Storm-worthy generators

Published On: Aug 31 2012 06:40:10 AM EDT
Updated On: Aug 31 2012 06:40:20 AM EDT

Storm season is upon us, and that can mean a blackout at your house for days, even weeks. But it doesn’t have to result in rotten food in the fridge or fumbling around in the dark. A generator can keep things running until the power comes back on.

Consumer Reports just tested 14 power generators, ranging in price from around $700 to more than $3,000. Some are portable, and others are stationary.

Consumer Reports tests by hooking them up to small appliances, a water pump, and lights.

Testers found that with portable generators, run time depends on the type of fuel they use. Gasoline generators run 8 to 10 hours. Propane generators run through a tank in 4 to 6 hours. So whichever you choose, be aware that you’ll need plenty of fuel on hand. And you’ll need a transfer switch to safely hook up the generator. It can run up to $900.

Stationary generators are more convenient. They run on natural gas or a large tank of propane and start automatically in a power outage. Consumer Reports says that if you want to power your whole house, a large stationary generator would be better because it will power items such as your stove, dryer, central A/C system, and more.

Among stationary generators, Consumer Reports named the Generac CorePower 5837 a Best Buy. It costs $1,800, plus installation.

For far less, Consumer Reports recommends the portable Generac GP 5500. It will keep your basic necessities going for $670.

If you use a portable generator, Consumer Reports has this important caution: More than 100 people a year die from the carbon monoxide produced by portable generators and similar equipment. To be safe, never run a generator inside a garage or shed. Always run it as far as possible from your house, ideally at least 10 to 15 feet, and away from any windows or doors.

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