With the rise of natural disasters and other incidents that cause power outages, having a good inverter generator to help power essentials is a good idea. A generator can help you save cash as backup power for your refrigerator, and also keep you comfortable by powering a heater or a dehumidifier.
We've put together this buying guide to help you choose the best inverter generator for you. We'll start with reviews of some of the best inverter models, then get down to a detailed buying guide that will help you understand the ins and outs of inverter generators, their main features, and where an inverter makes sense over a conventional generator. When you're done, you should be shopping like a pro!
Inverter Generator Reviews
1. The Winner
This is an extremely powerful generator that provides power when you need it thanks to it being a dual-fuel generator and having a push button electric starter. With the turn of a dial, you can change your fuel type from a portable propane tank line to using the integrated 3.4 gallon fuel tank. You don’t even need to stop the generator to switch fuel sources.
This generator provides 3700 watts while running and can provide up to 4500 watts for short periods if you need that much backup power for a short period of time. And despite this huge power output, it only produces about 52 decibels, so you can run it without worrying about the noise level.
The included outlets make this a great option for an RV or for an emergency home generator. You can easily connect an RV with the TT-30R 120v/30a outlet to save wear and tear. With two standard outlets and 2 USB outlets, you know that your important appliances and devices will never run out of power.
As an example of real world use, this inverter generator can power a small air conditioning unit, lights, and the refrigerator of a small camper with zero issues. That means it’s got plenty of power for a whole house during a power outage. As far as run time goes, you can expect to get about 8 hours on one tank of gas at about a quarter load. As you increase the load on the generator, run time will naturally decrease.
As one of the best inverter generators for all-round use, this model tops our list.
Read Full Review: Westinghouse iGen4500DF Dual Fuel Inverter Generator
- 3700 Watts with 4500 Peak Watt Rating on gasoline
- 3330 watts with 4050 watt peak on propane
- Outlets included:
- 2 Standard Household 120 volt/20 amp
- 1 120 volt/30 amp
- 2 USB 5 volt/2.1 amp
- LCD status screen with LED lamp indicators
- Parallel ports for connecting multiple units for increased output
- Dual fuel – can run off of propane or gasoline
- 104.1 pound weight
- 24.5” (L) x 13” (W) x 20” (H)
- Push button start with remote starting capability
This gas powered inverter generator provides enough power for you to make sure that your outdoor event isn’t shut down because of no electricity. It has more than enough juice to run your nighttime movies or an impromptu gaming session in the middle of the woods: just fill the 1.2 gallon tank and you’re off. It's also a good portable inverter, weighing in at just 50 pounds.
This Generac inverter generates 1700 running watts with a 2200 starting watt peak. That means that you can comfortably plug in a few electronics and not worry about the power. Your average LCD television only pulls about 100 watts and your laptop with all the movies needs 200 watts with zero starting watts. You could even plug in a microwave or electric griddle to whip up food.
Because the starting peak is 2200 watts, you might be able to use this to power your refrigerator and a few other items during an emergency. However, if you really want to be sure, running two of them in parallel will give you more than enough juice.
This portable inverter generator has 2 standard plugs and one RV plug. It also has a single cigarette lighter adaptor and a single USB so you can charge multiple devices at once. Run time for this generator averages out at about 10 to 11 hours at a quarter load.
With a lightweight design that doesn't skimp on power, this model tops our choice of portable inverter generators.
Read Full Review: Generac 7117 GP2200i 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator
- 1700 Watts with 2200 Peak Watt Rating
- Outlets included:
- 2 Standard Household 120 volt/20 amp
- 1 120 volt/30 amp
- 12V DC/5 amp
- LED status lights
- Parallel connector allows two units to be connected to increase power output
- 46 pound weight
- 19” (L) x 11” (W) x 17” (H)
- Pull start
As a gas powered inverter generator, this Briggs & Stratton model is one of the best inverter generators to straddle the line between emergency backup generator and RV generator. Truth is, it would do equally well as both. It comes with a 1.5 gallon integrated tank which is good for about ten hours of run time at quarter load.
The power output has 2600 running watts with a peak starting rating of 3000 watts. That means it can easily handle your household refrigerator, a small space heater, and recharge your personal electronics as well. If you need more power to run an air conditioner, this unit is easily set in parallel with another Briggs & Stratton to give you nearly twice the output.
There are a bevy of plugs for you to use. Four standard outlets and a single RV TT-30R give you plenty of options when it comes to running things. A 12V DC plug and a USB port also enable you to charge your personal electronics.
