What is an Inverter Generator?

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com! Today we will be continuing our in-depth look at the various options and kinds of generators. I have always been a country guy at heart and that is exactly why I live nearly an hour outside of the Kansas City metro area. I like my peace and quiet. I like being able to see for miles ahead of me with no obstructions. The downside to all this serenity is that we are far away from most utility companies. This means that when we do experience a power loss it can be a day or two before power is restored.

We typically experience a power loss either during winter ice/snow storms or during the spring months through severe storm season. After all, Kansas is in Tornado Alley. When these power losses do occur we are prepared. We have a generator stored in the garage that is ready to come out and provide us that much needed power. Generators are not just used for power loss events though. They can be used during camping trips, RVing, outdoor gatherings, or even at a job site.

Whatever the reason is you need a generator you should know that there are a variety of types of generators on the market today. When most folks think of a generator they think of the standard portable diesel generator. They provide the power we need… but they are loud, bulky, and can be intrusive to nearby parties. There is an alternative solution here though known as inverter generators.

What is an Inverter Generator?

To understand inverter generators we first have to understand the standard portable generators. Your typical portable unit consists of a fuel powered engine and a separate alternator that produces the electrical current. These generators can use a variety of fuel types such as diesel, gasoline, propane, and even solar power. Depending on the wattage of your portable generator they can become quite bulky and large. Some twelve-thousand watt units can weigh over three-hundred pounds and have a fuel tank capacity of nearly ten gallons. This is a monster of a machine to move around even if it does come with wheels.

A standard portable generator’s engine is meant to run at thirty-six hundred rotations per minute so that it can generate one-hundred and twenty-volts at a frequency of sixty hertz. This the type of electricity required to run most basic machines and appliances. Each engine rotation produces a wave of electrical AC power in this format. For the engine to produce enough power to meet the standard one-hundred and twenty-volts it MUST run at thirty-six hundred rotations per minute.

A common disadvantage we can find with these types of units is that they cannot constantly maintain that thirty-six hundred RPM. This variance of rotations per minute can result in fluctuations in the voltage and hertz output from the generator. Variances like this can end up damaging more sensitive electronic devices such asĀ  laptops, computers, and or phones. You can see this occur with newer appliances and electronics that require a constant and steady stream of electricity.

Inverter Generators

Remember how earlier when we discussed portable generators we stated that they produce AC power with each rotation? It is critical for the standard generator to maintain that thirty-six hundred rotations per minute. When it fluctuates it can cause inconsistent power to your devices. If the fluctuations are bad enough they can end up damaging your electronic devices or appliances that are hooked into the generator’s power.

An inverter generator on the other hand produces consistent AC power per rotation then a standard generator. The difference is the electrical energy is created as DC instead of AC. Once the energy is produced the inverter generator then converts it from DC over to the standard one-hundred and twenty-volt AC. This AC energy is no longer produced in block waves like that of the standard generator but in sine waves. This allows you to power your devices with no risk of the electricity amount fluctuating. I like to think of it as a metering device. All of the power is created as direct current (DC) and then it metered over to alternating current (AC) in a steady and controlled manner. This is why an inverter generator can create ‘clean electricity’ and a standard generator creates ‘dirty electricity.’

This point alone is one of the biggest pros when it comes to an inverter generator. You know that your electronics and appliances will be provided accurate and consistent power. But, there are also additional benefits to using an inverter generator. Besides the consistent electricity another great benefit is the overall sound that comes from the generator. You see a standard generator can produce sound levels ranging from seventy up to one-hundred decibels. This can range from to your morning alarm clock all the way to a lawn mower. Anyone who has been around these generators knows first hand how loud they can be. Try having a conversation next to one of these things…

On the other hand an inverter generator’s average decibel ranges from fifty to sixty. This is MUCH quieter and can be compared to that of rain falling or to your dishwasher running in the kitchen. Both examples are so quiet that you barely notice. If you are running a generator outside your home due to a power loss your neighbors will thank you for the peace and quiet. Along with the lower noise you will also find that inverter generators can run longer then the standard generator models. This is because they are around twenty percent more efficient. This means more savings to you and longer run times.

The last pro of these inverter generators is their size and maneuverability. As I had stated earlier, a standard generator is almost like two different machines. You have your engine and your alternator. An inverter generator actually leverages some of the same equipment for the engine as well to produce electricity. The result of this design is less components required to run the generator which results in a smaller and lighter weight generator. This is another reason why you see inverter generators becoming very popular with the camping crowd. They are much easier to move and haul around.

Conclusion

Overall inverter generators are a great tool to have around your home or for camping trips. There are many benefits to these machines which we have listed above. There is only really one downside to these tools and that is the price. As you can imagine inverter generators are going to cost significantly more then your standard generator. This increased price is directly due to the various pros we listed in the previous section.

The question that you need to ask yourself is which type of generator do you want? Do you want the extra benefits and features that comes with an inverter generator? Or, do you want to save your money and make due with the louder and less efficient generator? I will say this before closing this article though, if you are planning to power newer large appliances in your home like furnace, air conditioner, water heater, dishwasher, microwave, etc then I would recommend purchasing an inverter generator. The risk of inconsistent power on these devices is real and I would hate to have you damage any of these appliances during a power loss event.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

 

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