The inverter vs. generator question is typical among those looking for a convenient way to power a building or electronic device. They perform related functions but are entirely different pieces of technology that have unique benefits and disadvantages.
Generators are necessary for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes you can’t trust or don’t have access to the main power grid and need an alternative energy supply.
Whether you’re going camping, preparing for a major weather event, or simply stocking up in case of an unexpected catastrophe, conventional and inverter generators can come in handy. But before you make a purchase, it’s essential to understand the difference and which makes the most sense for your situation.
- Fundamental Functions: Generators create power through mechanical energy, usually in the form of AC electricity. Inverters, on the other hand, convert one form of electrical power (DC) into another (AC).
- Types of Current: AC (Alternating Current) is the standard for most household devices, while DC (Direct Current) is commonly found in cars and needs to be converted to AC for household use.
- Quality of Power: Inverters produce a cleaner, more stable form of AC power, making them ideal for sensitive electronic devices. Generators can produce “dirtier” power and are generally noisier.
- Historical Context: The “Current Wars” between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla led to the widespread adoption of AC over DC, mainly due to AC’s efficiency in long-distance power transmission.
- Applications: Inverters are commonly used in cars to convert DC to AC for various devices. They are also integral to renewable energy systems like solar panels. Generators are often used in power outages and at construction sites.
- Power Conversion vs. Power Generation: While generators are designed to create power, inverters are designed to convert it. Your choice between the two depends on whether you need to create or convert electrical power.
- Environmental Considerations: Inverters are increasingly used in green power generation systems, converting DC power generated by solar and wind energy into AC.
- Scale and Capacity: Generators can be designed for a wide range of power outputs, making them versatile for various needs. Inverters are generally of smaller capacity but are ideal for households using solar panels.
- Noise Levels: If noise is a concern, inverter generators offer a quieter alternative to traditional generators.
- Choice Depends on Need: Ultimately, whether an inverter or a generator is better for you depends on your specific power needs—whether you need to create power or convert it for use.
By understanding these key points, you can make an informed decision on whether a generator or an inverter is more suitable for your specific needs.
Here is a closer look at the benefits of an inverter vs generator, so you can make the right choice when making a purchase.
What is a Generator?
A generator can produce electricity by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. This energy can then be stored in a battery or used to power anything that requires electricity, including lights, heaters, appliances, medical devices, etc.
This mechanical energy is created using any one of many different mechanisms, including steam turbines, gas turbines, water turbines, wind turbines, internal combustion engines, and even occasionally, hand cranks.
Generators supply energy to the power plants that feed electrical grids. But you can also purchase a portable generator to power your home, office, or storefront.
A portable generator can be an essential power source when there is an outage or an electrical problem in the building. They can also come in handy if you are going off the grid (either on vacation or as a lifestyle choice) and need a reliable power source to bring.
What is an Inverter Generator?
An inverter generator is a type of generator that works a little differently from conventional generators. An inverter is an electronic device that can convert DC power into AC power. An inverter generator is a device that generates AC, converts it into DC, and then converts that back into AC of the type that comes out of your wall outlets at home.
This “cleans up” the energy, making it safer and more efficient for your appliances. This is especially true of electronic devices, which may be sensitive to the voltage fluctuations commonly seen in conventional portable generators. To better understand how an inverter generator works, let’s take a closer look at the difference between DC and AC power.
Tip: Check out our How Does An Inverter Generator Work for more information about inverter generators.
What is the Difference Between AC and DC?
DC power means that the energy flows all in one direction. AC power means that the flow of energy periodically changes. AC power is the standard electrical energy that comes from wall outlets. It features a greater capacity for traveling long distances, which is needed when moving from a powerplant into a home. DC is typically found in energy supplies kept at close range, such as a battery or solar panel.
Generator vs. Inverter: What’s the Main Difference?
So you may still be wondering: what is the primary difference between an inverter vs generator?
A generator converts mechanical power into AC power. They feature an engine that must be powered by some form of fuel, typically either propane or gasoline.
