Inverter generators may be new to you. When we think of a portable generator many of us think of the loud, rattling behemoth that ruined the pastoral picnic or the quiet camping trip.
But just as electronics has penetrated much of our lives, your ancient generator has gone through an electronic upgrade and the addition of some crucial electrical components may prove to make inverter generators the go-to choice for many of us.
Potential Disadvantages of Inverter Generators
Conventional generators run an engine that turns a generator at full speed at all times creating usable AC power. This power is subject to fluctuations from the engine’s lag and naturally raw output. The newer inverter generators take that raw AC and rectifies it to DC power which is much a much cleaner signal. The DC power is then inverted back to regulated and buffered AC allowing it to be used as output.
This vast improvement in generator technology comes with some costs. First and foremost, the cost of the actual unit. Inverter generators are going to cost you more off the shelf. They offer spectacular advantages for the price, but you will pay for what you get.
Compact size, better run times, more efficient engines, quieter operation, cleaner power signal… all of this comes with a steeper price tag when compared to a conventional generator. A better product comes at a higher price, but depending on what kind of generator you are looking for, the higher cost is worth paying when you wind up with a superior tool.
Lower Power Output
Once you can get over the initial cost, the only other disadvantage of purchasing an inverter generator over a conventional generator is the output. The inverter generation is smaller and cleaner but they just aren’t as powerful as their larger counterparts.
With power outputs ranging in the mid to low thousands of watts, the standard inverter generator is capable of running your small appliances and equipment, but if you are looking to run larger appliances drawing in the mid to high thousand watts range, a standard inverter may not be powerful enough.
The saving grace for this class of generator is running in “parallel mode” with a duplicate generator, but that is predicated on you having a second generator to add to the system to boost your power.
Advantages of Inverter Generators
Now that we have the “cons” out of the way, you will see the list of “pros” is much longer. The lower power and higher cost are certainly disadvantages you need to consider, but this list of advantages far outweigh the negatives when it comes to comparing conventional generators against the inverter class of generator.
As we just touched upon, most portable inverter generators have something they call “parallel mode”. You can connect a second (identical) generator into the original and together they more than double the output of the single generator.
This comes in handy when you won’t need the larger output capacity most of the time, yet want to keep the possibility open for emergencies. This could also come in handy by being able to split your generators and run them separately for normal occasions and bringing them together when needed for larger events.
Cleaner Power Potential
The inverter’s electronics technology gives you cleaner power. This has become increasingly important in today’s living when everything we have needs to be plugged in and charged.
From our computers, to our music, to our communications, down to the simple act of reading a book, all of our delicate electronics need to be charged and a conventional generator doesn’t provide a clean enough output to reliably keep our electronics safe. The inverter technology gives you a cleaner sine wave signal and fewer pulses and dangerous spikes in power.
Fuel efficiency is a wonderful side product of a more efficient running engine. Since the inverter puts out regulated power, it can ramp the engine throttle up or down depending on your current draw. In older generators the engine spun the generator at a single speed and you used what power you needed.
With the inverter, you draw what power you need and the engine spins the generator to give you the proper output, no more, no less. As your current draw ebbs and flows, the engine throttle reacts accordingly and the variable speeds instead of the full speed at all times is what saves you fuel and money.
Saving that fuel also makes for a smaller fuel tank. The inclusion of a smaller fuel tank leads to the smaller and more compact size of the generator itself leading to a truly portable, portable generator. Your old conventional generator was portable because you could add a set of wheels to it and drag it out of the garage and heft it into the bed of a pickup with some assistance. Now all that power can be hoisted with a single arm and carried on the floorboard behind the seat. Smaller fuel tank, smaller engine, smaller generator.
All that reduction in size and efficiency in operation has given rise to a quieter inverter generator as well. The engine is smaller because it doesn’t have to work as hard, the truly compact nature of the unit is easily encased in an insulated enclosure that renders the generator nearly silent when compared to the conventional open frame conventional generator.
Most inverters operate in the 50dB to 60dB range which is about the volume of a quiet conversation. Among all these benefits of inverter generators, once we get past the operational statistics, the ability to speak and be heard when running the generator may be the nicest “pro” on this list.
Wrapping Up Pros vs Cons
Any list of “Pro v Con” is going to be open to interpretation depending on what your specific generator needs are. Perhaps you don’t care about fuel efficiency but require the quietest generator available. Or maybe volume is not a concern but you need a generator that fits into your already over-packed camp trailer.
In any case, the advantages of an inverter generator far outweigh the disadvantages and this list shows that once you pay for the advantages of the improved technology, you will benefit from the multiple advantages an inverter generator has to offer.