possible, protecting you and your business in an actual outage.

If your generator operates somewhere where grid power is unreliable, you will rely on the generator more often. Gensets that need to generate electricity regularly for long periods do not need to run. In this case, unreliable grid power replaces the exercise cycle. However, maintenance is critical because you rely on the generator more often!

generator placed on the sand

Red zone preparation

You’ll likely find at the top of an NFL defensive coordinator’s to-do list: Getting the red zone defense into playoff shape. Coaches work non-stop from the opening day of training camp through the season. A team must close the red zone package to make the playoffs.

In Northern California, we are approaching the red zone as we face the threat of hot weather, high winds, and wildfires. At the same time, we should deal with intentional blackouts to protect an overloaded grid.

Whether a small portable generator or a large backup gensets, a generator is the go-to support for your backup power strategy.

Weekly generator exercise

The hum of a diesel generator during a power outage is like music to us, but generators are often overlooked between emergencies. It would help to run your generator weekly or at least every other week.

If a generator is not operated for an extended period, its power generation capacity will decrease. Run the unit and check for fuel levels, leaks, loose connections, frayed wires, and anything interfering with smooth operation.

Even if it’s running, make sure it delivers the rated power. Exercising your generator is part of a complete maintenance program to ensure your generator works when you need it.

weekly generator exercise

Schedule the exercise earlier in the week

If you notice a problem with your BISON generator, it’s best to find out earlier in the week. Placing a parts order on Tuesday gives us time to ship replacements quickly. Then hopefully, you’ll be back up and running by next weekend, saving or minimizing the cost of leasing the equipment.

Obey the rules

While we recommend exercising your generator regularly, you must limit how much it runs at a time. To maintain compliance with your location’s air quality regulations, you need to keep your total operating hours per year below the maximum established for your air quality region.

Exercise your backup generators to stay in fighting shape

Backup generators need an exercise program unless your local utility has frequent outages (more than a few seconds). It is standard practice to set the ATS or switchgear controls to automatically start the engine and run it idling (without ATS transfer) for approximately 30 minutes; this is done weekly, but not less frequently than monthly. Exercises can also be started manually. If activated automatically, the operator should be on-site to observe average performance.

However, running the generator at a heavy load regularly is essential to prevent an empty wet stack, where unburned diesel increases the load on the exhaust system and can cause problems. A minimum of 40% load should be applied at least quarterly and at most once a month. Suppose a sufficient building load and the risk of equipment failure under test is acceptable. In that case, generator testing under load can be done by performing an ATS transfer after starting the generator. For the open transfer ATS, two brief power surges during the transfer and re-transfer tests caused the lights to flash, the UPS and batteries were also affected, and critical loads not protected by the UPS were affected.

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For closed transfer ATS or switchgear, the risk of failure may be higher during brief synchronization and paralleling, but no power fluctuations during transfers or re-transfers. Load banks can be used when there is not enough building load or if there is concern about the risk of live diversion and unnecessarily running the facility on the generator. A permanent load bank rated at least 40% of the engine capacity can be installed, purchased, and built into the generator enclosure.

While the system is running, either during testing or during a utility power failure, the following observations should be made:

  • normal engine sounds and vibrations
  • stable voltage and frequency
  • no excessive exhaust
  • normal engine temperature
  • Proper fuel transfer, especially between main and day tanks (if applicable)
  • normal oil pressure
  • No engine oil leaks, fuel leaks, or coolant leaks
  • no alerts or reminders
  • Record actual loads and conditions (time of day, day of week, critical building loads on or off) – tracking substantial building loads is vital to overall load management.
  • Critical load acceptance of generator power (UPS, HVAC, drives, etc.)


Caring for your generator is essential to its longevity and reliable performance. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, considering your specific needs, and incorporating expert tips, you can determine how often to exercise your generator and keep it running smoothly. Give your generator the attention it deserves!

Regular exercise and testing will ensure your generator is always ready to start when needed. Please get in touch with our BISON specialists if you have any questions or need more information.

A general rule of thumb is to run the generator with no electrical load once a week or a month. The recommended time to use the generator is approximately 30 minutes.

We’re glad you asked this question! Exercising the generator simply means having it run even when it is unnecessary. Doing this regularly can help extend engine life and help you identify potential problems before they become serious problems.

Theoretically, the generator could keep running as long as it has fuel. However, certain fuels may be more difficult to obtain during natural disasters or other emergencies. You can keep your generator running as long as you get the fuel it needs.

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