Inverter generators are considered relatively new technology. They have been created as a direct replacement to the stereotypical heavy, bulky and loud generator that people have become accustomed to over the years.
All generators run on combustible fuel to power a motor attached to an alternator. Traditional generators use a mechanical alternator to produce AC power. Meanwhile a inverter generator uses innovative technology to transform or “digitally invert” DC current to AC current, by doing so establishing a more stable power supply without the power fluctuations common in the previously conventional older models. In its original form an inverter generator will produce 3 phase AC power, converting it to DC power, but then invert the DC power back to AC power once again (inverting it back to a cleaner true sine wave AC power). They are usually more expensive due to the high level electronics used.
A power invertor can be entirely electronic or may include rotary apparatus or similar mechanical processes. The original process of converting from AC to DC is achieved by circuitry called a rectifier.
A conventional open frame portable generator operates with constant speed e.g. 3000RPM, whilst an inverter generator can adjust its speed to suit the power requirement. Depending on the load an inverter generator adjusts its speed accordingly. The benefit of this most notably is that they are therefore typically more fuel efficient and therefore a more environmentally friendly piece of electrical equipment. Some claim that an inverter generator can be 40% more efficient than their fixed speed counterpart.
One of the things that inverter generator fans most like about them is how low maintenance they are. Most inverter generators are very lightweight therefore very easy to either carry by hand or transport. The typical inverter generator is an ideal size for the average person’s fishing or camping trip. They are relatively quiet, especially in comparison to a traditional generator, whereby commonly an inverter generator will have a noise level output of less than 60dB. This is down to clever design work, whereby the motor has been enclosed within an insulated shell.
A feature that makes inverter generators even more appealing to some is the ability to parallel them. Most high-quality inverter generators allow you to “daisy chain” more than one generator together to double the power output and beyond. This capability makes an inverter generator even more ideal if considering undertaking something that needs a little more juice.
They are particularly good for powering devices that are sensitive to electrical fluctuations. Some models have very convenient features to appreciate and consider. These features include built in USB ports for electronic devices. These generators have put consideration in to the design to limit the levels of harmonic distortion to ensure that they are able to run safely.
Inverter generators are available from a wide range of manufacturers, some of better quality than others. Such manufacturers include Honda, Yamaha, Briggs & Stratton and Champion.
Depending on customers budgets, there are options of inverter generators that operate at close to 50dB(A) whilst having a fuel tank to offer around 8 hours of uninterrupted power from the fuel tank.
The vast number of review sites for inverter generators all seem to evaluate similar criteria, namely:
- Ease of transportation, including weight.
- Affordability i.e. price to purchase
- How noisy the inverter generator (typically considering a definitive decibel level)
- Running cost (by considering the cost per hour of operation)
- Power Rating (most inverter generators list both a starting wattage and a running wattage that they can power), typically the running wattage will be about 25% less than the starting wattage.
- Fuel Tank Size (i.e. how long an inverter generator can operate for on one tank full.)
Whilst most inverter generators are rated up to 3000W, there are bigger options also available. These models have been designed to allow for ease of transportation by having wheel systems installed, whilst remaining a weight that you could still feasibly carry if needed.
A portable open frame traditional generator is a lot noisier and heavier than an inverter generator. An open frame generator is a lot cheaper, however often not as convenient or reliable. A conventional generator comes in about any size you want e.g. 500 Watt up to 50000 Watts. Whilst the core interest of a inverter generator manufacturer is offering a portable and quiet generator, their focus is on the small end of the scale (<4000 Watt typically).
The maintenance of an inverter generator is generally very easy and to care for and the upkeep is relatively quick. Each manufacturer has different recommendations however the general trend is for the oil to be checked and changed regularly. The good news is that each commonly hold less than 1 litre of oil and are very easy to test and drain. Each invertor generator is likely to have an air filter, which should be checked before usage, and owners should clean with warm water and mild detergent every 50 hours or so. When damaged they should be changed with a new one. Every 100 hours users should inspect and adjust spark plugs and ensure that spark arrestors, designed to prevent the emission of flammable debris from the inverter generator, are cleaned of any debris.
Inverter technology is continually improving, the more and more manufacturers develop them. The main reason for this advancement is the public desire for a quiet and more sophisticated power. Many electronics are very sensitive to the quality of the electricity powering them and the microprocessors in modern technology prefer the electricity created by method of inverting the DC to a clean sine AC wave. This is very much a similar quality of electricity that you would typically get as mains power. In contrast because of the lack of processing of power from a conventional generator, you would find that these have a much higher level of harmonic distortion in comparison.