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Consumer Reports: Buying a safer generator

Posted at 4:00 AM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 08:46:21-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Consumer Product Safety Commission says 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," says Consumer Reports Testing Expert, John Galeotafiore.

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, some new generators feature a built-in sensor that triggers an automatic shutoff if CO gas builds up to dangerous levels in an enclosed space, like a garage or carport. And some portable models are now designed to emit less CO in the first place.

Consumer Reports recently tested five portable generators with this automatic shutoff. All of them passed CR’s new CO safety technology test, shutting down before carbon monoxide reached specified limits in this enclosed chamber. CR will now only recommend portable generators with an automatic shutoff for dangerous levels of CO.

“Each manufacturer has a different name for its shutoff system," says Galeotafiore. "So, if you’re shopping for a new generator, look for terms such as ‘CO Shield,’ ‘CO Sense,’ ‘CO Guard,’ ‘CO Protect,’ or ‘CO Detect.’”

CR recommends the Ryobi generator. Not only does it have automatic shutoff but also has low CO output as well. Testers gave it Excellent scores for power delivery. The DeWalt portable received Excellent marks for power delivery, and also maintains its voltage well. And the Generac has Good power quality, and features a helpful fuel gauge.

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

And it bears repeating here: NEVER operate a portable generator indoors, even with a door open.