With forecasts for unsettled weather mounting across the nation, residents of the Northeast are marking the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on October 29, 2012, wiping out neighborhoods and causing billions of dollars in damage. More than 100 people died. As homeowners and communities continue to pick up the pieces, it’s a good time to remember that everyone should be prepared for the next big storm.
After hearing how people fared in Sandy’s aftermath, Consumer Reports made the decision to test more, and larger generators as well as chain saws. Now we have twice as many generators in our Ratings and a new batch of chain saws. In a survey we took six months after Sandy, we learned that of those who owned generators, most had portable models—only 12 percent owned stationary generators. But those who did experienced fewer problems.
The moderately priced portable generators in our tests typically deliver 5,000 to 7,000 watts, enough for most needs. A generator of that size can power the following:
- Refrigerator (600 watts)
- Microwave (1,500 watts)
- One or two sump pumps (600 watts each)
- Several lights (400 to 800 watts)
- TV (200 watts)
- Portable heater (1,300 watts)
- Heating system (500 watts)
Our top-rated portable generator, the Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477, $900, is a 7,000-watt, gasoline-powered model with a 9-gallon tank for an average 15 hours of run time. For the same price you can buy another recommended model, the Briggs & Stratton 30470. It had top-notch power delivery with almost no voltage fluctuation but runs for an average of only 10 hours. Our seven other top portable picks include models from Champion, Generac, Honda, NorthStar, and Predator.
If you need enough power to run a central air conditioner (5,000 watts), water heater (3,000 watts), or such large appliances as a range (5,000 watts), washing machine (1,300 watts), or dryer (5,000 watts), consider a 10,000- to 15,000-watt generator. You’ll likely want a stationary, or standby, generator, which switches on when the power goes off. In our tests of large stationary generators, the Kohler 14RESAL, $3,700, excelled at delivering ample, especially smooth power, and offers 12,000 watts using natural gas and 14,000 if you use propane. It was among the quietest of the models we tested. Another pick, the Generac 6241, $3,500, was also a champ at providing ample, smooth power with consistent voltage. It supplies 13,000 watts using natural gas and 14,000 using propane.
In our tests of chain saws, we found nine to recommend, including regular and light-duty gasoline models and corded electric chain saws. The 16-inch gasoline-powered Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230, was ultrafast at cutting and relatively light weight. Our top light-duty model, the Craftsman 34190, $150, wasn’t as fast as the fastest gas saws, but the 18-inch model should fit most needs. And don’t let the shorter bar of the electric Worx WG303.1 fool you. This plug-in electric saw was faster and better-balanced than its larger 18-inch sibling, the Worx WG304.1.
For more information, read "Lessons Learned From Superstorm Sandy" as well as our latest report, "Disaster Preparedness: How to Be Ready for the Next Big Storm."
—Mary H.J. Farrell