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What can I run to adequately ‘exercise’ my generator this winter?

Dear Dave,
What all can you run to create a full load when exercising a generator? It’s 5 degrees out, so will running the AC create adequate load? —Kathleen, 2020 Coachmen Beyond

Dear Kathleen,
I would not run the roof air conditioners when it’s 5 degrees out as you could have some freezing if it’s a ducted system. Instead, I would get two of the ceramic floor heaters and plug them into two different outlet lines. Outlets by a water source will be connected to a GFCI with the test/reset button on one of the outlets either in the kitchen or bathroom. The others are connected but do not have the button.

Typically they have a GFCI sticker but they sometimes don’t stay on. All these outlets are ganged together and if you plug two of the ceramic heaters into the same line, it will typically overload the outlets. The other outlets in the bedroom and usually the living room are on a separate circuit. You can test it by hitting the test button on the GFCI outlet and using a tester to verify power to other outlets.

A typical 1500-watt ceramic heater can draw up to 12 amps, so running two will give you enough of a load to exercise the generator. Here are some other appliances and what they will draw.

  • Television: 1.5-4.0
  • Radio: 0.5-1.5
  • Computer: 0.5-1.0
  • Converter: 4.0-6.0

One way to exercise the generator

What several owners do in the winter to exercise the generator is plug in two ceramic heaters and turn on the TV to watch a prerecorded show or over-the-air program. The ceramic heaters will get to approximately 25 amps, the television could add a few more, and with the generator running and providing 120-volt power to the distribution center it also powers the converter which charges your batteries.

If the batteries are low, the charger will provide 13.6-volts DC power until the batteries are fully charged, at which time it will go to a float charge of 13.2-volts DC. That means the converter will draw enough to get a load.

To get specific amp draw numbers, you can find the data plate on the appliances which will give you watts and do the math.

Amps = Watts/Volts

Or you can use a Kill-A-Watt device and plug the appliance in to determine what it draws.

And, if you have a Surge Guard surge protector it will do all the math for you.


 You might also enjoy this from Dave 

I can’t exercise my generator as usual. What should I do?

Dear Dave,
We store our RV inside over the winter and do not have access to it for 4 months. We are wondering what problems we might expect from our generator. Normally, we try to start it every 30–60 days and put a load on it for 15–20 minutes. But with the new inside storage we do not have that option. Your suggestions? —Bradley

Read Dave’s answer.


Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here

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Max Hartman
1 month ago

It’s best not to generalize about RV circuitry, here by suggesting there are two (or more) separately breakered receptacle circuits. In our 30A RV, there is only one such set and all outlets are run through ONE 15A breaker. So one floor heater essentially maxes out that circuit. I can also run the convection oven to exercise the generator, as it is on a separate circuit. However, only a 50% load is really needed for generator exercise.

Also with the Progressive Dynamics ‘Charge Wizard’ converter, a commonly used model, charging for low batteries does not start at 13.6V but at 14.4V. It will charge at 14.4V until the batteries reach 90% charge, which can take up to 4 hours. At that time charging drops to 13.6V. However, that “normal” mode can take up to 28 hours to top off the battery. This is typically done by shore power, not when exercising the generator. Only at that point does it drop to “storage” mode at 13.2V. Please see https://www.progressivedyn.com/rv/charge-wizard/

P Larson
1 month ago

We run the microwave for an easy load exerciser.

Frank Niehius
1 month ago

Seems like this is really a big deal on generators, but is it . On the Gas units its maybe true with the poor gas we have and it will definitely go sour within a few months. I’ve had 4 propane generators now over the years and only use them once a year and then for short spurts, like minutes at a time to run the micro wave or to charge the battery. Propane is clean and don’t cause any buildup and no carb to clog. Anyway have had no problems yet. I have 2 more gas ones, one at home and one at cabin which I run out of gas and it sets for years before getting started up again. I’m sure I should start it again, Those gas units are such a pain. Do we really need to run the propane ones every month?????

Dennis
1 month ago

I have three Pelonis ceramic disc heaters in the rv. (1,500 watts/5,115 btu/12.5 amp each) I plug one into a regular outlet, one gets plugged into the gfci outlet and the third gets plugged into a dedicated 20amp outlet that feeds directly from my 5.5 kw generac’s second breaker. Do not plug two of these into any one circuit as they will draw 25 amps and create a hazard!!!! That is a total draw of 37.5 amps and will give your genny a great workout. BTW, this is how I heat my 30′ class A while winter camping. Been doing it for 25 year now.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I have three generators at home. When we’re home I usually fire them up once a month and plug a hair dryer into each one for 15-20 minutes. We haven’t been home since April and probably won’t BE home until March – gasp! I can’t wait to try to get these suckers going when we DO get home.

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