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The Difference Between Inverter and Conventional Generators

Mike Jeffries | September 28, 2020

Despite the differences between inverter and conventional types of generators, both are some of the most popular types that people consider when choosing which generator is right for them. How can you decide which one to buy? Consider some of these key differences.

Related Blog: Frequently Asked Questions about Generators

Conventional Generators

A conventional generator is essentially a fuel-powered engine that is attached to an alternator and produces an electrical output. Most of the conventional generators run on either gasoline, diesel, or propane fuels. There are hybrid conventional generators that run on a combination of fossil-fuels (gasoline, diesel) and either propane or natural gas. The units that are specifically designed for operation on natural gas or the larger whole-house generators that are labeled as standalone, or standby generators. 

These engine generators are designed to operate at 3600 RPM which produces 120 volts at 60 hertz. One of the main drawbacks from these types of generators is that the fuel powered engine cannot maintain a constant 3600 RPM. This also causes the voltage as well as the hertz to fluctuate.

This fluctuation is called harmonic distortion and is the root cause of engine generated power not being referred to as 'clean electricity.'

Clean electricity is the type of energy required by sensitive electrical items such as laptop or desktop computers, DSLR cameras, mobile phones, etc. Also, not being able to maintain a constant 3600 RPMs are the reason that generators are so noisy.

The best way to correlate the run time and wattage capacity is pretty straightforward. The larger the fuel tank, the larger the capacity and the runtime.

Inverter Generators

The principle behind inverter generators is basically the same as conventional ones. They operate on a fuel fed engine that provides an electrical current to the alternator. That is where the similarities end.

Remember that the main issue with the conventional generator was the harmonic distortion from all the engine's fluctuations. Those fluctuations are not present in an inverter generator.

After the power leaves the alternator, it is fed into an onboard battery. The power is converted from the AC electrical output of the engine, to the DC output of the alternator into the battery. The battery power is then inverted back to AC where it maintains a constant 120 volts 60 hertz current without any harmonic distortion.

These inverter generators have several more moving parts than their conventional counterparts and are quite a bit more expensive due to the inverting of the power from its original version to a more user-friendly constant version. And by incorporating the battery storage device, there are no down times on inverter generators for refueling purposes.

Inverter generators are more ideally suited for any application that requires a constant energy source such as sensitive electronics and of course any pertinent medical equipment needed for basic life support type systems such as respirators or ventilators.


Choosing which type of generator is the right choice for you depends mostly on your specific needs and requirements. If you have any questions about generators or generator repair, contact us today to speak with an expert member of our team.

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