Saving with 6abc: Generators and thermostats

September 4, 2012

They can come in handy in case a bad storm causes a blackout at your house. It turns out, you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good one.

Consumer Reports just tested 14 power generators, ranging in price from around $700 to more than $3,000.

Stationary generators are more convenient. They run on natural gas or a large tank of propane and start automatically in a power outage.

To power your entire house, Consumer Reports recommends a stationary generator: The Generac CorePower 5837 is a Best Buy. It'll run you $1,800 plus installation.

For far less, Consumer Reports recommends a portable Generac, model GP 5500. This Best Buy will keep your basic necessities going for 670 dollars.

But be aware - no matter which you choose - you'll need to have plenty of fuel on hand. Also, get a transfer switch to safely hook up the generator. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, you should 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 keep it away from doors and windows.

Slash Your Energy Bill
Now it's time to slash your energy bill. Consumer Reports tested 30 programmable thermostats to see how easy they are to use and how clear the display is. The ColorTouch Series T-5800 from the brand Venstar is the least expensive of the three top-rated models. It retails for $170. Its clear graphics make programming a snap. For far less, a no-frills $70 Lux thermostat from Lowe's is a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It's relatively easy to program and lets you enter different settings for each day of the week.

A programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 a year. To get maximum savings, depending on the season, raise or lower the thermostat five to 10 degrees overnight and when you're out. That should cut your bills an average of 10% to 20%.

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