Consumer Reports: Generator know-how

June 17, 2013

Consumer Reports says there's a lot to know so that you're all set in an emergency.

First, you want to get a larger portable generator. Consumer Reports recommends buying one that's at least 5,000 to 7,500 watts, with a 240-volt outlet.

You can hook it to a standard transfer switch, which an electrician can install for you. Installing a transfer switch also prevents you from a making a big mistake - connecting your generator directly to your circuit box. If you hook it up improperly, you could cause an electrical or fire hazard.

When you run your generator, it poses another threat - carbon monoxide poisoning. To prevent that, you need to keep the generator at least 15 feet from your house and point the exhaust away from your home. Also, be sure nearby doors and windows are shut.

Many people don't realize that portable generators should be covered when it's raining or snowing. Manufacturers do make special covers for that purpose.

To make sure your generator will start when you need it most, you have to use a gas stabilizer. Also, you have to replace the gasoline with fresh fuel every six months.

Swapping out gallons of fuel every six months can be big job, but it's an important part of maintaining a generator. It won't run if the gas is old. And be aware, portable generators can use 8 to 22 gallons of gasoline a day.

Still interested in getting one? Consumer Reports named a Generac portable generator a Best Buy - model GP-5500-5939, for $700. You can get more generator buying advice here.

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