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How Often Should You Exercise Your Backup Generator?

A backup generator is a really useful piece of equipment for any home, especially if your local power grid is susceptible to a high number of power failures. However, just all machinery, you do need to test your generator from time to time to make sure that it’s still running smoothly.

Testing a generator is known as ‘exercising’, and doing this regularly will make sure your generator is ready to go when you need it. But how often should you exercise your backup generator? 

Below, we’ll take a look at how often you should be exercising your backup generator. We’ll also explain why it’s so important, and take you through a step by step guide on how to exercise your generator properly. 


Why Do You Need To Exercise A Backup Generator?

Let’s start by looking at why you need to exercise a backup generator. We’ve touched on this briefly above, but the main reason for exercising a backup generator is to make sure that it is in good working condition and that it can efficiently run when you need it to. 

The reality of the situation with most backup generators is that they don’t get that much use throughout the year. Sure, they are undeniably essential during a power outage, but how often does this happen across a 365-day period?

Now, imagine you’ve not had to use your generator for several months. A sudden power outage kicks in but your generator isn’t working.

This is a nightmare scenario, however, if you had exercised it regularly before this outage, you’ll have known there was an issue with it before the situation came where you needed to rely on it. 

This is why exercising your backup generator is essential. After all, it’s more than an appliance, it’s a lifeline that you might have to depend on for weeks at a time. 

How Often Should You Exercise Your Backup Generator?

A backup generator should be exercised every week, all year round. This might seem like a bit of a chore, but it only needs to be exercised for 10 minutes at a time, so it won’t take up a lot of your time.

And, if you spot any issues with it during this time, you’ll be thankful that you did your weekly exercise rather than hoping for the best during your next power outage!

It’s a good idea to try and exercise your generator on the first day of a period of free time, the Thursday before a weekend, for example.

This means that, if you do spot any issues, you’ll have time in your schedule to book an appointment with an engineer and have it properly serviced as soon as possible. 

How To Exercise A Backup Generator

So now you know why it’s important to exercise a backup generator, and how frequently you should do it.

But how do you exercise a backup generator? This can seem like a daunting task but don’t worry, it’s actually fairly straightforward.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to exercise a backup generator:

  1. Turn the mainline breaker off. This will disconnect power coming from the main utility line and will force the standby generator into action. 
  1. Listen out for the clicking of the transfer switch, as well as the sound of the generator turning on. It may take a few minutes for the transfer switch to click into place, but this is normal. However, you should stand by and listen until you do hear it click. 
  1. Leave your backup generator running for 10 minutes. This gives it enough time to warm up. During this time, go through the appliances in your house and make sure that the generator is providing power to them. 
  1. Once the 10 minutes have passed and you’re satisfied that your backup generator is working correctly, turn the mainline breaker back on. This will restore the power coming from the main utility line. 

As well as waiting for the click of the transfer switch and checking your home’s appliances are still being fed with power, there are several other observations that will indicate if your backup generator needs to be serviced or not. 

Here’s a list of things to keep an eye out for during the 10 minute exercise period:

  • Listen to your generator and make sure it’s making normal engine sounds
  • Your generator also shouldn’t be vibrating with too much force while it’s running
  • Make sure there isn’t an excessive amount of exhaust smoke
  • Keep an eye on your generators’ engine temperature and make sure it isn’t getting too hot
  • The oil pressure within your backup generator should also be reading at a normal level
  • Take a look around the entire backup generator and make sure there aren’t any oil leaks, coolant leaks, or fuel leaks
  • Listen out for any alarms or alerts coming from your backup generator

If none of these issues are occurring and your appliances are working with the power being fed from the generator, then it’s safe to assume everything is in good working order.

If there are any issues, book an appointment for a qualified technician to come and look at your backup generator. 


It’s also a good idea to keep a log of your findings every time you exercise your backup generator. This makes it much easier to spot any issues and also makes it easier to remember when you last exercised your generator. 

When you do this, create a checklist of all the above issues to look out for. That way you’ll be able to see if anything has changed since you last checked. 

Final Word

To summarize, you should exercise your backup generator on a weekly basis, all year round, for a period of 10 minutes at a time. During this time you should look out for any potential problems with your generator and make sure that it’s still providing power to your home. 

Doing this will keep it in good working order, and make sure that it’s ready to use as soon as a power outage occurs. 

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All the article on Oofgrid offer help and practical advice for using and purchasing a portable generator. However, We are enthusiasts and not qualified electricians. Always seek professional advice when working with electrical or Petrol appliances.