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Inverter Generator vs Traditional Generator: Key Differences

Inverter Generator vs Traditional Generator: Key Differences

G’day readers! Robert here from Generator Warehouse, your number-one resource for all things related to power generators. Today, I want to examine the critical differences between inverter and traditional generators. With power outages becoming more frequent, backup power is essential - but making the right generator choice depends significantly on understanding what sets these two technologies apart. Read on as I break it all down for you!

A Quick Intro to Generators

First, let’s start with a quick refresher. What is a generator exactly, and what does it do? Simply put, a generator is a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. It uses an engine - powered by petrol, diesel, propane, etc. - to spin wire coils inside an alternator. This produces an alternating electric current that we can tap into to power appliances and devices when the mains power goes out.

There are a few key types of generators out there:

  • Portable generators - compact and movable units perfect for camping, worksites, or backup power at home
  • Standby generators - permanently installed backup power units for homes or businesses
  • Inverter generators - portable generators that utilise advanced inverter technology
  • Conventional generators - traditional generator technology, commonly used for worksites and events

Now, let’s explore the key differences between inverter and traditional generators in more detail.

Inverter Generator Technology

One of the most significant differences between inverters and conventional gensets is how they produce electricity. Inverter generators utilise a unique technology to generate cleaner and more stable power. Here’s a quick overview of what sets them apart:

  • They convert AC power to DC power and then back to AC again
  • This allows the engine speed to vary based on energy demands
  • Produces a pure sine wave instead of a modified sine wave
  • Results in less than 5% total harmonic distortion

What does this all mean? Essentially, inverter generators produce exceptionally clean power safe for sensitive electronics like phones, laptops, medical equipment, etc. They regulate the engine speed intelligently to prevent voltage spikes and drops while eliminating fluctuations.

Critical Benefits of Inverter Generators

Thanks to this clever inverter technology, these modern inverter gensets provide some fantastic advantages compared to conventional models.

Clean, Stable Power

As mentioned, inverter generators produce an ultra-pure sine wave with less than 5% THD. This gives you reliable energy that won’t damage your sensitive tech. You can safely charge devices, run medical equipment and power fridges, and protect appliances.

Greater Fuel Efficiency

By only working as hard as needed, inverter generators use less fuel to produce energy aligned with your usage. Their variable speed engines self-adjust to save petrol or diesel when electrical loads are lower. This also results in lower emissions and noise as well!

Lightweight and Portable

Inverter generators use smaller, more advanced engines that take up less space. This gives them a more compact, portable design - some are even hand-carry approved for ultimate mobility!

Quiet Operation

Thanks to advanced sound-dampening technology and their ability to run at lower speeds when possible, inverter generators operate with less noise. This makes them ideal for camping, at home, or in noise-sensitive environments.

Additional Features

You’ll also find inverter generators that offer handy features like electric start buttons, fuel gauges, advanced monitoring, and alerts to provide user convenience and prevent any issues.

Traditional Generator Considerations

While inverter generators offer some fantastic advantages, conventional generators still have some strengths to bear in mind:

  • Higher peak power output - While inverter generators can run safely for more extended periods, traditional models typically offer more peak wattage
  • Tried and tested design - Conventional generators use a simple yet reliable design that’s been tested over decades
  • Lower cost - The advanced circuitry does come at a price - inverter generators almost always carry a higher price tag

So, while the latest inverter models excel at powering sensitive tech safely over extended run times, conventional generators can still churn out higher peak power for applications like construction sites.

Key Factors to Consider

Now, I want to summarise the most critical differences between inverter and conventional generators across some key categories:

Power Quality

  • Inverter generators output cleaner electricity with less than 5% THD
  • Protects sensitive electronics from voltage spikes and drops
  • Conventional generators can have up to 25% THD - higher risk

Sound Levels

  • Inverter generators operate at <60 decibels on average
  • Conventional generators output ~75-95+ decibels
  • Inverters use advanced sound-dampening tech as well

Fuel Efficiency

  • Inverters use 10-50% less fuel depending on the load
  • Variable speed engines self-adjust to save fuel
  • Emissions are lower as a result, as well


  • Inverter generators range from 25lbs up to 200lbs
  • Smaller, more compact designs with handy grab handles
  • Traditional generators are typically much heavier and bulkier

Additional Features

  • Inverter generators offer:
    • Electric start button
    • Advanced monitoring/alerts
    • Fuel gauge
    • Auto low-oil shutdown
  • Traditional generators can lack some extra functionality

Ideal Use Cases

With all of that in mind, let’s summarise when inverter and traditional generators are most suitable:

Inverter Generators Ideal For:

  • Camping, caravanning, boating
  • Backup power for home/office
  • Powering sensitive medical devices
  • Supplemental capability for off-grid installations
  • Construction sites requiring temporary power

Conventional Generators Well-Suited To:

  • Large construction sites
  • Significant emergency backup capacity
  • Events/concerts requiring serious wattage
  • Increasing grid power marginally
  • Any application not powering sensitive electronics

If you need temporary, safe power for your essential devices and appliances, an inverter generator is likely the best choice. They’ll provide reliable, clean electricity without the risk of voltage spikes frying your precious tech.

However, if you need raw power and lots of it - a conventional generator may better serve demands, assuming you aren’t worried about potential voltage fluctuations.

Balancing Costs Against Features

Finally, it’s worth acknowledging the price difference between generators using advanced inverter technology and their traditional counterparts. When it comes to making your purchasing decision, you’ll want to assess thoroughly:

  • How you plan to use your generator - The benefits above will apply differently depending
  • Your budget - Conventional generators do carry lower price tags in general
  • Sensitivity of devices being powered - How susceptible are they to voltage changes
  • Long-term costs - Fuel usage, servicing/repair costs add up over time!

While the investment is typically higher upfront, purchasing an inverter generator often pays off over time, thanks to their substantially lower running costs and additional features.

An inverter model is wise if you plan to use your generator repeatedly or have sensitive electronics/devices. Otherwise, a conventional generator may suit your usage well and save you some dollars initially.

Let’s Recap

Phew, that covers most of the critical facts about inverter generators and how they differ from traditional models!

To quickly recap:

  • Inverter generators use advanced inverter technology to produce clean, stable electricity with less than 5% THD
  • This makes them safe for sensitive electronics and ideal for portable power
  • Benefits include fuel efficiency, quieter operation, portability and features
  • Conventional generators use a simple yet reliable design focused on peak power delivery

And remember…

Choosing the right generator depends on your intended application, budget, and the devices you’ll power.

Hopefully, this overview has provided some helpful guidance on weighing up your decision between these two popular types of generators. If you have any other questions, please get in touch with our team at Generator Warehouse, as we’re always happy to help!

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