When talking about mobile power solutions while attending mobile power-esque parties (oh, yeah, we’re a lively bunch), someone always tries to make the correlation between an inverter and a generator.
When chatting with the average lay-person, even I am guilty of explaining an inverter as “a generator that uses the battery as its fuel tank”.
This is a bit inaccurate since they have very different roles and benefits.
In other words, they use fuel (diesel, propane, gasoline) to run an engine.
That engine spins a rotating shaft which uses magnets and electrical windings to create electrical AC current.
Generators are really good at one thing: taking a relatively light weight and easily acquired energy source (fuel) and creating lots of kilowatt hours of electrical power.
This can cause carbon buildup on the critical engine components, shortening the life of your generator’s engine.
Lastly, generators are heavy and don’t surge very well. And they are often oversized to meet load demands. The larger, heavier generators are used so a large in-rush of electrical demand (like an electric motor) doesn’t cause the generator to bog down.
They use high-speed electrical switches and transformers to modify the DC to AC, and then change the voltage to create 120V.
On the plus side inverters are extremely efficient, compared to generators, and only consume DC power in direct relation to the amount of power they put out. Another major benefit is that they are virtually silent compared to generators.
This means that short-term heavy loads (like a microwave), or long-term lighter loads (like an entertainment center) are just right for an inverter with the right battery bank. Lastly, inverters are comparatively light weight compared to generators.
And the winner is?
Everybody loves a winner. However, in the classic Generator/Inverter battle, there is no clear-cut champ.
I know, I know, where’s the chair-slapping, pile-driving finale that conclusively denotes the winner?
While sunshine is free when it’s available, you can’t purchase it from a friendly neighborhood convenience store like fossil fuels.
Then when the batteries are depleted, or you need the monster loads to turn on, run that macho generator for a long time (at least an hour) to power the heavier loads, and let the battery charger then give the inverter its efficient power once you’re ready to shut the generator down.
This one-two punch allows the most efficient use of fuel (only using a pollutant when you’re getting the most effectiveness out of your fuel), fewer noisy generator runs so you can enjoy your environment more, and equally important, greater cost efficiency since you’ll use less fuel for the same used
Inverters come from 100W “pocket” inverters to 600W in the portable scope, and 600W to 3000W in hard-wired configurations.