A Portable Inverter Generator Provides Clean, High Quality Power
A portable inverter generator produces clean power that you can use for your sensitive electronics. Find out how they work and what models I recommend.
I use my computer every day. I work on my computer, I play on my computer, I talk to friends and family on my computer. A day or two without it is sometimes a nice break, especially on vacation or spending a weekend outdoors with the family. I always plan for these outings and if I don’t have access to email I’ll put an “Out of Office” message up so that people won’t expect a response immediately. However when there’s a power outage and you can’t use your computer, emails pile up, and you look unresponsive. The customer in Florida knows nothing about the ice storm that just hit and knocked out the power where you live in upstate New York and doesn’t really care about it.
Now to restore power to the essential items in your home you need a portable generator. However the thing that most people don’t know is that many portable generators are not safe to use with sensitive electronics like your computer or laptop. Plus if you work on a jobsite with variable speed tools you won’t be able to use them with a standard portable generator, only an inverter style model. Standard generators put out power that is not as clean as what your power company puts out and hence can damage the small components in your electronics.
Nothing sucks more than losing your computer data. You can use surge protectors with many generators, which will lessen the risk of a circuit damaging surge of power, however to be truly sure that you get clean power from your generator you need to purchase an inverter style generator. These machines are more expensive than conventional portable generators, although the price has come down significantly in the last few years. However they will provide you with peace of mind when using electronic devices. If your power is out for several days and you depend on your computer for work then you need to get safe, clean electricity to it to get it up and running. You need a portable inverter generator. Plus you’ll be able to stay up to date with all your friends on Facebook while the crews get the power restored.
In the rest of this article I discuss how inverter style generators work, what to look for when shopping for one, and a couple of the best models on the market.
How Portable Inverter Generators Work
The portable inverter generator is different from the common place conventional generator. It uses a different kind of alternator which produces a 3 phase AC power. The AC power is then converted to DC current which is reconverted to 120 volt AC current. The reconversion to AC is called inversion and it is where the generator gets its name from. The end result is cleaner than what your average conventional generator would produce.
A portable inverter generator uses special microprocessor chips, to take raw power from an onboard generator and refine it. Inverter machines use Neodymium magnets instead of the ordinary brushes used in conventional generators but their functionality is the same. The engines in the portable inverter generator vary in terms of speed depending on the load required in a process called load matching. This makes them more fuel efficient hence more environmentally friendly or clean. This means that when you plug in your laptop, the inverter style generator will produce less power than if you have your washing machine plugged in. Many standard portable generators will produce the same amount of power regardless of the power need of the device. This is wasteful and inefficient.
Different models, however, use different types of kinetic or mechanical energy for their conversion. There are three different types of inverter style portable generators available; sine wave, square wave and modified sine wave inverters. The square wave inverter is useful for powering heavy universal motors and is the cheapest of the lot. This is an early stage technology and is slowly being phased out so you won’t see a lot of them around.
The modified sine wave inverter generates power in a similar fashion but in the form of a wave. It is recommended for all equipment with the exception of multi speed power drills, temperature control and digital timer appliances. This is because the speeds will be inconsistent and the appliances will not function normally.
A sine wave inverter is the best of all and is essentially no different in terms of output to the power that comes from the electric company. This is because the power company and a sine wave inverter create wave energy through similar AC machinery. A sine wave inverter is the most preferred of all three types because it works with all appliances, including sensitive laptops, DVD players, and digital widescreen TVs, as well as variable speed tools. Sine wave inverter generators are a bit costly but well worth every dime in terms of their quality and range of application.
The video below from Yamaha explains the difference between inverter style generators and regular generators. It promotes the Yamaha brand pretty heavily, but as you’ll see as you read the rest of this article, Yamaha is clearly the leader in the inverter style generator category.
Portable Inverter Generator Shopping Guide
A few things should be considered when purchasing a portable inverter generator. They include price, load variation, the purpose you plan on using the machine for, and noise levels. Remember you should always select a portable generator based on your expected power requirements. This means adding up the wattages of all of the appliances and tools you expect to need on the jobsite or during a power outage. You can learn more in my buyer’s guide on Choosing A Portable Generator.
In terms of price, it is prudent to buy an inverter that meets your budget. This goes beyond the buying price but also includes maintenance costs and fuel. You should look at an inverter generator as an investment. If you want a quiet, fuel efficient portable generator that can safely power sensitive electronics, then an inverter style model is the best choice.
Another thing you should look for is multiple outlets for plugging in your devices. Your ideal generator should have several AC outlets for powering your gadgets, and a DC outlet for charging batteries for example. Many portable inverter generators also come with locking outlets where you can’t accidentally pull out the power cord. These are ideal for job sites.
CARB compliant devices are also nice to have. If you live in California they are a must have, you can’t use a non-CARB compliant device in the state. If you live outside of California then a CARB compliant device is good to have because it has reduced emission levels and is generally better for the environment than a non-compliant generator.
