Buying a safer generator: Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports

CONSUMER REPORTS — Generators are emergency equipment that can be a lifesaver during a power outage but a killer when used improperly.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that from 2005 to 2017, more than 900 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning while using portable generators.

A generator should never be used inside or even in the doorway of an enclosed space.

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, some new generators feature a built-in sensor that triggers an automatic shutoff if carbon monoxide gas builds up to dangerous levels in an enclosed space, like a garage or carport.

Some portable models are now designed to emit less carbon monoxide in the first place.

Consumer Reports recently tested five portable generators with automatic shutoff. All of them passed CR’s new carbon monoxide safety technology test. The generators shut down before carbon monoxide reached specified limits in an enclosed chamber.

CR will now only recommend portable generators with automatic shutoff for dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Each manufacturer has a different name for its shutoff system. So, if you’re shopping for a new generator, look for terms like these:

  • CO Shield
  • CO Sense
  • CO Guard
  • CO Protect
  • CO Detect

CR recommends the following:

  • The Ryobi model RY907022FI for $1,150 – This one has automatic shutoff and low carbon monoxide output.
  • The DeWalt model PMC168000 for $1,050 – This one received excellent marks for power delivery and maintains its voltage well.
  • The Generac model 7675 for $1,000 – This one has good power quality and features a helpful fuel gauge.

All three of those have five power outlets and will run for 8 to 17 hours on one tank of gas, depending on the power level.

It’s worth repeating: Never operate a portable generator indoors, even with a door open.

In addition, CR said that you should always follow the following safety rules:

  • Place the generator at least 20 feet from the home.
  • Make sure, in advance, that you have a generator power cord that is long enough to reach.
  • Always direct the exhaust away from any occupied space so that carbon monoxide is not blown toward living space.

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