How safe is your generator?

HOUSTON

Paul Maniscalco services all types of outdoor power equipment. He says when it comes to generators, his customers don't realize they need regular maintenance.

"They let it sit for a year or two and then expect a miracle," Maniscalco said.

Consumer Reports' Dave Trezza agrees. He tests portable generators and says there's a lot to know so you're all set in an emergency.

First, you want to get a larger portable generator.

Consumer Reports recommends buying one that's at least 5,000 to 7,500 watts, with a 240-volt outlet.

"You can hook it to a standard transfer switch, which an electrician can install for you," Trezza said.

Installing a transfer switch also prevents you from a making a big mistake -- connecting your generator directly to your circuit box.

"If you hook it up improperly, you could cause an electrical or fire hazard," Trezza said.

When you run your generator, it poses another threat, carbon monoxide poisoning. To prevent that, you need to keep the generator at least 15 feet from your house and point the exhaust away from your home.

To make sure your generator will start when you need it most, you have to use a gas stabilizer. Also, you have to replace the gasoline with fresh fuel every six months.

Swapping out gallons of fuel can be big job, but it's an important part of maintaining a generator. It won't run if the gas is old. Also keep in mind that generators can burn through approximately 8 through 22 gallons of fuel a day.

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