When it comes to purchasing a generator, people often get confused over the difference between generator and inverter generators and which one is the right choice. They often don’t understand the difference and believe them to be identical. Generators use the mechanical alternator to produce alternating electrical power but do not store it, whereas inverters convert DC to AC.
Both generator and inverter generator has different uses and unique advantages and disadvantages. Before you decide to purchase one for yourself, you must read this article to understand their working principles, basic differences, usage, and pros and cons.
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Let us understand the primary differences between a generator and an inverter:
Conventional generators generate electricity and do not store it. It either needs propane, gasoline, or diesel to get started and supply power. There will be a lag time between starting the conventional generator and receiving a backup power supply once the utility supply cuts off.
Inverter generator stores power in the form of direct current (DC) in batteries. It converts alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) and then reconverts it into clean AC to run the appliances. There is no time lag between starting and receiving power supply. Also, it doesn’t have a manual start. Unlike a conventional generator, an inverter generator doesn’t produce electricity. It only stores and reconverts the energy. Since it converts DC power to AC power, it eliminates any power fluctuations that you commonly observe in conventional generators.
If the power level of the conventional generator and inverter is compared, the conventional generator wins. Most generators will run at 3600 RPM, which is considered an adequate value to start and back up appliances requiring 120 volts. It can push the limits up to 10,000 watts, thus an excellent choice for job sites. But remember that the more power it produces, the heavier it will be.
It also produces a reasonable amount of power but can’t be compared to a conventional generator. Although it can push the limits to 4000 watts, that will cost a higher price and compromise other benefits. Its demands vary with the load, and this also affects its functioning. If your area experiences frequent power outages, the inverter will fail to meet the long run time and optimal power requirements. For such demands, a conventional generator fits the best.
In the market, you will find both standard and inverter generators in various configurations equipped with numerous power capabilities and fuel sources.
The conventional generator can be considered a versatile product with high power output and decent runtime. It can serve as a reliable electricity source for places such as large office buildings or educational institutes. It can also be a great option as an emergency backup for your home.
On the other hand, the inverter generator produces subtle output that makes them an optimal choice for sensitive devices such as computers, smartphones, or tablets. This steady flow of current poses less threat to circuitry damage than that of fluctuating delivery of conventional generators.
Noise is one of the most disappointing things about conventional generators. The strong power backup comes at the expense of a higher noise level. Most of them will run at 64 decibels (dB), and some will reach up to 75 dB.
Inverter generators use microprocessors that dampen the noise to a great extent. Thus, inverters are quieter and can be compared to normal human conversation. Most of them produce around 54-58 dB of noise.
Portability is another important thing to differentiate both. Although conventional generators are portable, their bulkiness makes this factor useless. For domestic uses such as lighting and household appliances, they will be medium in size but heavy and bulky for larger buildings.
Inverter generators are usually smaller in size, lightweight, and quiet than conventional generators. They are convenient to use, thus fulfilling the portability criteria and becoming an ideal category for an RV. Since it is light enough to be carried by a handle, the presence or absence of built-in wheels doesnâ€™t have much importance. However, as it works on a set of connected batteries, it can also be bulky and difficult to move around.
The lower output of the inverter generator is made up by incorporating a parallel connection. With the help of parallel connections, two separate inverters can be connected to deliver higher output.
For conventional generators, there is no parallel connection. As they already have bigger output, it is understandable.
The conventional generator works on diesel or gasoline to produce energy and requires ongoing maintenance in the form of an oil change, distilled water, and lubricant change.
Compared to conventional generators, inverters donâ€™t require much maintenance apart from keeping the water level enough and cleaning the battery terminals.
The actual difference between the two is comprehendible from their overall efficiency. Conventional generators are unable to maintain steady RPM, known as harmonic distortion. Or we can say that they lack clean energy. They also produce unnecessary fuel consumption, noise, and exhaust output.
Inverters produce more power with less fuel. Their innovative engines are fuel-efficient, quieter, and environmentally friendly. They can adjust their speeds as per power requirements.
First of all, look at the price. It is a critical factor. Regarding conventional generators, it offers power output at affordable rates. It also produces more noise and uses gasoline to operate. If any technical problem occurs, spare parts can be easily found and cost less.
An inverter is a bit expensive for powerful output, noiseless and uninterrupted flow, and compact design. However, the inverter works efficiently in the long run, encompassing all the initial costs. Likewise, conventional generator costs less initially but take a big toll on fuel consumption and maintenance over time.
As talked above, conventional generators are infamous for their noise.
A generator that runs on fossil fuels poses a huge unavoidable environmental cost. That’s why every state has its regulations related to accepting greenhouse gas emissions of generators. Regulations are strict for portable generators used inside national parks.
So, while you purchase, your generator should be at least EPA compliant. In-state of California, your generator should also be CARB compliant.
If we look at an inverter generator, it already produces fewer greenhouse emissions than a conventional generator. Also, it’s easy to find an inverter that will meet environmental requirements compared to conventional ones.
Once you have read the basic difference, you need to look up to your considerations and make the final decision. It’s totally your choice to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each device for your situation.
The conventional generator will work for you if you are more concerned about power output, budget, and high runtime.
If you prefer convenience, clean power, noiseless operation, and portability and can afford its cost, an inverter generator is what you need.
Fuel is also an important factor in deciding convenience. If your priority is to go for fair weather camping, fuel type is not important. Contrary to that, if you camp year-round, fuel type should be an important consideration. Most likely, propane would not be an ideal choice for camp year-round. Similarly, fuel type is important if you live in the northern area because propane is useless at temperatures below 20 ÂºF.
As far as our recommendation is concerned, we advise you to go for an inverter generator.
