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Buying guide: 5 best generators for home and on the road

As if the pandemic weren’t enough, we are experiencing severe weather conditions across the country. Frigid temperatures, power outages and water shortages have occurred in places like Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Texas.

Texas, in particular, has been hit hard. Thousands of residents have lost power and millions more are dealing with water disruptions. Keeping your phone powered up is important during times like these. Tap or click here for some tips on getting the most out of your phone’s battery.

It’s a good idea to have a backup plan if the power grid goes down. A portable generator can be a lifesaver, but it can pose a risk if it is not used properly. Let’s go over the proper way of using a generator and a few of the best options.

What a portable generator can and can’t do

There are two main types of generators you can use at home. A full-size standby generator is installed outside your home, similar to a central air conditioning unit. These machines can run on natural gas, propane, or gasoline to directly deliver power to your home. A standby generator starts up or stops automatically as needed. These machines need to be installed by a professional.

Most portable generators run on gasoline. If you have a larger model, you can connect it to your electrical system via a transfer switch. This way, you can power larger appliances like your refrigerator without having to run extension cords everywhere. You’ll still have to throw a switch to transfer the generator power to your home, but an automatic transfer switch solves this hurdle. You will need an electrician to install a transfer switch properly.

Portable generators can be taken on the go for use in RVs, tailgate parties or at a campsite. Tap or click here to check out our favorite apps for road trips, camping and more.

Practice safety first

Here are a few suggestions on how to safely operate generators.

Don’t run your generator indoors. Keep it at least 15 feet away from any windows, according to energy.gov. Carbon monoxide is deadly, and you may not even know it is leaking into your home. Carbon monoxide detectors are a no-brainer all year-round, but you have to make sure the batteries are good.

Keep your generator under a roof of some sort, such as a canopy and make sure your hands are dry when operating it. Don’t mess with the machine in wet conditions.

To keep from overloading your generator, make a list of appliances and devices you need to power. You’ll need to get the starting watts and running watts for larger ones such as refrigerators, furnaces, and air conditioners. The starting watts measure how much power is needed for just a few seconds to start the motor while running watts keep the machine going. A wattage worksheet like this one from Home Depot can help you determine which capacity generator to buy.

Read the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and refueling. If you follow safety precautions, a generator can help you weather the storm. Here are five models to check out.

1. Generac 7127 iQ3500

Inverter generators typically run quieter and more efficiently than standard portable generators, which is reflected in the price. They can also run at different speeds depending on power demands. The two-speed Generac iQ3500 provides 3,500 starting watts and 3,000 running watts of power. It has an electric starter and USB ports to power your smaller devices.

2. Westinghouse WGen9500

This heavy-duty generator packs 12,500 starting watts and 9,500 running watts, making it suitable for larger jobs. It features remote and push-button electric start and can run for 12 hours on 6.6 gallons of fuel. It has outlets for standard household plugs, larger appliances, a transfer switch and USB.

3. Champion 100307

This Champion 100307 portable generator is rated at 4,357 starting watts and 3,500 running watts. It can take up to 3.4 gallons of gasoline (9 hours of runtime) or propane (10.5 hours of runtime). It has outlets compatible with your home appliances or RV.

4. Anker Powerhouse II 800

If you want to go for something slightly different, the Anker Powerhouse II 800 can be charged from your car or a solar panel. It has outlets for small household appliances as well as USB devices. Its output tops out at 770 watts and should not be used to power devices rated at over 500 watts, such as toasters, microwaves or hair dryers. Use it to power your fan, tablet, phone, television, mini-fridge, laptop and more. It even includes built-in LED lights.

5. A-iPower SUA15000ECV

With 15,000 starting watts and 12,000 running watts, the A-iPower SUA15000 ECV can power your home, job site and campgrounds. Its 8-gallon fuel tank can keep you powered for 5 hours at full capacity or 6 hours at 50% capacity. Electric start means it’s easy to get going. Multiple outlets can be used for appliances large and small as well as USB devices. This beefy generator can keep your lights, refrigerator, television, air conditioner, fan, power tools all running simultaneously.

Keep reading

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