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Power Inverter vs Generator: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: August 8, 2022
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Electricity is generally distributed using the two most common power distribution technologies, namely power inverter and generator. A generator is a device that draws energy from external sources and produces electricity. In contrast, the power inverter has a fixed DC input source that it converts to an AC output.

The majority of household appliances use alternating current (AC) as an input source. This is accomplished by converting fixed direct current from a source to alternating current. A generator, on the other hand, produces electric energy by combining mechanical energy from various sources. Of course, each of these methods has benefits and drawbacks.

What is a Generator?

As previously stated, the generator is powered by any mechanical energy source and then converts that energy into electrical power. Because energy can only be transferred from one form to another (Law of Conservation of Energy), a generator works by using the electromagnetic induction principle. In its most basic form, it captures energy from a moving system that is constantly moved by external sources such as steam, a turbine, or a diesel engine.

Conventional generators and inverter generators both work on the same idea of transferring energy from diesel or gasoline burning into electrical energy. There are primarily two types of generators: regular generators and inverter generators.

The process of creating electric current and its overall quality are the only significant differences between an inverter and a traditional generator.

  • A traditional generator is powered by a mechanical alternator, which creates alternating current power.
  • Inverter generators employ mechanical alternators as well, but the current they produce is direct current (DC). The direct current is then processed by a microprocessor, which inverts it back to pure alternating current.

Inverter generators are frequently employed as a reliable source of power due to their capacity to produce a higher yield of alternating current.

Major Difference Between An Inverter And Regular Generator

The major reason for using these inverters and generators is for RVing and camping, tailgating at sporting events, or powering certain needs during power outages. During an outage, any standard portable generator or inverter generator may easily provide the necessary electricity. However, running some heavy-duty appliances with small inverters or portable generators with power outputs less than 200 watts will not be possible.

A generator or power inverter with this high a power rating is required for equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners. When compared to the power required to run them, electric motors take six times the power to start.

A standard household refrigerator, for example, requires roughly 900 watts of power to run and a stunning high 2700 watts simply to start. As a result, several manufacturers now sell inverter generators with statistics such as starting watts, maximum watts, and total surge watt capacity. Portable inverters are commonly named after the running watts they provide.

  • A 4500-Watt capacity inverter has running watts of 4000 and starting watts of 4500.
  • When you look for a portable inverter of 4500-Watt, it will have running watts of 4500 and starting watts of 5500.

Another significant distinction between portable generators and power inverters is power quality. Clean electricity is most important in appliances containing integrated circuits, such as computers and televisions. When running such appliances, portables can distort the AC signal to a certain degree, roughly 25% of the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) when subjected to large loads. A distortion of this magnitude can seriously harm equipment.

Most task needs are best met by standard portable generators. You may simply get Job Site Generators that can run power tools, welding, pumps, electric compressors, or any other heavy-duty pieces of equipment all day long. Furthermore, most generators include features such as numerous outlets and idle control, which you may employ with extension cords to power additional tradespeople.

What is a Power Inverter?

A power inverter is an electronic device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The power inverter not only provides normal power supply to standard household appliances, but the additional electronic circuits placed in them allow for battery charging and management of the extra demand of electricity. It can also be used in your home as a power adaptor to power low-watt electrical items.

You can utilize the power inverter as a stand-alone power supply source. Inverters should be able to provide electricity of comparable quality to that of your main power grid. Inverters are useful for powering any household equipment, from water purifiers and refrigerators to microwaves and other low-power appliances. Inverters are used to convert DC power to AC power, which is then utilized to power all of your standard household equipment.

Power Inverter vs. Generator

Generators vs. Inverter – Basics

A generator, for those who are unfamiliar, is a device used in emergencies as a temporary power source for your home to run a variety of low to high-powered products. The generator generates mechanical energy, which is then converted into electrical energy by an external source.

So, if you have a power outage or a power shutdown in your neighborhood and need to do all of your daily tasks, the generator can give electricity for several hours. However, when it comes to power inverters, they require DC from input sources such as batteries, fuel cells, or solar panels in order to produce AC as output.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Power Source

Now, how do power generators and inverters obtain power or perform their functions? The engine is the most important component in generators. It is also the primary source of external energy and generates energy, necessitating the use of fuels such as gasoline, diesel, propane, and so on. Gasoline is the best fuel to use when purchasing compact generators.

Furthermore, gasoline is the most commonly used fuel in generators and has numerous portable benefits over other fuel sources. The inverter converts stored current into alternating current (AC), or it can be connected directly to sources such as solar panels or wind turbines.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Capacity

When power is unreliable and rises to an extreme level, generators come in handy. Because generators are better capable of withstanding high power supply or load, they are employed more in prolonged power outages to keep the complete household appliance functioning in the meantime.

Generators, on the other hand, require more fuel and work to start if they are to be used for an extended period of time. At the same time, power inverters are low-capacity devices that are ideal for usage if you only need them for a short period of time and to power low-power equipment. By immediately cutting off the power supply, the inverter protects your appliances from damage caused by an electricity overload during power outages.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Maintenance

One thing to keep an eye out for when operating a generator is its maintenance. Because generators are powered by fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and so on, they must be maintained if they are to be used for an extended period of time without failure. To maintain the performance of the fuel, you must change the oil and distilled water.

One disadvantage of gasoline fuel is that it cannot be stored in significant amounts for more than a few weeks and has a shelf life of 12 to 24 months. You must be aware that generators produce additional noise. However, if you get an inverter, you will require less maintenance.

Generator vs. Power Inverter: Comparison Chart

GeneratorPower Inverter
Uses external energy from any external source and then converts them into electric power.Takes power from any direct current sources and then solar panels, batteries, or fuel cells and then converts them into alternating current.
Gasoline or diesel is used as a primary power source to drive the engine.It takes stored power sources to convert into AC powered by batteries.
You need to give some time and effort to start after power failure.Automatically start without any delay in case of power failure or any power outage.
Requires maintenance from time to time after regular maintenance.No major maintenance is required for power inverters.
Available in variable high capacity powers.Commonly power inverters are devices with low power capacity.
Best for places where frequent power cuts happen.Compatible for every household with either short or long power cuts.
Generator vs. Power Inverter: Comparison Chart

Power Inverter vs. Generator – Which One Is Right for You?

It is very obvious that a generator is best suited for areas where residences are wired using a direct current method. A power inverter, on the other hand, is ideal for any residence where the power cuts or cycles frequently.

An inverter is preferable in the event of a long power outage or the absence of an electrical source. The generator can be powered by an external source such as gasoline or diesel for short periods of time. Choose your appliance and device wisely in order to perform well. Generators are an excellent option if you need a large amount of electricity for an extended period of time.

An inverter charger, on the other hand, is a more environmentally friendly option for any household. Inverter generators are also quiet and emit no fumes, making them ideal for motor homes, automobiles, ambulances, and EMS vehicles that require power without making any noise. These power converters can also be used to power heavy-duty home appliances in the event of a power outage in your area.

I am a mechanical engineer with years of experience working on Internal combustion engine and fixing electrical and mechanical systems, generators, transfer switches, and equipment related to storm water and sewage pumping stations.