This generator is a little heavy, weighing in at 96 pounds, but it has a pair of solid wheels as well as a telescoping handle that make moving it around on the ground easy. And if you’re worried about how noisy it is, don’t be. The noise level of this generator is just 58 decibels at quarter load, so it won’t drown out the party.
Read Full Review: Briggs & Stratton P3000 Inverter Generator
- 2600 Watts with 3000 Peak Watt Rating
- Outlets included:
- 4 Standard Household 120 volt/20 amp
- 1 120 volt/30 amp
- DC 12 volt/5 amp
- USB port
- LCD status panel indicates power output and maintenance reminders
- Parallel connector allows two units to be used to increase power output
- 96 pound weight
- 26" (L) x 13.9" (W) x 20.4" (H)
- Pull start
Inverter Generator Buying Guide
Inverter generators are a newer type of generator that was invented by Honda a little over a decade ago. It would be easy to get into complicated mechanical theory and try to explain the differences between block wave and sine wave AC electricity, but in summary, inverter generators produce neat and clean AC power.
Both conventional and inverter generators generate AC current from a DC source. AC stands for alternating current: that's current that travels first one direction, then the other. It does this in constant cycles. AC is the standard type of current used by household electronics and appliances.
AC current from a conventional generator can be uneven, and the resulting power dips and surges (known as the total harmonic distortion, or THD) can damage sensitive equipment. In contrast, an inverter generator takes AC current, converts it to DC, and then back into AC to give a smoother supply, i.e. a lower total distortion.
The bottom line is that if you want to charge more sensitive electronics with your generator, you'll need an inverter. If this isn't an issue for you, and you need a good amount of power, then a conventional generator will probably suit you better. The next section looks at these differences in more detail.
Inverter Vs Conventional Generators
You might be wondering when you should choose a traditional conventional generator and when you should choose an inverter generator. In general, there are five reasons to choose an inverter generator over a conventional one.
You don’t need a lot of power – Inverter generators have lower total harmonic distortion but don’t produce a huge amount of electricity. If you’re looking for a portable generator to supplement your RV, or you need something to power the television at your tailgating party, then an inverter generator is a great choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a generator to work as a whole-house backup, then you probably want the raw power of a traditional unit.
You need a quiet generator – Let’s face it: if there’s one thing about traditional generators, it’s that they are super noisy. Because they only turn on or off, when they’re on, they’re running full throttle with a noise level to match. An inverter generator, on the other hand, can be whisper quiet, because it spools up and down as demand changes. For a lot of inverter generators, you’re going to find they’re quieter than normal conversation levels. So you can have one at your next party and not worry about having to shout to your significant other about where they left the bratwurst.
You need portability – Inverter generators have a much smaller form factor and mass than traditional generators, so a truly portable inverter generator is not difficult to find. That’s great if you’re going to be on the go with your generator and picking it up and putting it back down again. Whether you’re tailgating or powering up your kid’s birthday party, a portable generator is a plus.
You don't mind spending a little extra – There is one significant drawback to inverter generators. They do cost more. But if you’re going to be using personal electronics, it’s probably better to account for the increased cost of an inverter generator.
You need something light – Most of the best inverter generators are less than 100 pounds in weight, and the larger ones usually have some sort of telescoping handle and wheels to help move it around. So when you need a light, portable generator, you should go with an inverter generator.
Important Things to Consider
Now that you’ve determined that you should be getting an inverter generator, you might be wondering about what sort of features you should be looking for. Here are seven things that you should take a look at and how they can impact what sort of generator you should be getting.
• Where Will You Use It?
The best inverter generator for you will depend to some extent on where you'll use it. Some locations demand a larger generator simply because you’re going to need more power. Here are four locations you might want an inverter generator and the power that they supply.
- Around the house – A generator for around the house is a great way to provide power for those times when you need extra juice. Whether it’s a party that’s not near any power outlets, or running an extra few fans or heaters for something special, an inverter generator will provide what power you need and cycle up or down to meet that need.
- As backup power – If you want a generator for your home, remember that it isn’t going to be large enough to run everything. An inverter generator, and the clean power it provides, is designed to power your personal electronics and other devices like that. Look for something that can handle the wattage load of all the devices you want to run. We’ll provide a chart that has a list of common wattages at the end of this section.
- RVs and cabins – RVs traditionally run on a propane fueled generator, but if it has been a while since your last fill up or you don’t want to use it, a portable inverter generator can plug directly in and serve as your power source. With just a couple of gallons of gas, you can provide all the power you and your loved ones will need.
