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Builders' Show: New features make generators easier to use

Builders’ Show: New features make generators easier to use

More and bigger storms like Hurricane Sandy have driven generator sales through the roof. You can check whether some of the latest models are working with your cell phone—and sidestep fueling issues when gas stations are closed. New models on display at the International Builders’ Show can be monitored from a smart phone or run on propane instead of gasoline.

GE’s new 8,000-watt and 10,000-watt standby generators can power practically everything in your house—including washers and ovens for the 10,000-watt model. Built by Briggs & Stratton, both can also provide peace of mind when you’re away.

Patented InfoHub software lets you check both generators remotely on your smart phone or laptop to be sure they’re working, see how long they ran during a power outage, and even tell when it’s time for maintenance. It can also prompt your servicing dealer if a repair is needed. And, you can add the hub to any generator made by Briggs & Stratton, including GE, Milbank and Rheem/Ruud models.

GE’s 8,000-watt and 10,000-watt sell for about $2,200 to $2,600 and include a transfer switch for direct connection to your home’s wiring, plus software that lets them add or reduce the load based on what you need most.

Then there’s Generac’s LP5500, $800, a portable generator that comes ready to run on propane, rather than gasoline. An integrated holder accepts both 20- and 30-pound propane tanks that end the hassle of storing gasoline or waiting on a gas line. Meanwhile, a unique Power Dial eases starting with simple icons that let you choke and prime the engine and set it to start with a twist of the wrist. Because it’s 5,500 watts, you can power most home items, while a low, dolly-style handle helps you maneuver this portable into storage when you aren’t using it.

You can get a closer look at Generac’s portable propane and GE’s stationary generators at stores now—before the next storm hits. These models haven’t yet been tested by Consumer Reports but there are plenty of other good choices among our tested generators.

For more news and new products from the Builders’ Show, read our full coverage.

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