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Size up your generator needs for hurricane season

Home Depot to hold free workshops in hurricane preparedness

Published: May 28, 2014 03:00 PM

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Home Depot sells a lot of things that you need to prepare for a hurricane or to clean up afterwards but this Saturday it’s giving away something for free—advice. At 700 stores in 19 states, the home improvement store is offering hurricane preparedness workshops to help homeowners get ready for a possible storm. As we wrote earlier this month, forecasters are expecting a milder hurricane season this year but even one tropical storm can inflict a lot of damage.

On the agenda Saturday will be 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 portable. Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477, $900. This 7,000-watt, gasoline-powered portable generator was tops in our tests. Helpful features include electric start, fuel shut-off (which prevents leaks), low-oil shutdown, a 9-gallon tank for an average 15 hours of run time, and a fuel gauge. One caveat: It's noisy.
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.

The best generators from our tests
For more capable models see our full generator Ratings and recommendations. The Home Depot workshops will be offered from 10 AM to 12 PM at select stores in the following states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and the District of Columbia. You can register on the Home Depot website.

Can’t make it? Then read our Storm and Emergency Guide and Generator Buying Guide.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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