You should also look at portability. You want your portable generator lightweight and easy to move around. Most inverter style generators are going to be smaller and lighter than a conventional generator of the same wattage output. Inverter generators are also very popular to take out camping or RV’ing because of their compact size and light weight. Most are less than 50 pounds and many have easy grip handles for carrying.
Advantages Of Inverter Generators
The advantages of the portable inverter generators are many in comparison to ordinary generators.
- Much quieter than conventional generators – So they are great to use out camping or in an RV park.
- Carry a varied bulk of load – This means you can use variable speed tools on the jobsite without any problems.
- Portable and lightweight – Most models in the lower wattage range weigh 50 pounds or less, which is less is comparison to other conventional portable generators.
- Provide greater output for the same amount of gas fuel input when compared to standard generators. This means their engines are more fuel efficient.
- More environmental friendly compared to conventional generators. They produce fewer harmful emissions.
- A higher value for your money. In terms out the output and quality of the electricity they produce, they are a very good investment.
- Need little or no maintenance. Everything is so efficient and well designed on these machines, maintenance is limited to simple oil and filter changes.
The next time a power outage occurs, or you plan to go fishing or camping or have any other need for power, make sure you have a portable inverter generator for a peaceful, fluctuation free and consistent power supply.
On the flipside, portable inverter generators are more costly than the ordinary generators. Also you won’t see any large capacity models on the market yet. It’s just not cost effective at this time to produce models that offer output over 7,000 watts. Most models on the market at this time are under 3,300 watts. However as the technology to produce these machines improves you’ll see output capacity increase and prices go down.
If you find that your power requirements exceed 7,000 watts then you’ll need to go with a conventional generator. Of course you can always use a smaller inverter generator to power just a few items, like your computer, and have a larger generator to handle everything else.
The Best Portable Inverter Generator Models and Their Features
There are a number of really high quality models out there that get top ratings from owners. I’ve broken these top models out based on max wattage output. As you can see, Yamaha is the clear winner here in all categories. They have really concentrated on improving the technology behind their inverter portable generators and the advances really show. They clearly have a superior product that gets fantastic reviews from owners. Folks feel that they have made an excellent investment in their Yamaha machines.
The Best Portable Inverter Generator – 2,000 watts and under
At 2,000 maximum watts of output you’ll be able to power many appliances in your home including your TV, microwave, refrigerator and freezer, and your desktop computer and printer. The best model I found in this category is the Yamaha EF2000iS Portable Inverter generator.
This machine is CARB compliant and highly fuel efficient. You can run it for over 10.5 hours in economy mode. It produces pure sine wave electricity which is identical to what your power company puts out. It produces power to match the load placed on it using a specially designed engine and alternator. It’s only 44 pounds so it’s simple to carry around and it comes with two 120 volt AC outlets and an 8 amp 12 volt DC outlet that can be used to charge batteries. It’s simple to use and start. What’s more, it can be paired with an identical Yamaha inverter to increase the power capacity twofold. You can easily connect two machines in a chain to boost your power needs.
This model gets rave reviews on many different websites. On Amazon.com alone, the Yamaha EF2000iS as over 60 customer reviews with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. It is one of the highest rated of all types of portable generators, inverted and standard. I have a full in-depth Yamaha EF2000iS Portable Generator Review on this site if you want to read more about. Click here to check for the best price for the Yamaha EF2000iS Portable Inverter Generator.
Best Model Over 3,000 Watts
The next class up is 3,000 max watts generators. You’ll be able to add on a few more appliances and tools with the additional 1,000 watts in power. I found another Yamaha model here that gets very high ratings and offers the same major features and benefits as the EF2000iS. The Yamaha EF3000iS is also CARB compliant and has a four stroke overhead valve engine. You get an electric start with this model so you won’t need to pull any starter to get things going.
The EF3000iS has the same high quality sine wave generated power that is safe to use on all your electronic equipment. The design of this machine ensures that it will operate quietly, much quieter than standard portable generators in the 3,000 watt category. At a quarter load in the economy mode you’ll get 20.5 hours of continuous run time with this machine, which is pretty outstanding.
Click here to learn more about this model and find the best price for the Yamaha EF3000iSE 3,000 Watt Portable Inverter Generator.
Best Inverter Generator Over 6,000 Watts
Yamaha again makes the top here with the EF6300iSDE. This model is also CARB compliant and has an electric start. It’s a bit heavier than the other lower wattage models so it has 4 wheels to help with moving it around. You’ll find it produces the same pure sine wave electrical power as the other Yamaha models, so that you can safely run all of your electronics including variable speed power tools.
There are a couple of unique features on this model that I find interesting. You can buy an optional remote control that will start and stop the machine from as far away as 65 feet. It also has a power meter on the control panel that shows how much power you are currently drawing out of the machine and how much more power is available to run additional appliances.
Because of its extremely low emission levels and its efficient engine, both CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have given this generator their highest ratings.
Click here to read more details and find the best price for the Yamaha EF6300iSDE Portable Inverter Generator.