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To prevent a supersized power outage, get the right generator

Consumer Reports News: February 04, 2013 01:38 PM

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When the Super Bowl was plunged into darkness after Beyonce's electrifying halftime performance, Twitter lit up. In a play on her hit, "Single Ladies," one Twit-wit wrote, "If you liked it, you should've put a backup generator on it." And indeed standby generators were able to keep some of the lights on but not enough to prevent a game delay. Lesson learned? Make sure you have a generator large enough to power through a big event.

The beauty of having a stationary or standby generator is that it switches on automatically when the power goes off. In Consumer Reports tests of generators we recommend two stationary models, the Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7, $3,200, and the Generac CorePower 5837, $1,800, which we named a Best Buy. The Kohler delivered smooth, steady power and offers 7,000 watts with natural gas and 8,500 using propane. The Generac performed capably for roughly half the cost of the Kohler. It offers 6,000 watts using natural gas and 7,000 if using propane.

Size matters when choosing a generator. At Consumer Reports we focus our testing on moderately priced portable and stationary generators that deliver 5,000 to 7,000 watts, which is 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)

But 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), you should consider a generator in the 10,000 to 15,000 watt range. But be aware: Not all generators deliver what they promise, something we discovered in our generator tests.

Despite the quips online, apparently it wasn't Beyonce's high voltage performance that caused the power to go out. A spokesman for Entergy New Orleans, told the Associated Press that the blackout was probably the result of improperly maintained equipment. Maybe before inviting 73,000 fans to the Superdome, someone should have answered another question posed by Beyonce: "Baby, can you handle this?"

Mary H.J. Farrell

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