- Camping – A small portable inverter generator can be the difference between camping and roughing it. Having a generator to power a small refrigerator or to fuel a couple of lights can help. A small 1500 watt portable generator can make a camping trip extra special with a movie under the stars.
• Fuel Type
In general, most inverter generators run on regular unleaded gasoline. However, dual fuel generators can use LP tanks that you can pick up at nearly any gas station or Walt-Mart. While propane does provide a lower wattage output than gasoline, having the choice between the two is a great option. If you’re in an area where you might not be able to get to the gas station, having a couple of tanks of propane stored safely can help you survive a winter storm power outage.
• Fuel Tank Capacity, Run Time, and Fuel Efficiency
Most inverter generators are going to run for about 8 to 10 hours at quarter load to half load. That means that you need to consider what you plan on running off of your generator and planning accordingly. Fuel tank size is usually no more than 1 to 1.5 gallons. If you want a larger tank, you can get adjust your existing tank to take a larger one with some modifications.
The number and type of outlets is a huge factor in making one generator stand out from the others. Don’t count on power strips or extension cords to provide you with extra outlets, and consider whether a portable generator may be the best way to go if you need to get your power closer to certain things.
With some appliances like space heaters, you should never use an extension cord with multiple outlets. Plan accordingly, and in the case of outlets, more is usually better.
There are some quality of life features that can help you keep your inverter generator running for longer. These are usually maintenance related and let you not have to worry when you’re concerned about the snow or hurricane beating at your windows and doors. Here are a few things you might look for.
- Low oil shut off – All inverter generators use oil for lubrication. If the oil supply goes low, the generator can seize and break, making for a costly repair. A low oil automatic shut-off means that you don’t have to worry about that.
- Low gas shut off – As gas drops, you start to get misfires in your generator, and that will affect the quality and cleanliness of the power coming out. In most cases it’s better for your generator if it just shuts itself off rather than try to keep running with insufficient fuel.
- Gas meter – This handy feature will let you see at a glance how much gas is left in the tank so you can plan accordingly. Keep in mind that if you’ve modified your inverter generator’s fuel tank, then the gauge might not be properly calibrated.
• Noise Level
Inverter generators are rarely loud, but if you’re curious about what the actual noise level of a generator is, look on the web for video reviews. You’ll be able to see them being used and tell how loud they are under various load conditions.
In most cases when it comes to inverter generators, you get what you pay for, and the best inverter generators aren't cheap. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra for some upgraded features. Any of the things we’ve discussed here can be worth its weight in gold in the right situations.
Advantages of Inverter Generators
There are definite advantages of inverter generators over your standard generator. In case you were still wondering what they could be, here are the main ones.
1. Size and Weight
Conventional (non-inverter) generators are not meant to be portable. They’re large and noisy and meant to stay in one spot and provide power for one area. You can get smaller generators that will fit in the back of your truck, but once you get it up there, you don’t want to get it back down.
Your best portable inverter generator is smaller than a box of paper and usually weighs less than a hundred pounds. That means it’s easier to move, pick up and put down.
2. Less Noise
If you turn on a standard generator, everyone for miles knows about it. That’s because standard generators use all of their power all of the time. Inverter generators scale up or down depending on how much you’re asking of it. This determines how much noise the generator will make. If you’re only running the generator at quarter load or half load, the noise level will be lower than if it's running at full power.
3. Fewer Emissions
Keep in mind this isn’t emission free. It’s less emissions. Because the generator cycles down as you ask less of it, it burns less fuel. Less fuel burning means fewer emissions produced. That doesn’t mean you can run an inverter generator indoors. Far from it. You still need to run it outdoors or in a well ventilated space.
4. Efficient Power
We've already seen that inverter generators have lower total harmonic distortion: the dips and surges in current that make conventional generators unsuitable for charging sensitive devices.
Inverter generators also burn less fuel because they aren’t running at full power all of the time. That means your gallon of gas is going to last for eight or nine hours in an inverter generator compared to only lasting for an hour in a standard generator.
Better efficiency means longer run time. That comes in handy when you only need to make sure your phone is charged and your freezer is keeping things cold. It also means you don’t have to fill up the fuel tank as much either.
5. Parallel Operation
One of the best benefits of inverters is being able to put inverter generators in parallel. In electricity, when you put your generators in parallel, that ensures a smooth amount of power no matter what. That’s because each generator provides power to everything. Let’s say you have two things plugged into generator A and three things into generator B. If generator B runs out of fuel, those three things will still be powered, because generator A will increase its output.