An inverter converts electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), so it needs an external power source. Click on the following link to learn more about the difference between a generator and an inverter.
What is an Inverter Generator? An inverter generator combines these things: it produces AC power in the same way as a conventional generator but converts it into DC using a rectifier and then back to AC using an inverter. That process smooths out the spikes and fluctuations that occur during power generation, mainly due to the engine speed not being perfectly constant.
Both devices are used to convert energy into a form that is usable by standard household devices. But they do so in slightly different ways, so one is more suitable than the other for different situations.
What’s the Difference Between Inverters and Conventional Portable Generators?
A portable generator is simply a generator that is small and compact enough to be transported easily. Typically, it will feature wheels or a handle that makes it easy to move around.
Generators run the gamut from small compact devices to giant industrial machines.
While inverter generators tend to be more portable than conventional generators, the defining feature is their ability to provide clean power, not their size. So, not all portable generators are inverter generators.
Benefits of Inverter Generators
While standard generators are more common, inverter generators have a variety of advantages. They may not make the most sense in every situation, but they are useful in many scenarios. Here is a closer look at the benefits of an inverter generator.
Inverter Generators Have Higher Quality Power Output
An inverter generator is better for supplying clean portable ac power to devices that may be negatively impacted by conventional generators’ “dirty” power.
The AC power that most of us get in our homes from the electrical grid has already been regulated and refined to produce a stable sine wave, the gold standard for use in appliances and other devices. But the power produced by a conventional generator isn’t quite as high quality. So an inverter generator is often needed to clean up that energy, so it’s safe for more sensitive items. Some devices won’t run at all if the power is not clean enough.
Many smaller electronic devices such as cellphones, laptops, or small televisions may be vulnerable to these swings in power, which could result in malfunctions. Inverter generators will control these fluctuations, preventing any potential damage to the device.
Electrical motors such as refrigerator compressors also benefit from clean power because they run more efficiently than they otherwise would. Running on unstable, dirty current can even shorten their working lifespans.
So inverter generators provide higher quality electricity that may make your appliances run more efficiently and is less likely to harm them than the electricity from conventional generators.
Inverter Generators Are More Fuel Efficient
Inverter generators tend to require less fuel. They feature an electronic throttle that automatically adjusts to meet the current energy demand rather than always running at high speed. This means they can run on less fuel and produce lower emissions in the bargain.
And the fact that cleaner electrical power can make appliances run more efficiently means the generator needs less fuel.
Conventional generators run at 3600 RPM to produce 60 Hertz electricity. As a result, they tend to burn a lot more fuel, which is expensive and harmful to the planet. The fact that they always run at full speed also means more engine wear, shortening their life expectancy.
Quick Tip: electronic fuel injection makes the Honda EU7000iS generator run even more efficiently!
Inverter Generators Are Not as Noisy
Conventional generators can often be very noisy, irritating, and disruptive if used in an area near people. While there are accessories available that can dampen the noise, they add to the cost of the generator and are often less effective than getting one that is designed from the start to run quietly.
Most inverter generators are designed to be much quieter and less disruptive. The same throttle used to control energy output can also control noise. Plus, inverter generators are usually fitted with a soundproof cabinet, further reducing noise.
This can be a massive bonus if you use it on vacation or in an area shared with others. So you can bring your inverter generator on a camping trip and not have to worry so much about disturbing the family next to you.
Inverter Generators Tend to be More Portable
Another impressive benefit of an inverter generator is its portability. Inverter generators tend to be the smallest and most lightweight portable generators. This is partly because they are more fuel-efficient and require smaller gas tanks.
While a conventional portable generator may also be an option, they are often bulkier.
A portable inverter generator can still produce plenty of power when needed. But the energy can be curbed when full output is not necessary. And greater efficiency means less space is required to store fuel. This power and portability make them great for people going on a road trip or camping excursion.
Inverter Generators Have Better Parallel Compatibility
Inverter generators often offer compatibility with other inverter generators to increase output by pairing the generators together. So if you’re worried that one won’t supply the power you need, you can buy a second inverter generator that is compatible with the first and pair them together for more juice.
