Sales of portable generators spike every time the power gets knocked out. Consumer Reports tests portable generators and says you want one with about 5,000 to 7,000 watts of power. That will give you enough power for your essentials, such as a refrigerator, a well or sump pump, and a furnace, as well as a computer, a microwave, and some lights.
Consumer Reports tested 31 portable generators, checking to see how much power is actually delivered and the quality of that power. You want a generator that can deliver the power it claims, maintain voltage, and handle power surges from appliances that cycle on and off, including a refrigerator or an air conditioner. It’s also better for a computer and other electronic devices.
For $4,000, the top-rated Honda EU7000is delivers the smoothest and the quietest power. But Consumer Reports found plenty of less expensive generators that—though not as quiet—handled surges in power even better. Among them: the $900 Troy-Bilt XP 7000 30477 and, also for $900, the Generac RS7000E, which testers say is very easy to start.
And remember, whichever generator you choose, you’ll need about 8 to 20 gallons of gasoline to keep it running 24 hours a day. And because gasoline can go bad, be sure to add fuel stabilizer to it.