The Best Inverter Generators For Your Needs
Before we consider what to look for in a generator, we should probably know what one is. In order to understand what an inverter generator does, let’s consider what generators and inverters are first.
A traditional generator uses fossil fuel (often diesel) to drive an alternator, which in turn produces electricity. In the US the diesel motor is set to run at 3600 rpm generating the 120V, 60Hz AC electricity used by most devices.
Unfortunately it is difficult to maintain an exact 3600 rpm and hence traditional generators are prone to drops and surges in power, often damaging to sensitive electrical equipment such as laptops.
Inverters transform a DC electricity source to AC power. For example they are used to transform a solar power source into an AC source.
Inverter generators use relatively new technology to produce AC electricity (like a traditional generator), but then convert this using electronics into DC electricity.
An inverter then transforms this back into a stable 120V, 60Hz AC electricity which is ‘clean’ (ie has none of the surges of a traditional generator). It can then be used more safely by electronic devices.
We’ve already mentioned one key advantage: they produce a more stable power source.
They are also more compact and quieter, mainly as they have no need to run at exactly 3600 rpm like their tradition models.
And as they are not preset to deliver the 120V, 60Hz AC feed, and can modify their output according to need, they are much more fuel efficient.
Their main disadvantage is that they tend to be more expensive to purchase (compared to a comparable traditional model) due to their more sophisticated electronic set up.
Below are the top three inverter generators we reviewed (see below for selection criteria).
It's important to note that although the Honda EU2000i was judged the best overall inverter generator, other models may be more suitable (or within your budget).
The Durostar ds4000i, for example, is much cheaper and perfect as a back up power generator but would be unsuitable to take camping, being bulky and quite noisy.
The Yahaha EF2000is would instead be the best choice for camping as it is portable and quiet.
This will be the most important factor for many.
There’s a wide range of prices – its possible to spend anywhere for a couple of hundred bucks to nearly a thousand dollars.
But it’s important to realise that you get what you pay for: a cheap model will have less power and run time, may not have the same level of support and may not be as robust as a more expensive model.
We’ll help you understand the various trade-offs of features and price for each model.
Generators can be very noisy.
Many (again campers are an example) will want to minimise the noise effects on themselves and other people nearby. None of us want to be the traveller spoiling the peace and quiet for everyone with a roaring generator.
Again, there are several inverter generators designed to be quiet – we’ll show you which.
For many of you, choosing a well-known and reputable brand will be an important factor in choosing a model.
Thankfully, many of the generators reviewed are made by strong brands such as Honda and Yamaha.
However, don’t dismiss some of the others – brands such as Champion and Wen make good quality products and are respected in this market.
How long do you plan to run your generator?
For some an evening of use for light and TV use, say, would be sufficient. For others a full day of use will be required.
This is one factor that is often neglected by buyers.
However, it is key – especially as you’re likely to be out and about if you need assistance.
There’s nothing worse than being in a strange town or in the middle of the countryside with a malfunctioning generator with minimal ways to get help as soon as possible.
We therefore looked at the makers’ support arrangements including phone/online support and the availability of repair shops.
The ability to carry or take their generator anywhere easily will be key for some.
This will be particularly important for campers amongst you.
There’s no way you’ll want to drag a cumbersome beast of a generator into the wilds.
Thankfully there are many great portable generators on the market which are perfect for your needs.
The power required from a generator – usually between 1500W and 3500W – depends on what you plan to use it for.
If you just plan to light your campervan, say, a low power generator will be sufficient.
Running a fridge, TV and heating will require more.
This is one of the key determinants of price and so it’s important to choose the most appropriate power level generator for your needs.