What Is an Inverter Generator? How Does It Work?

What Is an Inverter Generator? How Does It Work?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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If you are interested in a new generator, various options are available, including standby, portable, standard, inverter, and more. So, what is an inverter generator? This article has comprehensive information to put things into perspective as we primarily concentrate on this technology and its functions.

Let’s start by giving a quick summary of how generators produce electricity.

What Is a Generator?

The fact that conventional generators have been around the longest contributes to their widespread use today. However, they still function the same way. Generators are machines that transform chemical or mechanical energy into electrical power. The engine and the alternator are the two primary components of a generator.

They are powered by diesel, gasoline, or (our preferred fuel) propane/LPG, which drives a motor connected to an alternator that generates electricity. The rotor and the stator constitute the two major parts of the alternator.

For the generator to generate the necessary electrical current (generally 120 volts AC at 60 Hz in the US and 240 volts AC at 60 Hz in the majority of other nations), the generator’s motor operates continuously at a consistent speed (typically 3600 rpm).

A generator powering a home

Image Credits: media-www.canadiantire.ca

The engine’s rpm must stay the same to maintain the frequency (Hertz) of electrical output. This electricity is then sent to the control panel, which is used to power tools and gadgets.

What Is an Inverter Generator?

Inverters generators are a new power source that has recently gained much popularity since it produces clean, consistent AC power without the requirement of soundproof enclosures. This device can produce 120 or 240 volts.

Alternators and generators are nearly identical, but there is one key distinction. In an alternator, DC power excites the rotor, creating a powerful magnetic field. The stators cut off these magnetic fields after the rotors have started to rotate, resulting in the generation of power collected through the stator.

The Operation of an Inverter Generator

An inverter generator has slightly more intricate mechanics than a conventional portable generator, with other components delivering the ultimate power output. Multiple inverter generators tend to utilize fossil fuels as well. The inverter, alternator, and battery are all built inside the inverter generator and the gasoline tank.

After leaving the engine, the alternator converts the high-frequency AC power into DC power. The inverter subsequently changes the DC power back into AC. Much like conventional portable generators, the output of inverter generators is 120 volts at 60 Hz. However, the consistency of an inverter generator’s current is significantly more because of the different processes taken in power generation.

Inverter power generators are claimed to provide “clean power” since fewer harmonic disturbances exist. In addition, the inverter generator produces power comparable to the electricity you receive from your primary electricity provider. Clean power is feasible because of two reasons.

The first contributing cause is that the generator produces more electrical energy since the inverter generator’s initial AC power is usually at a higher frequency. The second is due to the transformation of DC back into AC.

using portable inverter generators for outdoor

Image Credits: linquip.com

An inverter generator may produce an extremely steady sine wave because its mechanical design gives it better control over the AC power frequency. As a result, inverter generators are highly energy-efficient because they offer more control over power output. It can sustain a 3600 RPM while adjusting its voltage for the linked load. In addition, inverter generators are substantially quieter than conventional portable generators due in large part to steady current.

Operations

The electricity delivered as direct current is transformed into alternating current via an inverter. It does this by changing the current’s direction through the sending switch. The waveform can then be smoothed and given a stable frequency by using filters.

Due to their size and, to some extent, efficiency, power inverters are surprisingly common nowadays. Depending on how smooth output is required, various inverter types employ various filtering techniques. Rectifiers are the tools used to convert AC electricity into DC.

Difference Between Inverter Generators and Conventional Generators

The fuel, such as diesel, gasoline, or propane, that powers the engine and produces electricity through the alternator is burned in traditional generators to produce power. In contrast, the fuel in inverter generators powers the engine’s motor, which uses the alternator to create a high-frequency alternating current. Then, by using an inverter, they are rectified to transform from stable AC to DC.

The structure of traditional generators is straightforward, consisting of an alternator connected to a motor. On the other hand, inverter generators have a complicated structure that includes an engine, an alternator, a rectifier, and an inverter.

Conventional generators can generate only AC. On the other hand, the inverter generators create an AC that is transformed into DC and then returned to stable AC.