This is a more flexible and efficient way to access more power than using one big conventional generator. Conventional generators can also be paired, but it’s so tricky that you practically have to be an electrical engineer to do it safely.
Just keep in mind that they must be compatible models with the same voltage and frequency. If they are not, it could cause either one or both to malfunction.
Which Should I Choose: Inverter or Conventional?
Whether you start shopping for inverters or conventional generators largely depends on a few key factors. Before making your decision, you should ask yourself the following questions.
What Are You Looking to Power?
What are you looking to power with the generator? There are scenarios where one option works better than the other.
Conventional generators are best for large projects that require a lot of wattage where power quality is not much of an issue. Conventional generators may be the only way to supply enough power if you want to power a large house, office space, or another type of property. If you have sensitive electronics, you may have to get a power conditioner to supply electrical power to them.
But suppose you are looking for something more efficient and quieter to power smaller items like electronics or mid-sized appliances. In that case, an inverter generator may be a better option. Inverter generators offer many benefits, but they aren’t available in the higher wattages that the larger conventional generators provide.
What Type of Activity are You Planning?
It’s also important to take stock of the activity you’re planning.
For instance, are you going camping or preparing for a power outage? Also, think about how much space and storage you will have. Conventional generators offer more power but may also take up more space and be harder to move.
Inverter generators are typically better for recreation, whereas conventional generators are best for emergencies and survival.
If you’re going on an RV trip and need to power things like your cell phone and a coffee maker, an inverter generator will do. On the other hand, if you’re going on some serious off-the-grid living and want to ensure you have an adequate power supply, you may want to go with a conventional generator. So, it all depends on how much power you need and how much space and quiet you’re willing to sacrifice for higher power output.
What Budget Are You Working With?
This can easily be the critical factor because of the significantly higher cost of inverter generators. They can be considerably more expensive, especially for the higher-wattage generators. An inverter generator can cost anywhere from four hundred to over two thousand dollars, depending on how much wattage you’re looking for.
So, before you decide on a particular generator, you should figure out how much you’re willing and able to spend.
Inverter vs. Generator – Which Is Better?
Ultimately, neither device is necessarily better or worse than the other; they make different tradeoffs. Inverter generators are more energy-efficient and produce cleaner power. But they are also more expensive and aren’t available in sizes large enough to power a large home or office (however, they are available up to 7,000 watts continuous).
Conventional generators are cheaper and available at higher wattages. For instance, the Duromax XP13000EH puts out 13000 watts. In contrast, the DuroMax XP9000iH puts out 9000, but the XP9000iH costs almost twice as much. But a conventional generator can be more expensive over the long term because they require more fuel to power (under most conditions) and will wear out more quickly because they always run at high speed Plus, they typically are bulkier and make more noise. Which device you choose depends on the circumstances they’ll be used in and your priorities.
Now that you know what an inverter is, you may be interested to learn its role in solar systems. Check out our article “How Does A Solar Generator Work?”
- 【CO Alarm and Parallel Function】 The NEXPOW portable inverter generator adopts a sensor CO alarm, If used in a confined environment, it reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning for consumers. The generator also features AC parallel operation, allowing you to easily connect two generator units with the same voltage and frequency in parallel to increase power output.
- 【Eco Mode and EPA Certification】 The NEXPOW portable inverter generator has obtained EPA certification, ensuring safe and reliable use. It also includes an Eco mode feature that extends the runtime. By using the eco switch, the fuel tank can run for more than 10 hours at 25% load.
- 【Upgraded Configuration】NEXPOW inverter generator is used high-quality copper wire as the core material, which has excellent conductivity and high thermal conductivity,This 2250W portable inverter generator is equipped with 79.7cc 4-stroke OHV single-cylinder engine, a forced air cooling system, and overhead valves. It is also equipped with a muffler, fuel filter, air filter, and more. We have added more configurations than traditional generators, allowing you to use it with greater safety.
