How much generator do I need?

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Losing power is always annoying, but it can also be costly and dangerous. Think about having to throw away spoiled food or clean up after frozen pipes burst. A generator can save the day-and night. It turns on when the lights turn off. Consumer Reports explains how to find the right generator for your home.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of the stuff you absolutely can't live without during a storm. Here are a few scenarios to use as a guide, along with models that really brought the power in CR's tests.

If you just want to power your refrigerator, some lights, and a phone charger or laptop, consider the lightest type of generator, which delivers up to 2,000 watts. The Yamaha model EF2000isV2 for $900 is quite fuel efficient.

A midsized inverter will give you up to 3,500 watts, so you can also power a window air conditioner and run either your coffee maker, washing machine, or hair dryer. The midsized Predator model 3500 for $770 did well in CR's tests.

If your needs include running a large sump pump or water well pump, a larger portable generator providing up to 7,500 watts can handle all of that plus a gas furnace. Consumer Reports recommends the Generac model RS7000E for $1,000.

And if you want whole-house power, a permanently installed standby generator that provides up to 20,000 watts can make you forget there's a storm outside. The Champion model 100179 for $2,800 kicks in automatically and can power everything in a typical home simultaneously.

To avoid illness or even death caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, NEVER operate your generator in an enclosed space. Keep it at least 20 feet from your home with the exhaust port pointed away from the house. Consumer Reports recommends a transfer switch, but if you use an extension cord, make sure it's a 12-gauge cord rated for outdoor use.
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