Inverter Generators Vs Generators: Choose Right

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The main differences between inverter generators and regular generators are that inverter generators have lower THD levels, lower noise levels, easier parallel capability, and better fuel efficiency at lower loads.

On the other side, regular generators tend to be cheaper and some of the models in this category come with higher power capacity ceilings.

If you plan to power any sensitive electronics like a phone, a microwave, or certain refrigerators, you generally want to get an inverter generator.

Another option for this purpose is getting one of the few large portable generators with low THD levels.

To power certain power tools, a well pump, or a sump pump, you often don’t necessarily need clean THD power.

If you don’t mind the extra noise, a regular generator can be the more budget-friendly solution for running these types of devices.

Inverter generators vs generators overview

Before going into all of the details, it can be helpful to see a quick overview of the main differences between inverter generators and regular generators.

DetailInverter GeneratorsRegular Generators
THD LevelsLow For Sensitive ElectronicsHigh
Noise LevelsTypically LowerTypically High
Parallel CapabilityOften YesNo
PriceGenerally HigherGenerally Lower
Power Capacity CeilingOften Good EnoughVery Strong Models Available
ReliabilitySeemingly SimilarSeemingly Similar
Fuel EfficiencyBetter At Lower % LoadsBetter At Lower % Loads
Inverter generators vs generators overview

THD levels inverter generator vs generator

Inverter generators have lower THD levels than regular generators which makes them better for powering sensitive electronics.

One of the main differences between inverter generators and regular generators is that the first category has an inverter built in.

Inside the machine, the inverter transforms the AC current to DC current and back to AC current to lower the THD levels of the generated power.

In simpler words, inverter generators produce power with clean, low THD levels whereas regular generators tend to generate high THD power.

This difference is relevant because high THD power can damage sensitive electronics like a phone, a TV, certain refrigerators, etc.

In turn, inverter generators tend to be the smarter choice if you plan to run any sensitive electronics.

Unless you get your own separate inverter, another way to “clean up” the power, or one of the few regular generators with low THD levels.

Are inverter generators quieter than regular generators?

Yes, inverter generators are typically quieter than regular generators.

Partly because there are many closed-frame inverter generators where noise reduction padding is part of the “box” design.

The second reason why inverter generators are so quiet is that they don’t run at full speed all the time.

At lower loads, the engine will not run as hard which results in lower noise levels.

How quiet inverter generators are and which models are the quietest depends on what power level you are interested in.

Are inverter generators or regular generators better for paralleling?

The average person can only parallel inverter generators. Not regular generators.

It is theoretically possible to parallel generators to combine their watts and amps.

This can help you run bigger devices that would otherwise be too power-hungry.

However, for the average person, this parallel capability will only be an option with inverter generators that are built for this.

So if you are not sure what size generator you need and/or you want the flexibility of two smaller models but the power of one big model, inverter generators are often the right choice.

Make sure to check whether the inverter generator you are considering actually has the option to conveniently parallel if this interests you.

Are inverter generators more expensive than regular generators?

Yes, one of the main cons of inverter generators is that they are typically more expensive than similar non-inverter generators.

How relevant this difference is depends on details like what you plan to power, your noise tolerance, your budget, and more.

Keep in mind that having to replace damaged electronics can be costly too.

Do regular generators produce more power than regular generators?

Yes, regular generators tend to produce more power than regular generators. However, most of the power levels people are interested in come in both inverter generators and regular generators.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the largest inverter generators “only” get up to 10500 peak watts.

On the other hand, the largest portable generators get up to 28000 peak watts which is a whole other level.

Again, most people will be able to find an inverter generator that suits their needs too. However, regular generators do have a higher ceiling.

Are inverter generators more reliable than regular generators?

No, inverter generators are not necessarily more reliable than regular generators.

After doing many regular and inverter generator reviews, I do not have the impression that one category or the other is more reliable.

You could say that inverter generators have more moving parts which means more can go wrong.

That being said, with all of the other things that can influence this, it is hard to say anything specific about the reliability differences.

Are inverter generators more fuel efficient than regular generators?

Yes, inverter generators are typically more fuel efficient than regular generators at lower loads.

Another important difference is that inverter generators can generally adjust their speed to the load you put them under.

On the other side, regular generator engines tend to work at full speed even if you don’t use that much of their load.

The result of this difference is that inverter generators tend to be more fuel efficient than regular generators at lower loads.

In turn, you can say the electricity of inverter generators can be slightly cheaper in the long term.

There are also just situations and locations where getting new gasoline or propane is inconvenient.

For example, during off-grid living or camping trips far away from civilization.

Are inverter generators better than regular generators?

Yes, inverter generators tend to be better than regular generators for powering electronics and keeping noise levels down.

Overall, inverter generators tend to produce lower THD levels, produce lower noise levels, are a lot easier to parallel, and are more fuel efficient at lower % loads.

On the other hand, regular generators tend to be cheaper and you will be able to find stronger models.

If you plan to power any sensitive electronics with your generator, whether as home backup power or for an RV, it is typically smart to just invest in an inverter generator.

At the same time, there are also a few large portable generators with low THD levels that could help you with this.

If you just plan to power something like a well pump, sump pump, or certain power tools which tend to work with high THD too, getting a regular generator can keep things more budget-friendly.

Whether or not you want to consider an inverter generator in these situations will depend on things like your noise tolerance too.

Related:

Are inverter generators really necessary?

Yes, inverter generators are really necessary if you plan to power any sensitive electronics like a phone, a TV, or certain refrigerators.

You could also consider renting an inverter generator for certain events if necessary.

What is special about an inverter generator?

Three of the main special things about inverter generators are the built-in inverter for low THD levels, how common noise reduction padding is, and that the engine can slow down at lower loads.

Do inverter generators last as long as regular generators?

Yes, inverter generators seem to last as long as regular generators according to all the customer reviews I’ve read.
At the same time, it is fair to say that there is not any concrete data or research about this topic (to my knowledge).

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Author:

Mats is the founder and head editor of Generator Decision. With a combination of critical thinking, tireless research, and a healthy interest in electronics he helps people find the right generators and how to use these. At this point in the journey, Mats has done research on hundreds of portable generators.