- 【Multipurpose Portable Inverter Generator】It produces 2250W of surge power and 1800W of rated power with an overload protection function. It is easy to run a small house lighting system or other appliances such as a refrigerator. You can rest assured to use it for outdoor living, RV travel, vacation, food trucks, and any situation that requires power.
- 【Super Quiet Mode】NEXPOW generator is equipped with an advanced muffler and adopts a fully enclosed design mode, which greatly reduces the noise when the product is running. Compared with other traditional generators, NEXPOW Generator is an ultra-quiet mode, at a distance of 23 feet, the decibel level of the product running in ECO mode is 58 decibels, which is almost equal to the sound of normal talking or a dishwasher running, there is virtually no disturbance to the user or anyone nearby.
- Ultralight body weighs in at a mere 39 pounds for easy transport and storage.Engine Speed : 4800 RPM. Lubrication System : Splash Lubrication.Rated Amperage: AC: 15.8A, DC: 8.3A (Cigarette Plug), 2.1A/1A (USB)
- Extremely quiet operation comparable to the sound of a normal conversation according to the US Department of Health and Human Services
- Produces 2350 surge watts and 1900 rated watts of clean power for safe charging of sensitive electronics (phones, tablets, televisions, computers, etc.)
- Fuel shutoff maximizes the generator’s lifespan by using up the remaining fuel in the carburetor before shutting down
- Includes two three-prong 120V receptacles, one 12V DC receptacle, two 5V USB ports, and a two-year warranty
- 4500 Peak Watts and 3700 Rated Watts at Less Than 3% THD – Telescoping Handle – Gas or Propane Powered – Remote Start With Included Key Fob, Electric and Recoil Start. Grounding System-Floating Neutral
- Features a 5–20R 120V Duplex Household Outlet, an RV-Ready Tt-30R 30 Amp Outlet and Two USB Outlets – Great Choice for Travel Trailers or Home Use with Automatic Low Oil and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Shutdown – Strong Enough to Run All Your Essentials
- Led Data Center: Rotating Digital Display Shows Fuel Level, Power Output, Remaining Run Time, Voltage Output, and Lifetime Hours
- Extremely Quiet, Extremely Fuel Efficient: as Low as 52 dBA Noise Output and Up to 18 Hour Run Time on a 3. 4 Gallon Gas Tank – Features “Economy Mode” for Maximum Fuel Efficiency
- All Westinghouse Portable Generators are Functionally Tested in the Factory and May Contain Minimum Residual Oil and/or Fuel Odor; EPA and CARB Compliant; Backed By 3-Year Limited Service, Labor, and Parts Coverage and Nationwide Customer Service Network
- 149cc engine generates up to 3600 surge watts and 2900 rated watts
- Produces clean power to prevent damage to sensitive electronics such as smart phones, tablets and laptops
- Ultralight body weighs in at a mere 46 pounds for easy transport and torage
- Fuel shutoff maximizes the generator’s lifespan by using up the remaining fuel in the carburetor before shutting down
- Includes two three-prong 120V receptacles, one TT-30R RV receptacle, one 12V DC receptacle, two 5V USB ports, and a three-year warranty
- 1800 Rated Watts and 2200 Peak Watts at Less Than 3% THD – Weighs Only 47.4 Lbs. – Gas Powered – Two 120V 20 Amp Outlets; Two USB Outlets.Alternator Type : Permanent magnet. Maximum Ambient Temperature: 104°F (40°C).
- Great Choice for Home Use as an Emergency Backup in a Power Outage – Strong Enough to Run All Your Home Essentials
- Extremely Quiet, Extremely Fuel Efficient: as Low as 52 dBA Noise Output and 12 Hour Run Time on a 1. 2 Gallon Gas Tank – Features “Economy Mode” for Maximum Fuel Efficiency
- Parallel Capable – Combine Your iGen2200 with the Westinghouse WH2200iXLT; iGen1200; iGen2200; and iGen2500 to Increase Available Wattage and Amperage (Requires Westinghouse Parallel Cord)
- All Westinghouse Portable Generators are Functionally Tested in the Factory and May Contain Minimum Residual Oil and/or Fuel Odor; EPA and CARB Compliant; Backed By 3-Year Limited Service; Labor; and Parts Coverage and Nationwide Customer Service Network
- 【Strong Power】This portable generator has a starting power of 4000W that can your daily needs of various electrical appliances and equipment in camping, outdoor activities, commercial use, or home backup power.
