Traditional Generator vs. Inverter Generator – Which Is the Best Choice for You?

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Inverter and traditional fossil fuel generators are both popular options for providing portable power. However, essential differences may make one a better choice for you than the other. 

Inverter generators are a newer, more advanced technology — typically burning less fuel to produce cleaner power than ordinary gas or diesel generators. Unlike traditional generators, inverters adjust their engine speed to match the power demand, providing greater fuel efficiency and less noise. 

When choosing between an inverter and a conventional fossil fuel generator, consider your intended use, power output, and consumption needs — and your budget.

What Is a Generator?

Traditional generators are machines that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. A generator provides an alternate power source during a power outage or allows off-grid use of electric devices. Backup generators are suitable for various applications in homes, businesses, and hospitals. 

There are numerous types of generators available that run on different fuel sources. Examples include gasoline, propane, diesel, natural glass, dual fuel, and solar.

Fuel Type

Gasoline Generators

Gasoline generators are widely available and used for various residential and light commercial applications. They’re typically less expensive than propane or dual fuel options and are easy to find at most hardware stores. Unfortunately, they leave you exposed to fluctuations in gas prices and can be more costly to operate than other options over the long term.

Propane Generators

Propane generators run on propane, a cleaner-burning fossil fuel that produces fewer emissions than gasoline and diesel. In industrial and commercial applications, consistency in power output often requires the use of propane. They’re also helpful for emergencies where power may be out for an extended period or off-grid applications. You can store propane for more extended periods than gas. 

Dual Fuel Generators 

Dual fuel generators run on two fuel types, such as propane (LPG) and gasoline. EcoFlow’s Smart Generator (Dual Fuel) is one example. The Smart Generator integrates seamlessly with EcoFlow’s EcoFlow DELTA Max and EcoFlow DELTA Pro solar generators to provide a last line of defense when solar power generation or storage is insufficient to meet your needs. 

Even if you generate most of your electricity using solar panels, adding an advanced dual fuel generator to your home ecosystem gives you added resilience and additional options in case of an extended power outage. 

Solar Generators

Solar generators use solar panels to convert solar energy into DC power and an inverter to convert DC into AC (household) electricity. Solar is the best option for those wanting to use clean, renewable energy. Solar generators are ideal for home backup power, camping, RVing, and other off-grid activities. You can even use solar power to completely eliminate your reliance on the electrical grid. 

The EcoFlow RIVER 2 Pro is a prime example of a compact solar generator that offers electricity on the go. If you want a more robust energy backup solution, you can opt for a higher power output and storage capacity model like the EcoFlow DELTA Pro. EcoFlow RIVER 2 and EcoFlow DELTA solar generators come with a wide variety of solar panel options to meet your electricity needs without burning fossil fuels.

What Is an Inverter Generator?

An inverter generator uses less fuel to generate stable power through advanced technology. By throttling fuel use to meet demand — instead of always running at maximum capacity — it can help save on fuel costs and reduce toxic emissions.

Inverter technology allows a generator to produce energy with less than 3% total harmonic distortion. In simple terms, this means the inverter produces more stable AC power than traditional combustion generators. It’s more suitable for sensitive electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions. 

Additionally, their advanced technology makes inverter generators lighter and more portable than traditional generators. They’re a viable option for camping, RVing, and other off-grid activities.

Benefits of an Inverter Generator

An inverter generator offers several benefits over a traditional generator, including:

  • Quieter operation than traditional portable generators, ideal for residential and off-grid use.
  • Enhanced fuel efficiency due to advanced technology adjusting engine speed to match power demand.
  • Compact and lightweight, making them more portable and easy to store for outdoor activities.
  • Parallel compatibility allows the connection of multiple units for increased power.
  • Delivers cleaner power suitable for sensitive electronic equipment and medical devices.
  • Produces fewer emissions, promoting a healthier environment.

Less Noise 

Inverters have advanced technology that allows them to run at a lower noise level than traditional generators. This reduced noise level makes them better suited for use in residential areas, camping, and other off-grid activities where noise pollution is a concern.

Parallel Compatibility

Many inverters come with parallel compatibility, allowing you to connect two or more inverters together to increase power output. Increased power output is helpful for applications where you’re powering high-wattage appliances and multiple devices simultaneously.

