By Don Lindich
Week 38, 2020
Q. I was very interested in the Briggs & Stratton Q6500 inverter generator that you mentioned in your column recently. Is there something equivalent approved for use in California?
-D.K., San Jose, CA
A. The CARB-compliant Champion 6250-Watt DH Series Open Frame Inverter with Quiet Technology sells for around $1,000. It has 6,250 starting watts and 5,000 running watts, about the same as the Q6500. I have not tried it, but the Champion brand has a good reputation and I believe it to be a safe buy.
The generator columns have been extraordinarily popular with readers and have generated (no pun intended) many questions, comments and suggestions. Here is some additional information that I could not fit in the first two columns.
When using a portable generator you must ensure that carbon monoxide does not enter your home, which could easily happen in the summer if the windows are open. Position the generator so the exhaust does not face the house, and check that the wind to make sure the fumes are blown in a safe direction. You should already have carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, but if you do not they are absolutely essential when using a generator for backup power.
If you buy a generator it may be tempting to use the cheap and easy method of running extension cords from the generator outdoors to your refrigerator and other devices indoors. Not only is this inconvenient, there are safety issues running the cords through the yard and into the home, especially in inclement weather. Cracking open doors and windows near the generator (to run the cords through) may also let in carbon monoxide. If you plan on using a portable generator for backup power, please do it the safe and proper way with a professionally installed transfer switch. Check your local regulations regarding noise and installation codes, and don’t forget any generator will need periodic maintenance as well.
Home emergency power does not have to be expensive. For example, the well-reviewed WEN 56475 4,750-watt generator has electric start, 3,500 running watts, is CARB-compliant and sells on Amazon for only $414 with free delivery for Prime Members. It is not an inverter so it does not provide the clean power recommended for electronics, but it will keep the lights, refrigerator, forced air furnace and other essential appliances running. Combine it with the $299 Reliance Controls 31406CRK manual transfer switch with inlet box, and you have all the required hardware for around $700. Pay an electrician to connect the transfer switch to your electrical panel and you are ready to go.
When reading reviews of generators you may find examples of those who successfully used non-inverter models with computers, TVs and other sensitive electronics. I considered this but it seemed that for every four or five anecdotes of someone powering such electronics without incident, I found another written by someone who fried their television. I decided it was not worth the risk and went with an inverter, knowing I could use anything and everything with it and not give it a second thought. You may want to use a small, inexpensive TV with a conventional generator in case you have a mishap. All standby (backup) generators make electronics-safe, low distortion power, so if going this route you are covered.
Q. Where can I buy a Technics OTTAVA-f SC-C70 Music System? They are sold out everywhere.
-J.P., Roseville, MN
A. Technics recently announced a new version, the OTTAVA f SC-C70MKII. It will be released in December. Learn more at https://www.technics.com/us/about/press/releases/20200901-sc-c70mk2/index.html.