Due to their larger fuel tanks, traditional generators are larger and need more space to be installed than inverter generators, which are smaller and take up less space.

Since they can produce greater power, traditional generators do not provide a parallel connection. On the other hand, the inverter generators provide a parallel connection that allows two inverter generators to be linked to each other to create greater electricity.

What Separates AC and DC?

In alternating current (AC), electrons move back and forth but only in one direction in direct current (DC). Therefore, more voltage may be tolerated by AC, which results in less energy loss during long-distance transmission. Because of this, AC is frequently employed to supply electricity to the majority of houses and structures.

Ac And Dc Current

Image Credits: allaboutcircuits.com

The majority of household equipment is, therefore, AC-powered. In contrast, the AC power supplied to the building or residence must be converted to DC power to power the item. A rectifier is used in personal computers to do this conversion, as they normally operate on DC. The rectifier is referred to as a normal power supply in this instance.

Advantages of Inverter Generators

We recommend inverter generators for the reasons listed below.

1. Fuel Efficiency

This generator automatically modifies engine acceleration to only output the required power. As a result, the gas tank is smaller, fuel expenses are lower, and pollutants are lower. The speed and frequency of conventional generators are 3,600 rpm and 60 Hertz each cycle. The inverter generators’ fuel efficiency maintains the appropriate frequency for the current load while operating at a lower rpm.

2. Output Power Quality

Electricity generated by these generators is just as dependable as line power. As a result, it is particularly useful for supplying electricity to smaller appliances, such as desk lights, portable air conditioners, and phone chargers. On the other hand, conventional generators produce power that is better suited for major electrical systems like central air conditioning.

3. Portability

The inverter power supply is portable because the generator is small and light. The device is quite effective despite its modest size. Campers and RV owners recommend these generators for travel trails as they carry them almost everywhere since standard generators are heavy and difficult to carry. Although you wouldn’t expect to bring one on a fishing vacation, they have their purposes.

A person carrying a portable inverter generator

Image Credits: thomasnet.com

4. Parallel Capability

An inverter generator may be connected to another when you require extra power. You can employ several smaller generators to replace a bigger, bulkier conventional generator.

5. Running Quietly

Compared to conventional generators, they operate more silently since the engine never operates at full power. The loudness should match that of a person speaking. Because you can use a generator without a headache, bringing one along on a trip becomes more enticing. It won’t irritate your neighbors if you use it at home during a power outage.

Why Are People Choosing Inverter Generators Over Traditional Generators?

Let’s start by avoiding thinking of conventional, outdated inverters because they cannot power generator-capable gadgets.

Here, we’ll discuss two machines that produce power effectively.

The difference between an inverter generator and a conventional one depends on various variables, including your budget, the number of appliances, and the appliances that will need to be powered.

The following is a discussion of some key aspects of portable energy devices and how each compares.

a) The Difference in Noise Levels Between a Generator and an Inverter

The key distinction is the noise levels between an inverter generator and a traditional generator. Generators normally run at continuous speeds of 3600 rpm to create power. Therefore, the engine’s speed should stay the same to produce electricity. On the other hand, inverters use microprocessors to control power output. As a result, the device is quieter than generators since it can adjust its power output according to the load applied. Check out the best silent options if you are interested in a quiet generator.

b) Parallel Operations

By pairing two identical machines, the power capacity of most inverter generators doubles. By using smaller inverters in parallel, you can generate the same amount of electricity as one huge generator. This function is not present in conventional generators. Traditional generators cannot be connected with other identical generators and require specific connections to connect to their output.

c) Dimensions, Weight, and Mobility of Generator Inverters

Many inverter generators are very tiny for the amount of electricity they can produce. However, inverter generators may fit in your car for people who need electricity for trekking or camping. They are also simple to store and travel.

A couple using an inverter generator in the outdoors

Image Credits: bluedm.com.au

Contrarily, many generators are installed on a frame and wheels since they are frequently loud, big, and heavy. Although they are likewise transportable, they do not have the advantages of being lighter, quieter, or smaller.

d) Power Quality Produced by an Inverter Generator

The engine revs up to maintain the same quantity of generated power since a generator is just an engine operating at full throttle to create the desired frequency regardless of its load. The output of the alternator is linked unprocessed straight to the load. Alternating current (AC) is created using inverter generators by changing direct current into AC.

