It uses new technology to run more efficiently and more quietly, and it produces electronics-friendly power, but is an inverter generator worth the premium price?
At its core, a conventional generator is just an engine and an alternator pumping out alternating current (AC). To maintain 120 volts, the engine has to run at a constant speed, usually 3,600 rpm – the more fluctuation, the “dirtier” the power. Many conventional generators use an automatic voltage regulator to compensate for short voltage fluctuations, but it’s not a perfect system.
An inverter generator first converts its AC output to direct current (DC) and then inverts it back again to AC. With each step, the power becomes more stable and “cleaner.” Lights, heating devices, and many tools aren’t affected by dirty power, but sensitive electronics can be – if you use your laptop on site, dirty power can crash it or, at worst, cause permanent damage.
Compared to conventional generators, inverter generators of the same output are more fuel-efficient, and they’re smaller and lighter, which also makes them much quieter. In situations where a noisy conventional generator is going to create friction with neighbours, your clients may be less stressed if you crank up an inverter instead.
Because of their size and low noise levels, inverter generators are popular among campers, cottagers, and tailgaters – and so manufacturers concentrate on meeting the modest power needs of this market. If you need a lot of juice, you may not find an inverter big enough. Inverter generators also cost significantly more than conventional. For example, Honda’s EU7000is inverter generator has 5,500 watts rated output and a price tag of about $5,000. The conventional Honda EG6500 provides a similar output for about $2,200. That’s enough change in your pocket to buy a few good bottles of wine for the neighbours.