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“Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.”

That notion, attributed to Thomas Jefferson, is especially true now that a winter storm season is upon us and already hit a large part the country.

As winter rages on, each bad storm brings with it a new round of people flooding home-improvement centers in search of generators, flashlights, and just about anything else that can help weather prolonged cold spells and periodic power outages.

Unfortunately, the eve of a storm is a terrible time to shop for cold-climate essentials.

"The period leading up to, and immediately after, a bad storm tends to be the worst time to shop for essentials like generators and snow blowers," says Courtney Pennicooke, CR's market analyst who oversees outdoor power equipment and generators.

Instead, seize any lull in bad weather to make informed purchases on the gear you'll need most when clouds turn gray.

Here, we've compiled the five items CR's experts consider to be essential for weathering a bad winter storm—and, for each product category, top-rated picks from our tests. For the models, we kept price in mind, too. You don't have to spend a fortune to get your home winter storm-ready.

Generator

If you live in an area prone to power outages, consider a stationary generator. These are generally more expensive, but they can run on your home's natural gas supply, or on propane for up to 13 days. Natural gas versions run indefinitely. Opt for a licensed electrician, who should connect it to your home’s electrical panel using a transfer switch.

Alternately, a portable generator can save you several thousand dollars. You'll still want it connected by a licensed electrician, but in a pinch, we walk through how to get your generator safely up and running during an outage until you have it installed professionally.

Snow Blower

If the allure of easily removing snow from your driveway hasn’t motivated you to buy a snow blower, try thinking of it as a safety tool.

In a serious winter storm, you’ll be glad you’ve got a snow blower, which can easily clear a path to your car, not to mention make it possible to pull out of your driveway once the plows have passed.

Space Heater

If the power goes out and you’re relying on a generator, a space heater will let you hunker down in a single room and stay warm while using considerably less energy than an electric heat pump or furnace, both of which heat your whole house.

If you heat your home with gas or propane or another heating source, skip the space heater in favor of your furnace. And if you rely on propane, heating oil, or wood pellets and a bad storm makes the roads impassable but doesn’t knock out the power, use the heater to stay warm and toasty while you wait for your next delivery.

Chain Saw

Heavy snow and ice can down branches long after a storm has passed. That’s one of the struggles faced by utility workers as they attempt to restore power after a storm. So take a hint from them and buy and use a chain saw before a winter storm hits.

Not only will you get to choose from top-performing models, but by being proactive and trimming precarious limbs before a storm, you’ll also minimize damage to your home during snowfall and avoid the tedious yard cleanup after.

Smoke & CO Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

All three are safety essentials, but the unusual risks posed by weathering a winter storm power outage make them even more important. Burning candles for light, operating a generator, or using a space heater can all increase the chances you’ll need one of these life-saving devices.

Are you prepared? How do you hunker down during a storm?

Content from ConsumerReports.org


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