The foremost convincing feature of inverters is their fuel efficiency. Their ability to automatically adjust their speed according to load makes them fuel-efficient. They produce just enough power to run the electrical devices and thus save fuel. Although they have lower output, the parallel feature can make them give bigger output.
Also, they are technologically more advanced than conventional generators. Minimal fuel consumption, less residue, and fewer battery inspections make maintenance easy. You won’t have to change your fuel lines, gaskets, and carburetor as religiously as for conventional generators.
When you search, you will find several good models of inverter generators in the market. However, we will introduce you to the two best inverter generators in the market:
- Firman W01781 inverter generator
- WEN 56380i Portable Inverter Generator
- Generator type: inverter
- Peak/rated watts: Starting watts 2100/ Running watts 1700
- Engine: Max Pro Series 80cc FIRMAN Engine
- Fuel tank: 0.9 gallons
- Run time: 9 hours (25% load)
- Outlets: 2 x120V Standard (5-20 Duplex), 1 x 12V, 1x USB port (5V, 2.1 amps)
- Start type: recoil
- Sound rating: 59 dB
This Firman W01781 is a lightweight, portable model. Its compact size makes it durable and workable for a long time. Its portability allows you to place it from one place to another, thus serving as a timesaver in hours of a power outage. It has starting power of 2100 watts and a running power of 1700 watts. 0.9-gallon fuel capacity allows the generator to run for 12 hours, and the Firman First pull system contributes to a reliable recoil system.
Its Firman Max Pro Series 80cc engine keeps the generator cool even if it’s running at full speed.
Thanks to Whisper Series muffler technology, this inverter model has noise below 54 decibels. So, it’s an optimal choice for those who prefer noiseless generators.
- Easy to start
- Eco friendly
- Good value for money
- Spark arrester approved by USDA Forest Service
- No remote start
- Generator type: inverter
- Peak/rated watts: Starting watts 3800 / Running Watts 3400
- Engine: 212cc 4-stroke OHV
- Fuel tank: 2.2 gallons
- Run time: 8.5 hours (50% load)
- Outlets: 2 x 120V AC , 1 x 30 amp RV outlet, 1 x 12V DC, 1 x USB port
- Start type: Manual recoil
- Sound rating: 57 dB
WEN 56380i is a small inverter generator with a fuel capacity of 2.2 gallons. Its fuel-efficient system allows it a run time of 8.5 hours at 50% load. This runtime makes it an optimal option for outdoor activities such as camping and tailgating. AT 100% load, it still has a runtime of 5 hours of continuous power.
Its automatic fuel shutoff system cuts off the supply of fuel that forces the engine to use left-out fuel in the carburetor before the final shutdown. This leaves no stagnant fuel in the tank to cause any blockage or buildup. This reduces the maintenances cost and extends its life.
- RV ready
- Clean and safe energy
- Good price to quality ratio
- High wattage
- Efficient fuel efficiency
- CARB compliant
- No remote start
The Best Pick: WEN 56380i Portable Inverter Generator
Our recommendation is WEN 56380i Portable Inverter Generator. With 3800 starting watts, 3400 running watts, and an energy-efficient 212cc-4 stroke OHV engine, you will have a backup power supply of 8.5 hours at 50% load. The only thing that we didn’t like about it was manual recoil start, but no remote control start. However, considering the noiseless, clean energy and good price to quality ratio, you can compromise on a manual recoil start.
Generators run on petrol or diesel and use internal combustion to produce energy that is further converted into electrical current. However, the key difference between conventional and inverter generators is:
The conventional generator utilizes a mechanical generator and produces alternating current.
The inverter generator uses an alternator to produce an alternating current that is further converted into direct current, and finally, the microprocessor converts it back to clean AC power. This 3 step process of inverter produces more clean, efficient, and consistent AC power than that of a conventional generator.
Generators come in various sizes and shapes to fulfill different power generation needs. Selecting the right one depends upon how much output, noise level, and efficiency you need.
Generators with bigger power output will be suitable for job sites. A portable generator will be good for camping. Some will be noiseless, while others will be loud. So, it depends on what features you want in a generator to fulfill your requirements.
Inverter generators are quiet, small, lightweight, and energy-efficient. If you want all these features in your generator, go for the inverter. Its energy-efficient fuel consumption and adjustment for sensitive electrical devices make it an ideal choice for sensitive devices. So, whenever you don’t need a lot of power but need clean electricity, the inverter is best. It is also optimal for occasional outdoor activities like camping.
Portable generators usually cost a few hundred to thousand dollars. It’s because they need a constant supply of fuel and maintenance.
Standby generators cost a few thousand dollars. They must be installed by a professional, and the cost is often added to the generator’s price.
Every fuel type has its own pros and cons. Gasoline is easy to use but as it’s flammable, keeping a larger amount of gasoline is dangerous. Also, it doesn’t last longer if set unused and open.
Propane has a long shelf life, but it requires a big tank to store. Thatâ€™s why propane tanks are bigger.
Diesel is the least flammable and has a longer shelf line. It starts becoming unstable approximately after 2 years.
A generator properly used and cared for can last for decades. So, having a good generator will not only act as a power source, but it will also save you money. The regular inspection, replacement of worn-out parts, etc., can add more years to its life.
Generators usually have standard or long-run version fuel tanks. Standard tanks last for 2-4 hours, and long-run tanks can run overnight.
If you seek a generator for power supply backup, a long-run tank is best for you.
Conventional and inverter generators are frequently used in homes, job sites, and educational institutes. Both have their own pros and cons. If you decide to purchase a generator and have enough budget, we recommend you buy an inverter generator. It is an excellent option as a backup source for campers. It will also be sufficient for domestic use with some appliances.
Just ponder why and where you need the generator, what will be its power, noise level, and efficiency and then make a purchase.