Fuel Efficiency 

Inverters adjust their engine speed to match the power demand, leading to greater fuel efficiency. You can typically run the generator for longer on the same amount of fuel, saving you money in the long run.

Portability

Inverters are usually smaller and lighter than traditional generators, making them more portable and easy to store. This makes them a solid choice for camping, RVing, and other outdoor activities where space is limited.

Low Emissions

The design of an inverter results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and is more environmentally friendly than a traditional generator. However, they still can’t match the zero-emission operation of a solar generator like the EcoFlow DELTA Pro, which can run solely on clean, renewable solar power. 

Key Differences Between Inverter Generators and Traditional Generators

FeatureInverter GeneratorsTraditional Generators
EnergyStores and reconvenes energy efficiently with less than 3% total harmonic distortion, converting DC to a stable AC power suitable for sensitive electronics.Converts the calorific value of fuel directly into electricity using mechanical rotations, which are less efficient and more suited for high power needs.
Size and PortabilityCompact and portable, ideal for camping, ranging from shoebox-sized to larger units, easy to store.Generally bulkier, difficult to move and transport, requiring more space.
WeightLighter, typically 30-50 pounds, enhancing portability for outdoor activities.Can weigh several hundred pounds, less portable.
Noise LevelOperates quietly, producing noise levels of 50-60 decibels, suitable for residential areas.Produces higher noise levels up to 80 decibels or more, causing noise pollution.
MaintenanceRequires less maintenance, has fewer moving parts, and often includes automatic shut-off features.Needs regular maintenance like oil changes and air filter replacements.

Size 

Inverters are more compact than traditional generators. They’re portable and easy to store, making them ideal for camping, RVing, and other outdoor activities where space may be limited. 

Inverters can be as small as a shoebox and easily carried by one person. They can also be much larger if you require more power. Traditional generators are usually bulkier in comparison. 

Weight 

Inverters are also lighter than traditional generators. They typically weigh between 30-50 pounds (13-22 kg), making them easy to transport. 

Portability makes inverters an excellent option for camping, RVing, and other outdoor activities. On the other hand, traditional generators can weigh up to several hundred pounds, making them difficult to move and transport.

Noise Level 

One of the main advantages of inverters is their lower noise level. They are significantly quieter than traditional generators, making them ideal for use in residential areas, camping, and other outdoor activities where noise pollution may be a concern. 

Inverters typically produce noise levels between 50-60 decibels, while traditional generators can produce noise levels of up to 80 decibels or higher. 

Having said that, solar generators are even quieter than any fossil fuel-powered option with their nearly-silent operation. With few moving parts, a portable power station and solar panels can replace the constant roar of a gas-powered engine. 

Maintenance

Inverter generators require less maintenance than traditional generators but have a smaller capacity. They also have fewer moving parts, and their advanced technology makes them more reliable. Inverters also often have built-in features such as automatic shut-off, which helps prevent damage and prolong the generator’s life. 

Traditional generators require regular maintenance, such as oil changes, air filter replacement, and spark plug replacement.

Solar generators require practically no maintenance, as they don’t burn fuel and rely on a combustion engine. 

Portability 

Inverters are more portable than traditional gas-powered ones due to their smaller size and lighter weight. They’re easy to transport and move around, ideal for camping, RVing, and other off-grid activities. 

Traditional generators burn through fuel more rapidly, leading to challenges with storing sufficient fuel for your off-grid needs.

If you opt for a solar generator, you’ll find the portable power station (PPS) compact and light enough to carry, ranging from 7.7 lbs (3.5kg) to just shy of 100 lbs (45kg). Pair the PPS with portable solar panels, and you have an excellent set-up for energy backup on the go.

Which Is the Right Option for You?

Ultimately, choosing between an inverter and a traditional generator will depend on your specific needs and intended use. For example, a conventional generator may be the better option if you need a heavy-duty machine and are okay with the added noise and maintenance. But an inverter or solar generator is the better choice if you need a portable and quiet electricity solution for camping, RVing, or other off-grid activities.

A solar generator is the best choice available if you’re ready to go green. 

EcoFlow is one of the biggest innovators in low-noise, pollution-free solar generators. Check out our clean, renewable energy solutions today.

ECOFLOW
ECOFLOWhttps://www.ecoflow.com/
EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

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