What is an Inverter Generator?
To explain what an inverter generator is and how it works, we need to start with a brief overview of how all generators produce power. Generators have two main parts – an engine and an alternator. The engine combusts fuel, like gasoline or propane, and turns a shaft. The alternator has two main components – a rotor and a stator. The engine shaft turns the rotor, which induces power in the stator. This power goes to the control panel, where it is used to power whatever you need – power tools, appliances, and more.
Traditional vs Inverter Generator
In a traditional power generator, the power produced by the alternator is fed (more or less) straight to the control panel. It may go through a voltage regulator or other protective devices, but the power is not necessarily “cleaned up”. Therefore, the power produced by a traditional generator has a higher total harmonic distortion (THD) than the power produced by an inverter generator.
An inverter works differently. The alternating current (AC) power produced by the alternator is sent to a rectifier, which is a device that converts the AC power to direct current (DC). This DC power is then inverted back to AC power by the computer inside the generator before it is sent to the control panel. This is where the name “inverter” comes from. Because the power to the control panel is controlled by the computer, they offer much lower THD than standard generators.
What is THD (Total Harmonic Distortion)?
THD, or total harmonic distortion, is a measure of how clean the power is. It is a measurement that tells you how much of the distortion of a voltage or current is due to harmonics in the signal. THD is an important consideration when powering sensitive devices, like smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions. These devices expect “clean” power (power that has low THD, like the power outlets in your home), and can be damaged if they receive high-THD power. Many generators use pure-sine-wave inverters, and as such, limit THD to under 1% in most cases, always under 3%. Traditional one can produce THD as high as 25% in some cases.
Advantages of Inverter Generators
If you have been shopping for a generator to power up you food truck, you have probably noticed that portable generators, especially closed-frame, cost nearly double the money as a traditional open frame generator. So, what exactly are you getting for your money?
Lower noise level than traditional generators
Historically, generators have had a bad rap for being loud and invasive during operation. Inverters, however, use advanced sound-dampening technology to keep noise to a minimum. With their closed sound-absorbing housing, they’re great for places where silence is important, such as camping, tailgating, or operating in residential area. Some smaller generators operates at a mere 51 decibels at half load, which quieter than a window fan or the average conversation.
Inverters are more compact
This generator types are also considerably smaller than their traditional counterparts. A 4000 watt closed-frame inverter generator is typically only about 4 feet long and weighs just over 30 pounds, which can be easily transported in the bed of a truck or trunk of a hatchback. This is a deciding factor for a food trailer more efficient than traditional generators. A typical closed frame business, where space is limited and every pound in the truck counts.
Fuel efficiency is much better
They have the ability to adjust the engine speed in response to load changes so that fuel can be saved when it isn’t needed, which makes them significantly more efficient than traditional generators.
Safer for connected electronics
Many sensitive electronics such as cellphones, computers, and TVs, require a “clean” power source to avoid being damaged during operation. In a traditional generator, the power is fed (more or less) straight from the engine to the control panel. This means that the created electricity is not necessarily “clean” power. With an inverter however, the power produced by the alternator is first sent through an inverter before being sent to the outlets. Although this limits the maximum output a generator can reach for a given engine size, it also allows for a reliable and consistent electricity source free of the voltage spikes of traditional generators. That means you can feel free to plug in whatever sensitive electronics you need without the fear of damage.