You’re looking into generators for your off-grid energy system, and you’ve seen that there is a distinct difference between inverter generators and conventional generators.
Now the inverter types come at a significant price increase. However, the salespeople and the brochures will tell you that they also come with many advantages and that they’re worth spending extra money on it.
To what extent is this just fancy sales talk?
What kind of real-life advantages can you expect from operating the inverter-type generator?
Therefore, is it worth spending your money on them?
So, this website aims to provide you an overview of the facts regarding inverter generator versus conventional generator technology and kind of poke through the marketing stories around them.
And we want to make sure that you have the relevant information you need to make the best decision for whichever generator is best for your setup.
So to keep this article brief and focused, there are four sections in this content: First, we look at the generator basics. We’ll then compare the inverter versus the conventional type of generator.
We’ll briefly look at the different fuel source options you have, and I’ll wrap up with conclusions and a few specific tips for you.
Let’s start by looking at the generator basics. It began with the Englishman called Michael Faraday in 1831; He figured out something referred to as Faraday’s law.
Basically, what it says is that if you take a magnetic field and conduct electricity, such as a copper wire, move the copper wire through the magnetic field. You have created an electric generator which makes electricity.
There are different kinds of electrical generators.
The ones that produce alternating current (AC) are referred to as alternators. You find them in your car. Or the ones that make direct current (DC) called dynamos: You can find them in portable devices such as radios such as the hand-cranked or flashlights.
Let’s move ahead and start comparing the inverter with the conventional type of generator.
Inverter Generators vs. Conventional Generators
Conventional Generators typically consist of an internal combustion engine driven by whichever kind of fuel source, which is then coupled to the actual electrical generator. The two of them together we refer to as the generator or Genset.
The result of the two components still being separate is that the whole unit can be relatively heavy or bulky.
Let’s explain the difference in the quality of electricity produced by a conventional generator and an inverter generator. Let’s try to do that by drawing an analogy between making electricity and making French fries.
So the conventional generators try to produce high-quality electrical output, so this is perfect French fries by controlling the engine speed and, therefore, the frequency or the internal magnetic field.
Consequently, the output voltage and, on average, are doing a pretty good job. But, whenever you’re changing something, loads on the generator, by turning on or off your air conditioning, your cooker, or whatever, you can hear that change in sound.
Whenever that happens, you are not making perfect French fries. Still, you’re making kind of messy, uneven potato wedges for a short period.
So remember this analogy, and we’ll get back to it later on when comparing it to the inverter generator.
The other thing which has to mention here is that they can be fairly noisy because they run at the same speed all the time.
It’s also important to realize that you get the best fuel efficiency out of them if you run them at full load.
If you run a generator at 50% of its load or less, you can spend twice the amount of fuel per amount of electricity produced than when it’s under full load.
Now let’s look at the inverter generator. The inverter generator’s basic layout is somewhat similar to the conventional type.
Instead of having a separate engine and a separate electrical generator, it is combined into one unit, for example, by using the flywheel of the engine and then using it to produce electricity directly.
So the obvious result is that the overall weight of the unit and the volume can be drastically reduced.
Now let’s look at how the electricity is being produced and how the quality is being controlled.
So this is where we get back to the French fries Topic: The inverter generator takes power produced and kind of messes it up to mashed potatoes and then makes this perfect French fries: It takes the AC power being produced, breaks it down to the DC power and then through an inverter builds it up to AC power again.
Therefore your output is very controlled, very stable, a perfect sinus waveform: frequency, output voltage, high-quality electricity: Perfect French fries.
So because of this, the inverter generator can run at lower speeds and therefore being less noisy, and if you run it at lower rates and lower loads, the fuel efficiency will be somewhat similar to the fuel efficiency when running it at higher loads.
Now the results of all of this are that an inverter generator can run at lower engine speeds while still providing high-quality power because you can run it at lower engine speeds: It can be less noisy if you’re running it at lower engine speeds your fuel efficiency will be still somewhat similar to that when you’re running it at full load.
Let’s briefly look at the different kinds of fuels that you could consider.
There are three different ones: You’ve got your diesel, got your petrol, gas, and gasoline, and the third one is LPG, bottled gas, propane, and they all refer to the same thing.
The energy density of diesel is slightly higher than that of petrol. Because diesel engines burn fuel more efficiently, you can typically expect a twenty to thirty percent reduction in the price you pay per unit of electricity.
The energy density of propane is significantly lower than that of gas, and often when you look in the details what you will pay for your propane if you’re using the conventional bottle exchange services, is that you’ll end up paying twice as much per unit of electricity used when you compare using propane versus conventional gas or petrol.
A few externalities, such as propane burns and handles just a lot cleaner than the liquid fuels, but the liquid fuels have a higher energy density, so you need less storage space.
And diesel engines require higher upfront investments, they are heavier and noisier, but their service life is just really amazing if you compare it to gasoline engines.
So this brings us to the conclusions. We give you four conclusions and a usage tip.
The inverter generators will give you a great advantage over conventional generators when you’re looking at the fuel cost under varying loads, which links directly to the Conclusion-2.
If you’re using your inverter generator under full load, and you’re comparing it to your conventional generator under full load, then they produce kind of the same amount of noise: They consume the same amount of fuel. It’s just that the inverter generator can create a little bit higher quality electrical output.
For inverter generators, their weight is less than the conventional generators due to the integration of components.
Operating your generator on bottled gas is due to the higher price still less cost-efficient when compared to running it on conventional petrol.
Tip for Usage
If you’re using an inverter generator and you have turned off the Eco throttle mode, then you’ve reduced its functionality to that of a conventional generator, and you’ve lost all the advantages that come with an inverter type of generator.