Inverter Generator vs. Regular Generator – Which to Choose?

A portable generator can be a great alternative or backup for grid power. When finding a good generator, you will often need to choose between an inverter generator and a regular generator. And since these two types of generators work similarly, it can be hard to determine the right one for you. So which one should you choose between an inverter and a conventional generator? Here is a comparison of the two types.

How Does a Conventional Generator Work?

Regular generators are the most commonly used and have been around for a long time. They usually run on gasoline, propane, or diesel. They feature a motor attached to an alternator that works to generate electricity.

The motor runs at a speed of 3,600 rpm and can produce 120 Volt AC or 60 Hertz. The cycles per second are affected by the motor’s fluctuation. Therefore, during the power generation, you should ensure that the rpm remains constant so that no power variation occurs.

Some old generator models are usually silenced and feature an acoustic cabinet that helps to reduce the level of noise. However, these will still produce more noise as compared to the inverter generators.

How Does An Inverter Generator Work?

Inverter generators haven’t been around for long. These units consist of an engine, alternator, inverter, and rectifier. The engine’s motor is usually attached to an alternator that produces the high-frequency three-phase AC corrected and picked by the built-in inverter with a DC input. The inverter then picks up the DC power and is converted to the steady AC power that is used in different appliances. If you are looking to buy an inverter generator, check out our inverter generator guide for recommendations.

Inverter Generator vs Regular Generator: Differences

Below are the key differences between an inverter generator and  a regular generator.

Current

The main difference is the clean energy that inverter generators produce. Conventional generators cannot produce a clean sine wave because they change speeds during operations. Unlike them, inverters turn DC to AC and thus producing smoother sine waves. As the output is consistent with minimal harmonic distortion, sensitive electronics like laptops and mobile phones are safer to run on them.

This doesn’t mean that regular generators are not suitable for electrical appliances. You can run many electrical devices like power tools and refrigerators but for sensitive electronics you will need an inverter.

Wattage

Conventional generators have a power rating that ranges from 500 watts to 50,000 watts. This makes them a good choice for applications where a lot of power is needed. Inverter generators are usually less powerful with a power rating of 1000 W to 4000 W. Therefore, they are unsuitable for jobs that require a large amount of power including welding.

Fuel efficiency

The fuel tank’s size will determine the generator’s runtime. The regular generators are usually large and therefore, have a bigger fuel tank as compared to the inverter generators. This means their runtime is higher. On the other hand, the inverter generators are usually lightweight and compact, making their tanks smaller. This in turn means a shorter runtime.

The technology used in inverter generators allows them to change the speed and produce power only when necessary.

Portability

As compared to conventional generators, inverter generators are usually lightweight and small. They are very portable and easy to transport. On the other hand, regular generators are heavy and bulky. They often require wheels and a metal frame to be transported around. While it’s technically possible to move them, they are harder to transport as compared to the inverter generators.

Noise

Another benefit of inverter generators is that they have a quieter engine. On top of the quieter engine, they have a sound muffler that helps to minimize noise. Inverter generators use microprocessors to regulate power production. This enables the engine to throttle back if necessary, saving on fuel and reducing noise substantially. This means that the noise level produced by an inverter generator when on a low road is similar to a conversation between two people.

Like we have seen above, the regular generators run on a constant of 3600 rpm, meaning that they can be noisy especially on a high load. The noise produced by the old-fashioned models can be as high as a chain saw. However, it’s possible to dampen the noise and make them quieter by using a silencer.

To determine the noise level of a generator, check on the product description. The amount of noise produced by a generator is often shown in decibels. This could be at half load or a quarter load. Generally, inverter generators produce a noise level of 54 to 58 decibels. On the other hand, the majority of traditional generators produce a noise level of 64 decibels.

Price

The initial cost of buying an inverter generator can be twice as high as the cost of buying a traditional generator. The high price is attributed to the technologically advanced three-phase system, and rectifiers controlled by microprocessors.

Another reason why inverter generators are cheaper is that they have many benefits such as better fuel efficiency, are quieter, and produce an electrical current with low harmonic distortion. Therefore, buying the regular generators is cheaper than buying the inverter units.

Emissions

Inverter generators produce very clean energy and very low levels of emissions. Therefore, inverter generators have low greenhouse emissions as compared to regular generators.

Uses of Conventional Generators

Regular generators are the best choice for people searching for backup generators in areas with frequent power outages or in areas with risk of natural calamities that cut the electricity supply. These models are sturdily-made and come with wheels that improve their portability.

Regular generators are commonly used for:

  • Backup power outages
  • Construction sites
  • Camping sites
  • Routine power outages
  • Working at night

Uses of Inverter Generators

Since an inverter generator is quieter than a normal generator, it’s the right choice for camping. It’s also suitable for users who don’t need a lot of power but needs clean and convenient energy.

Conclusion

Understanding the difference between an inverter generator and a regular generator can help you make the right choice. As compared to conventional generators, inverter generators are relatively new products in the market. They come with more benefits as compared to conventional generators. Regular generators on the other hand have two major benefits: High power output and a lower price.

The many benefits of the inverter generators come at a price. Therefore, inverter generators are a good choice for your off-grip power needs. But if you need a lot of power or would like to save on the cost of your generator, you may want to choose the conventional generators.

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