Consumer Report: Chainsaws
Consumer Reports - Safe Chainsaws
Weathering Disaster: Generators and Saws
UP AND RUNNING For comfort, count on running a fridge (600 watts), a portable heater (1,300 watts) or window a/c (1,000 watts), and lights (60-200 watts) simultaneously.
Tornadoes in the East, power outages in the West, and a raft of tropical storms have probably put preparedness on your radar screen. Along with an emergency plan, and a three-day supply of food and water, you might want to consider backup power and a chain saw.
We tested 15 generators and 26 saws to help you prepare for blackouts and fallen branches. Many are better and safer than before. But refueling some generators could be a challenge during an outage, and some saws do less than others to protect you from mishaps and misuse.
Generators: Better, beefier choices. Wheeled, portable generators are the biggest sellers. But you might need plenty of fuel on hand, since filling stations often shut down during blackouts and most home-sized models use 12 to 18 gallons of gasoline per day. You'll also need to preserve that fuel with stabilizer and store it in a well-vented shed or other area, away from the house and any ignition source.
One portable, the Northstar 8000TFG, can use a liquid-propane tank with several days' supply or a natural-gas line. But at $2,000, it's pricey for its wattage.
Stationary, outside-mounted generators are a growing alternative, since they run on propane or natural gas and supply more power. Kohler's $3,700 12RESL delivered more than 10,000 watts and costs less than many in its class.
Using a wattage calculator, which provides an average wattage rating for most common electricity-using household appliances and devices, will help you tally your needs.
Chain saws: Most are safer. Some of the 36,000 chain-saw injuries and 20 deaths each year involve kickback, where the tip snaps up and back toward the user. All tested gasoline saws and many tested electrics now have a brake that quickly stops the chain if kickback occurs.
All tested models have a chain that digs in less aggressively, and most have a narrow-nosed chain bar that reduces the area where kickback occurs. While all are certified by their manufacturers to pass the voluntary industry kickback standard, two otherwise-fine performers--the gas John Deere CS46 and Stihl MS250 C-BE--were judged to kick back more noticeably than others we tested, though not enough for us to lose control. The Deere did so only after we removed its bar-tip guard, which prevents cutting at the tip. But because the tip guard shortens the bar's usable length, owners might be tempted to remove it. Indeed, Deere's instructions note that some saw cuts require removing the guard and simply warn inexperienced users not to attempt such cuts.
HOW TO CHOOSE
For generators, add up your needs. Portable models we tested claimed between 2,800 and 6,600 watts--enough to power plug-in appliances and lights, but not nearly enough for heavy power drains like central air. Add up the watts for the items you need. Then check our Ratings for generators with at least as many measured watts. Figure on $500 to $1,000 for installing stationary generators and, for all types, at least $500 for a power-transfer switch to power hardwired circuits and avoid having to run extension cords.
Also remember that manufacturers often overstate run time for gasoline models by basing it on 50 percent load. Our run times use a more conservative, 80 percent load.
For saws, pick your features. Gas chain saws cut more quickly than electrics and eliminate the power cord. Their faster chain speeds can also ease use by requiring less pressure. But they are heavier and noisier, require pull-starting and tune-ups, and emit exhaust fumes.
Besides a chain brake and other safety features, look for an antivibration system for gas-powered saws. Some models ease starting with a compression-relief valve or, with the Stihl MS180 C-BE, a spring-assist system. The Stihl also lets you adjust the tension of its chain without tools.
How to make damage control a bit less risky
Run them outdoors and away from the house, never in a basement or garage, to help prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Install a transfer switch to connect the unit to your home's wiring system. Never connect a generator directly to your home.
Reduce fire risk by turning off gasoline-powered generators before refueling them.
Store gasoline in an ANSI-approved container and in a cool, well-ventilated area.
For chain saws
Wear eye and ear protection, gloves, snug-fitting clothing, chaps, boots, and a hard hat with a protective face screen.
Keep the cutting chain properly sharpened, tensioned, and oiled.
Grip the saw with both hands and keep both feet firmly on the ground.
Saw only tree limbs you can reach from the ground. Never saw on a ladder or while holding the saw above your shoulders.
Information used with permission of Consumer Reports. You can visit them on the web at www.ConsumerReports.com