All eyes are on the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Isaac batters the region. For homeowners who live elsewhere, it's a cautionary tale about how to prepare for serious weather events that cause power failures. Consumer Reports' latest tests of 15 portable and stationary home generators confirm that some models can leave homeowners with less power than they need. And if you think a trusted name and a higher price guarantee a better generator, think again.
We focused on models that produce the 5,000 to 7,000 watts that should power most home needs. Three midsized portable generators—the $850 All Power APG3560, $1,250 Gentron GG3203, and $700 Briggs & Stratton 30468—slipped when it came to delivering the higher surge wattage needed when air conditioners, refrigerators, and pumps cycle on.
Two others could shorten the lives of refrigerators and other appliances by making them run hotter than they should under a heavy load. The portable $1,200 Generac XG7000E 5798 proved shy of the 120 volts home circuits typically need. And the stationary Briggs & Stratton EmPower 040301 was also low on voltage and fell short of the even power delivery we got from the best generators we tested.
A better bet: Generac's portable GP5500 5939, a CR Best Buy at $670. It's one of four portable generators and two stationary models that delivered the smooth, consistent power you'll need when the lights go out. Before buying a home generator, check out our buying guide to help you decide how much you want to power and how many watts you'll need.
—Mary H.J. Farrell