Inverter generators are a type of portable power source that have become increasingly popular in recent years. They offer several advantages over other types of portable generators, making them a good choice for anyone who needs backup power, especially those that need to keep the noise to a minimum. If you’re curious about this type of generators and whether they might be right for you, read on to learn more about what they are and their advantages.

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.

Inverter vs. Traditional Generator

In a traditional 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?

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 inverter 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

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.

They 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.

They are more fuel-efficient.

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.

They are safe for 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.

They are more environmentally friendly.

Because they don’t have the constant high RPMs of traditional generators, they tend to be significantly quieter, which is particularly beneficial in residential areas. In addition, many models meet EPA and CARB emission standards, which means that they produce less harmful emissions.

Parallel capability

If you need some extra juice, you no longer have to upgrade your entire generator. With this generators, two units can be linked together to provide more power as needed. Simply buy a second generator, along with a parallel connection kit, to increase the total wattage output of each individual outlet. Now, you no longer need a huge, bulky, traditional generator in order to get some serious power.

parallel capability generators

Cons of This Type of Generators

They are expensive.

Inverter generators tend to be on the more expensive side of generator options, but as mentioned above, there are plenty technical advantages that justify the price. In addition, as they become more popular, competition will likely drive prices down.

They are less powerful.

This  generators have a maximum surge rating which is slightly lower than traditional generators, this means that they can’t be used to power appliances such as air conditioners or dryers. However, with a little research many appliances which are normally used in a commercial kitchen can be powered by an inverter.

They aren’t for everyone.

Thet are designed primarily for people who need something a little more quiet, compact, and efficient. If you really need copious amounts of power from a generator for things such as construction sites or large events, like concerts, an inverter generator would not be appropriate.

power generators

Are inverter generators safe?

Portable generators have long concerned safety advocates because their engines emit carbon monoxide (CO) at a high rate, and people might not be aware of the hazard posed by the deadly gas, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, some new generators have engines that emit less CO in the first place, and some also feature a built-in sensor that triggers an automatic shutoff if the gas builds up to dangerous levels in an enclosed space. These are the safety features that save lives, but all generators do require some care and attention when running them.

Just like any other machine or tool with an engine, a generator should never be operated in an enclosed space. Even small amounts of CO can build up and cause injury or even death. Also, no appliance should be operated without proper ventilation; that includes generators.

How much do they cost?

The price of inverter generators ranges from a couple hundred dollars to few thousands. If money isn’t an issue then inverter models made by well-known brands such as Honda tend to offer better quality and performance at lower costs. If you’re on a tight budget or just looking for something reliable that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, there are some excellent cheaper alternatives, like WEN or Westinghouse, that will suit your needs and end up costing less than $1000.

Are inverter generators worth it?

Well, the answer to this question depends on your individual situation. The right generator for you depends on your needs, including the types of devices you want to power, how much power you need, acceptable noise level and more.

As you can see, inverter generators have plenty of benefits which make them a solid investment for food truck owners who want to ensure that their business is running smoothly (and quietly) at all times. They are a lighter, more efficient technology that helps you get the most out of every single watt.