Get ready for the next power out­age

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - To learn more, visit Con­sumerRe­ports.org.

Hur­ri­canes and tor­na­does get the most play in the me­dia, but any ex­treme weather – heavy rain, wind, hail or snow – that knocks out your power can cause tur­moil in your house­hold. Gen­er­a­tor sales tend to spike right be­fore those storms land and once ma­jor power out­ages oc­cur, which is the worst time to shop for one.

You need time to size, choose and prop­erly set up a gen­er­a­tor, ac­cord­ing to Con­sumer Re­ports.

Based on your tol­er­ance for “rough­ing it,” Con­sumer Re­ports of­fers two sce­nar­ios that might suit com­mon cir­cum­stances. Pick the ap­proach that’s best for your needs.

Com­plete con­ve­nience

Let’s say you want noth­ing less than a gen­er­a­tor that fires it­self up the in­stant the lights go out. That calls for a sta­tion­ary model that’s per­ma­nently in­stalled on your prop­erty; it does not need to be wheeled into place and man­u­ally con­nected each time the lights go out.

A home that re­quires an all­out setup might have mul­ti­ple school-age chil­dren, with the need for lots of food in the fridge. A telecom­muter might have an ac­tive home of­fice with

com­put­ers, a printer and ready charg­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. There might also be fam­ily mem­bers who need un­in­ter­rupted power for med­i­cal de­vices, stair lifts and other AC-pow­ered ma­chines.

Sta­tion­ary gen­er­a­tors can take months to get up

and run­ning be­cause of per­mits and site ap­provals that some towns or cities re­quire. A good in­staller should know the specifics of your lo­cale and in­clude ob­tain­ing the needed ap­provals and per­mits in the over­all cost.

Prac­ti­cal and penny-wise

Be­tween the “wor­ryfree” crowd and those

who need power with­out fail are many of us who per­haps have older chil­dren, no med­i­cal de­vices to power and can live with­out cen­tral air con­di­tion­ing. For such home­own­ers, a por­ta­ble gen­er­a­tor could be a bet­ter choice. De­pend­ing on the time of year, you might not need it to run 24/7 to be use­ful; run­ning it even every cou­ple of hours can re-chill the fridge’s contents,

heat the house and charge phones and other por­ta­ble elec­tron­ics.

For the safest, eas­i­est con­nec­tions to your home cir­cuits, Con­sumer Re­ports rec­om­mends you have a trans­fer switch in­stalled (some ar­eas re­quire a per­mit for one). That com­po­nent con­nects the gen­er­a­tor to your elec­tri­cal-ser­vice panel and lets you power hard-wired ap­pli­ances

while avoid­ing the risk and has­sle of ex­ten­sion cords. It also keeps util­ity power from fry­ing the cir­cuits you’re pro­tect­ing once the power re­turns as well as putting at risk any util­ity em­ploy­ees work­ing out­side on the lines.

When shop­ping for a por­ta­ble gen­er­a­tor, look for fea­tures that help you start your ma­chine and keep it run­ning when

needed. For ex­am­ple, elec­tric start, pow­ered by bat­ter­ies, saves you the ef­fort of pulling on a starter cord. If you keep fuel in your por­ta­ble, Con­sumer Re­ports rec­om­mends that you add sta­bi­lizer and run the ma­chine once per month to en­sure it will start when you need it.

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