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Shopping for generator ahead of hurricane season? Look for key safety feature, experts say

With hurricane season approaching, it's important to know how to safely use your generator. Consumer reports explains the risks.

As we prepare for the start of the 2021 hurricane season, and with Florida offering tax-free hurricane supply shopping May 28 – June 6, generators may be at the top of your shopping list.

Generators are emergency equipment that can be a lifesaver during a power outage, but also a killer when improperly used.

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,” said 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 an automatic shutoff. All of them passed Consumer Reports’ new CO safety technology test, shutting down before carbon monoxide reached specified limits in an enclosed chamber. Consumer Reports 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. 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,’” explained Galeotafiore

Consumer Reports recommends the following generators:

  • The Ryobi generator (Ryobi RY907022FI/$1,150) not only has automatic shutoff but has low CO output as well. Testers gave it excellent scores for power delivery.
  • The DeWalt portable generator (DeWalt PMC168000/$1,050) received excellent marks for power delivery and also maintains its voltage well.
  • The Generac generator (Generac 7675/$1,000) has good power quality and features a helpful fuel gauge.

Consumer Reports say all three generators listed above have five power outlets and will run for 8 to 17 hours on one tank of gas -- depending on the power level.

It bears repeating: NEVER operate a portable generator indoors, even with a door open. Consumer Reports says you should:

  • Always place the generator at least 20 feet from your house, and make sure in advance that you have a generator power cord that’s long enough to reach.
  • Always direct the exhaust away from any occupied space so that carbon monoxide is not blown toward living spaces.

Florida’s Disaster Preparedness 2021 Sales Tax Holiday

Again, Florida’s Disaster Preparedness 2021 Sales Tax Holiday runs May 28 – June 6, but not all generators are included because of price. The generator must cost $1,000 or less to be tax free. So, if you buy a generator more than $1,000, you will pay full tax, according to the Florida Department of Revenue. But there are plenty of options out there that do qualify.

During the Sales Tax Holiday, you can also save on other important items like reusable ice packs, coolers, flashlights, tarps and batteries. For the full list, including frequently asked questions, go here: