Power Inverter vs Generator: What’s the Difference?

Last modified on May 11, 2022
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Electricity distribution is done with the help of the two most common power distribution technologies, namely power inverter and generator. The generator is a device that draws power from external sources and produces electricity as an output. On the other hand, the power inverter has a fixed DC input source, and it converts it into an output of AC electricity.

Appliances across every household work on AC as an input source. This is exactly what the power inverter does by inverting fixed direct current from a source into alternating current. But a generator works on creating electric energy from mechanical energy derived from different sources. Of course, both these systems have pros and cons, respectively.

What is a Generator?

As discussed earlier, the generator depends on any mechanical energy source, and then it transforms this energy into electrical power. Since energy can only be transformed from one form to another (Law Of Conservation of Energy), a generator does the same by applying to electromagnetic induction principle to work. In simplest terms, it harnesses the energy from a system of mover that is constantly moved by external sources such as steam, a turbine, or a diesel engine.

Whether you look at conventional generators or inverter generators, they work on the same principle of converting energy from diesel or petrol combustion and converting into electrical energy. So mainly there are two types of generators, Regular Generators, and Inverter Generators.

The only major difference between an inverter and a conventional generator is the process of producing electric current and its overall quality.

  • A conventional generator is powered by a mechanical alternator that produces ready-to-use power in alternating current.
  • When you look at inverter generators, they also use mechanical alternators, but the current they produce is direct current (DC). A microprocessor then processes this direct current that inverts it back to pure AC form.

Due to their ability to produce a better yield of AC, inverter generators are widely used as a reliable source of power.

Important Difference Between an Inverter and Regular Generator

The main motto behind using these inverters and generators is for RVing and camping, tailgating at a game, or running some essentials during power outages. Any Regular Portable Generator or an Inverter Generator can easily provide the power required during an outage.

However, if you look to run some heavy-duty appliances with small inverters or portable generators below power ratings of 200 watts, then it will not happen. For appliances like refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners, you need a generator or power inverter with a power rating of this high standard.

Electric motors require six times more power to start when compared with the power needed to run them. For example, if you take a regular home refrigerator, it takes around 900 watts of power to run and a whopping high 2700 watts to just start. This is why nowadays, many manufacturers sell inverter generators with information like starting watts, max watts, and a total capacity of surge watts. Commonly portable inverters used regularly are named after the running watts they offer.

  • An Inverter with a 4500-Watt capacity is rated at 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 major difference between portable generators and power inverters is Power Quality. While appliances with integrated circuits like computers and TVs, clean power matters the most. For running such appliances, you can use portables to distort the AC signal to certain degrees-namely 25% of the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) when put under heavy loads. A distortion of this scale can greatly damage electronics.

Regular portable generators work best for most job requirements. Whether you are looking to run power tools, welding, pumps, electric compressors, or any heavy-duty pieces of equipment, you can easily get Job Site Generators you can use for running all day long. In addition, most generators come with features like multiple outlets and idle control that you can put to use with extension cords and generate power for many tradesmen.

What is a Power Inverter?

A power inverter is an electronic device used to change DC or direct current to AC or alternating current. Not only does the Power inverter supply regular power supply to the standard household appliances, but the extra electronic circuits installed in them allow to charge of the battery and manage the extra load of electricity. It can also be used as a power adaptor in your home to power low-power electrical appliances.

Power Inverter, which you use, can also act as a stand-alone power supply source. Inverters should be able to produce similar quality of electricity to that of your main electricity grid. Power Inverters come in handy to power any household appliance, from water purifiers and refrigerators to microwaves and other low-powered appliances. In simpler words inverter is used to convert DC supply to AC supply to run all of your regular household appliances.

Power Inverter vs. Generator

Generators vs. Inverter – Basics

 For those of you who do not know, a generator is a device used in emergencies as a temporary power source for your house to run all kinds of low to heavy-powered appliances. The generator uses mechanical energy and then converts the energy into electrical energy with the help of an external source.

So if you have a power outage or power shutdown in your area and want to perform your entire regular task, then the generator can help you supply electricity for several hours. But on the other hand, if you talk about the power inverter, it needs DC from the input sources like battery, fuel cells, or solar panels to give out AC as output. n.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Power Source

Now, if you talk about how power generators and inverters get power or work? Then you will notice that in generators, the main component is the engine. It is also the main source of external energy and produces energy in it you would need fuels such as gasoline, diesel, propane, etc.

If you wish to buy small-sized generators, gasoline is the best fuel. Also, gasoline is the most common fuel used in generators and has many portability advantages, easily accessible over other fuel options.

The inverter is used to convert stored current, or it can be directly connected to sources such as solar panels or wind turbines to convert it into AC.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Capacity

Generators are more useful when power is unstable and spikes to an extreme level. Because generators are more capable of withstanding high power supply or load, thus that is why they are used more in longer power cuts to keep running the entire household appliance meanwhile.

On the other hand, generators need more fuel and effort to start if you want them to use for a longer period. At the same time, power inverters are low-capacity devices that will be perfect for your use if you want to use them for a very shorter period and power low-power appliances.

The inverter prevents your appliances from getting damaged due to an electricity overload during power spikes by automatically switching off the power supply.

Generator vs. Power Inverter – Maintenance

One of the factors while operating a generator to watch out for is its maintenance. Because Generators get their power from fuels such as gasoline, diesel, etc., you need to maintain generators if you want to use them for a longer time without any problem.

You need to change oil change distilled water to maintain the performance of the fuel. One of the disadvantages of gasoline fuel is that you cannot store it in large quantities for more than a few weeks, and they also have a short shelf life of 12 to 24 months.

If you have used generators, you must know they create more noise. But if you buy an inverter, they 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 mostly clear that a generator is best for places where homes are electrified as a direct current system. In contrast, a power inverter is best for every home where electricity cuts or cycles regularly. The inverter is better in case of long power cuts or the unavailability of an electrical source. The generator can be used for short periods with an external source like gasoline or diesel.

So choose your appliance and device wisely to function easily. If you need large amounts of power for long hours, then generators are a perfect choice. On the other hand, an inverter charger is a cleaner and greener choice for every household.

In addition, inverter generators are silent and fume-free, making them best compatible with motor homes, cars, ambulances, and EMS vehicles that require power sources without making any noise. You can also use these power inverters for heavy-duty home appliances during any type of outage in your area.