Before becoming alternating current with the correct voltage and frequency, DC capacitors smooth down the generated current to a certain extent. As a result, power from inverters is dependable and steady since it is independent of engine speed. In addition, inverter generators create substantially “cleaner” electricity compared to traditional generators. This power is virtually as good as the usual electricity that your electric provider provides.

What Is the Significance of Utilizing a Cleaner Source of Energy?

Today’s gadgets feature microprocessors extremely sensitive to power quality, including televisions, cell phones, and PCs. These gadgets could malfunction or possibly sustain harm if they draw power from an unclean source. Therefore, the cleaner power generated by inverters is beneficial for any application that demands sensitive electricity.

e) Price Contrast

Generators only offer a few benefits if you want a high power output. However, conventional generators are also less expensive and require less maintenance. In addition, the spare parts are readily available at reasonable rates due to their straightforward design and functioning.

Although inverter generators have controllable power outputs and are more fuel-efficient, quieter, and handy, Inverter generators cost more. You must determine how much you need for each component and how much money you have allocated for the gadget.

f) Runtime and Fuel Efficiency of Inverter Generators

Most generators are constructed to provide the precise quantity of electricity required to keep electrical appliances operating. Therefore, the size of the unit needs to be primarily taken into account when using generators.

Inverter generators of different sizes

Image Credits: bluedm.com.au

On the other hand, inverter generators do not require large fuel tanks like generators; hence, they are made to be small and lightweight. In addition, inverters feature fuel-efficient engines that alter the power generated to fit the load’s requirements while having restricted fuel consumption, which means they run for shorter periods.

For most customers, inverter generators’ operating periods of around 10 hours are more than enough. They also save up to 40% on fuel—additionally, inverter generators aid in lowering exhaust pollutants.

Various Inverter Types

Inverter generators can be classified as either closed-frame or open-frame. The smallest and quietest inverter generators are closed-frame models. Their acoustic effect is substantially diminished by the insulation in their outer shell that absorbs noise. As a result, they are typically lightweight and ideal for little loads.

Since open-frame inverter generators lack this insulation, they are noisier than closed-frame models while remaining quieter than regular generators – often by approximately 50%. The electricity generated by open-frame inverter generators is just as clean as that from closed-frame inverters, and they can support heavier loads.

a) Powerful Inverter Generators

The huge inverter generators typically weigh 250 pounds or more, with few exceptions (wheels included). That is large enough to power your home but too large to transport to a tailgate party. They produce at least 5,000 watts of electricity (at 220 volts).

Powering a house off grid using a 7000W Inverter generator

Image Credits: basspro.com

This kind of inverter generator may be safely linked to your electrical system immediately via a transfer switch, which CR highly advises. Instead of needing to plug separate equipment with extension cables, they may now power your complete home’s circuits, thanks to this.

b) Inverter Generators of Medium Size

These are at least 80 pounds in weight and could have wheels. They generate 2,500 and 5,000 watts but are incompatible with the suggested transfer switch connected to an electrical panel. So instead, you connect devices or appliances directly to the generator, which might be risky if you don’t observe specific safety precautions.

This size is ideal for recreational vehicle users. These types are light enough to unload and carry to a safe distance from your RV before usage, yet they supply all the power you want for plug-in appliances like a toaster or microwave.

c) Inverter Generators for Outdoor Use

These are intended to be carried with one hand and can weigh up to 60 pounds. If you are wondering what you can run on a 2000-Watt Generator, most recreational versions have a 2,500-watt maximum output, which is more than enough for camping or tailgating.

Someone using a Domestic Outdoor Generator

Image Credits: dometic.com

Recreational inverter generators can be as small and portable as you’d need them for tailgating or camping, or they can be large and reliable enough to provide necessary backup power in the event of a storm.

Featured Image Credits: forconstructionpros.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.