When you add another generator in parallel, keep in mind that you don’t quite get the wattage of A + B as your total output, but it’s very close.
Disadvantages of Inverter Generators
Now that we’ve talked about how great inverter generators are, you need to know that they do have some drawbacks. Keep these in mind as you look at inverter versus standard generators.
1. Run time
Inverter generators are much smaller, so they have a significant disadvantage when it comes to how long they will stay running.
With a gas tank capacity that usually maxes out at 1.5 to 2 gallons, you can see why. A standard generator can have a fuel tank that runs up to 100 gallons or more. Some are even directly fed from underground storage tanks.
2. Power Output
Inverter generators provide smooth power with low harmonic distortion, but that comes at the price of raw output. And let’s face it, a lot of appliances don’t care how rough the backup power is: they just want it. So even the best inverter generators have two disadvantages here. One is that their smaller size means they have a smaller generator overall. Two, they adjust to the power demand, so they will try to produce as little power as possible.
Inverter generators are much more expensive than their standard counterparts. This is because it is more complicated to build an inverter generator. But the higher price tag is often worth it.
Although these three disadvantages are very real, we think that the advantages far outweigh these. However, again, it is all according to how you plan on using your new generator.
What Can You Run on an Inverter Generator?
When it comes to getting an inverter generator, you might be wondering what you can run on it. The short answer is, if you can plug it into your wall at home, you can plug it into an inverter generator.
A more complicated answer is that there are certain things you can’t plug into one. Anything that requires a 220v line, for example, such as a clothes drier. Some air conditioners are out of the running as well. An electric stove that has a 220 plug cannot plug into an inverter generator.
To work out the size of generator you need, start by looking at the appliances you want to run and how much power each appliance needs (in watts) to run. Total up your load at one time (in watts), and add 10-20 percent on top to cope with the surge needed to start up an appliance. The answer is a rough guide for your ideal generator power, in running watts. Based on this, you should start looking for either a small portable inverter generator or a larger model.
Inverter generators still burn fuel to produce electricity. And that combustion still produces noxious waste products like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. For that reason, there are some definite safety tips you should be aware of when it comes to inverter generators:
• Start It Up Safely
Every generator has its own particular set of startup steps. Some require you to unplug everything from the generator. Whatever they are, follow them.
• Turn Things on in Turn
After your generator has started, don’t turn on everything you’ve plugged in at once. Some inverter generators will have a startup wattage associated with them and you don’t want to stack those on top of each other. If you do, you might end up blowing the inverter generator’s circuit breaker. Turn the items on one at a time and let them power up if they need to before moving on to the next item.
• Operate Outdoors or in Well-Ventilated Areas
Inverter generators produce carbon monoxide, and the last thing you want is for you or your loved ones to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless and colorless gas can overwhelm you with little notice, resulting in death in the worst cases.
• Be Careful with Fuel
Generators are unique in that they have hazards associated with them for both fuel and electricity.
- Gasoline - Never shake up a container that has gasoline in it, as this can cause easily flammable fumes to come out. Never overfill the gas tank, and never add gasoline to the generator while it is running. Turn off the generator and let it cool down completely before adding fuel. Never smoke near a gasoline powered inverter generator.
- Propane – Make sure that the nozzles and regulator are in good repair. The tank itself should also be in good shape with no rusting or pitting. These can cause the tank to rupture, which can cause major injuries or even death.
- Electricity – as with most electrical items, make sure that you don’t handle the generator with wet hands. Likewise, don’t handle the plugs or sockets when you are damp or standing in water. If the inverter generator doesn’t have socket covers, consider investing in them.
Get a CO Safety Cutoff
One of the best new safety features to come out of research and development with inverter generators has to be the carbon monoxide safety switch. This safety cutoff will stop the generator from running if it detects excessive levels of carbon monoxide. Any unit with this design is going to be among the best inverter generators for the money.
According to Consumer Reports, over 900 people have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators from 2005 to 2017. In 93 percent of those deaths, the generator was inside of the deceased person’s living space. A single generator can emit hundreds of times more carbon monoxide than an idling car and carbon monoxide is deadly.
Not only are some inverter generators designed with cutoff switches for higher levels of carbon monoxide, there are some that have engines designed to emit less carbon monoxide in the first place.
Other Safety Tips
- Even portable inverter generators run hot. Be careful with small children and pets while the generator is in operation. Ensure that kids are not left unsupervised while the generator is running.
- Never connect a generator to your home’s electrical lines or to a standard household outlet. While there are generators designed to supplement your home’s electrical grid, they are specially designed and installed.
