Even if it is a milder hurricane season this year, one tropical storm can inflict a lot of damage. So, how to size a generator and use it safely?
The experts at Consumer Reports say to pick a model with a wattage at least equal to the total of what you're powering. Manufacturers also suggest totaling the higher surge watts some appliances draw when they cycle on. A small portable, up to 4,000 watts, can typically power a refrigerator, sump pump, microwave, TV, and a few lights but you may want more oomph than that. Here are some recommended generators from our tests ranging from medium to large.
Midsized portable or small stationary, 5,000 to 8,500 watts
What it powers. Everything that a small model can power plus a portable heater (1,300 watts), computer (250 watts), heating system (500 watts), second pump (600 watts), and more lights (400 watts).
Recommended stationary. Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7, $3,200. Stationary generators turn themselves on and off when needed and run on propane or natural gas for longer runtime and safer fueling. The Kohler delivered smooth, steady power and offers 7,000 watts with natural gas and 8,500 using propane. It was also among the quietest of the stationary models we tested, and it shuts down automatically if the engine-oil level gets low. On the downside, it's pricey and requires professional installation.
Large stationary, 10,000 to 15,000 watts
What it powers. Everything you can run with a midsized model plus a choice of small water heater (3,000 watts), central air conditioner (5,000 watts), electric range (5,000 watts), clothes washer (1,200 watts), or electric dryer (5,000 watts).
Recommended model. Generac 6241, $3,500. This stationary generator was top-notch at providing ample, smooth power with consistent voltage. Generac claims the unit supplies 13,000 watts using natural gas and an additional 1,000 using propane. It also comes with a transfer switch, needed for safe operation. Among features are fuel shutoff, low-oil shutoff with an indicator, and electric start.
For more information on stationary or portable generators, contact South Shore Generator in Wareham, MA.