- 【Low Noise】POXURIO inverter generator adopts advanced sound reduction technology and produces a noise value of only 62 decibels during operation(much lower than other traditional generators), ensuring the comfort of electricity consumption.
- 【Gas Powered】Our gas powered generator is welcomed by the majority of people. Compared with other fuel types, gasoline is more convenient to store, more affordable, and more convenient to obtain, making it one of the most common fuels in people’s daily lives.
- 【Parallel Operation】This generator outdoor supports parallel operation, and you can achieve power supply of over 4000W by 2 or 3 machines. Also it has excellent current stability that protects electrical equipment from voltage fluctuations.
- 【Lightweight Design】The generator is made of lightweight materials, weighing only 45 pounds so it is easy to carry and store. You can easily carry and set up this generator to meet the backup power needs for outdoor camping and emergency situations.
- Portable Power Solution: The GP3300i inverter generator is your go-to portable power source for outdoor adventures, from camping trips to tailgating events, ensuring stable power without disturbing your surroundings
- High Quality and Consistent Power: With TruePower Technology, this generator delivers clean power that’s safe for sensitive electronics, tools, and appliances, so you can stay connected even in the great outdoors
- Compact and Lightweight: Designed for easy transportation this Generac generator, complete with a built-in handle, is lightweight and compact built, making it a breeze to move and set up wherever you need it
- Fuel-Efficient and Quiet: Activate Economy Mode to automatically adjust engine speeds, reducing fuel consumption and noise emissions, allowing for quiet operation during extended use during your open-air activities
- Smart and Reliable: Equipped with LED indicators for low oil, overloaded, and ready-to-use. Featuring two USB ports for device charging, and parallel-ready capability for doubling your power output, this generator is a versatile and dependable choice
- 2,300 peak watts/ 1,800 running watts
- Capable of up to 4.8 hours of operation at Half Load on 1.18 gallons of fuel
- Compact suitcase design, weighing less than 47 lbs For easy handling
- Stable sine WAVE Technology provides pure, safe electrical power for powering and charging laptops, cell phones, and other sensitive electronic devices
- Ideal for Tailgating, Camping, and Small 120V Appliances
- Compact and Portable: Portable generator weighing just 39 pounds and featuring a compact design (19” L x 13” W x 20” H), this generator is incredibly easy to transport and store. Its built-in handle and small footprint make it a hassle-free companion for your outdoor escapades.
- Whisper-Quiet Operation: Our quiet generator equipped with ECO-mode technology, our generator operates at a noise level as low as 56 dBA. Enjoy the serenity of nature without the disruptive noise of traditional generators, making it ideal for camping trips and quiet neighborhood environments.
- Versatile Outputs: The gas generator provides a variety of output options to meet your needs. It includes two 120V 15.8amp household outlets for standard appliances, one 12V DC outlet for automotive accessories, and two 5V USB ports for charging your smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets.
- Expandable Power: This generator is parallel-capable, allowing you to connect another 2500-watt PowerSmart inverter generator for double the power output (equivalent to a 30amp, 4000W generator). Perfect for RV enthusiasts and those with higher power requirements.
- Environmentally Friendly: This generator is EPA certified and CARB compliant, meeting strict emissions standards. You can use it with confidence, knowing you’re using an eco-friendly power solution, even in California.
- MORE POWER. SAME LEGENDARY QUALITY. – The EU2200i delivers 10% more power than the previous EU2000i – enabling you to power more of what you need, in the same lightweight, compact package. The EU2200i gives you the power to get more done.