- Don't overload the generator. Calculate the wattage load that you have on the generator and ensure that you never exceed the number of standard running watts.
- Properly ground your generator at all times. If you don’t you or anyone who uses the generator can be lethally shocked.
- Maintain at least five feet of clearance on all sides of the generator at all times while it is in operation.
That may seem like quite a few safety tips, but when it comes to something that creates electricity and can injure you in so many different ways, it pays to be careful.
Even the best inverter won't be zero maintenance, and when you purchase a piece of equipment as valuable and as hard working as an inverter generator, you want to make sure that you take good care of it.
When it comes to maintaining an inverter generator, there are two times when it’s important: when you’re taking it out of storage for use and when you’re putting it back into storage. It's the same whether you have a small portable generator or a larger model.
Taking a Generator Out of Storage
When you’re taking an inverter generator out of storage for the first time, there are some checks you should be doing right away. Here is a short list that will help you walk through this important time.
• Check the outlets – If it’s been a while since you’ve run your generator, you’ll be surprised at where enterprising insects will set up shop. Make sure that there is nothing in the plugs so that you don’t get any nasty shorts or shocks when you plug something in.
• Change the oil – You should have changed the oil before you put it away into storage. Oil left to its own devices will start to break down and not lubricate as well as it should.
• Inspect the gas tank – The gas tank should have been emptied before it was put away or stabilizers added. If it wasn’t, you’re going to have to take some time to clean the old gas out to avoid damaging the generator.
• Check the spark plug – The spark plug in your inverter generator is what’s going to give you a nice clean start. Take the old one out and head to your local auto shop to have it checked. Replace the spark plug wire if necessary.
• Look at the pull starter cord – Pull out the starter cord slowly and take a look at it. You want to be sure that the exterior isn’t worn or frayed, which might make it break.
Storing a Generator
There are a number of reasons why you might be putting your generator into long term storage. You might be moving. You might have your generator at your winter home in Florida and be heading back north for the spring. Whatever the reason, when you put it away, follow these steps to make taking it out of storage next season as painless as possible.
• Drain the gas tank – you can use a siphon or a hand pump to make this easy. If you don’t want to drain the gas tank, then add stabilizer like Stabil or Sea Foam. Those prevent gasoline from breaking down while you’re gone.
• Clean the entire thing. You want to make sure it looks brand new. Wipe away any oil residue, dirt or other spots, and lightly oil any exposed rubber fittings to keep them from cracking.
• Invest in a cover – When you put your inverter generator away, put it up off of the ground. A couple of old tires and a sheet of plywood will serve nicely. That keeps most mice and other vermin from being tempted to nest in it. Get a nice cover and wrap it to protect it as well.
• Disconnect the spark plug wire – Make sure that the wire is stowed where it cannot contact the plug accidentally. Use duct tape to fasten it securely.
That’s it! When you take the time to store your inverter generator properly, you have the peace of mind of knowing that it will be ready to go when you need it.
Even if you aren’t using it, you should run your inverter generator at regular intervals. Take it out every month and run it for a half-hour just to keep the electric starter (if there is one) fully charged. Plus, you’ll know that your inverter generator is running well so when you do need it, it’s ready to go.
Inverter Generator Comparison Chart
|Generac 7117 GP2200i||3700 Watts with 4500 Peak Watt||Gas Powered||46 lbs||9|
|Westinghouse iGen4500DF||3700 Rated Watts & 4500 Peak Watts||Dual Fuel||104.1 pounds||9|
|A-iPower SUA2000iV||1700 Watts with 2200 Peak Watt||Gas Powered||50 lbs||9|
|Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000||2600 Watts with 3000 Peak Watt||Gas Powered||96 lbs||8|
Inverter generators are a great thing to have. Whether you’re getting one because you live in hurricane territory or because you think winter storms are going to be terrible, shopping for the best inverter takes time and effort. Hopefully, after reading our guide, you're now in a better position to choose the best inverter generator for your needs.
- 1 Inverter Generator Reviews
- 2 Inverter Generator Buying Guide
- 2.1 Inverter Vs Conventional Generators
- 2.2 Important Things to Consider
- 2.3 Advantages of Inverter Generators
- 2.4 Disadvantages of Inverter Generators
- 2.5 What Can You Run on an Inverter Generator?
- 2.6 Safety Tips
- 2.7 Maintenance
- 2.8 Taking a Generator Out of Storage
- 2.9 Storing a Generator
- 3 Inverter Generator Comparison Chart
- 4 Conclusion