During that time various innovations have allowed, not only large expansive electrical grids to occur, but there have been innovations in portable power generation as well.
One of the biggest and most recent innovations has been the advent of inverter power generation. Inverter generation differs from conventional generation in a myriad number of ways and has several advantages over more conventional portable power generation technologies. However, the largest disadvantage is cost.
Conventional Versus Inverter Generation
For the portable market, a typical generator consists of an small engine that supplies the mechanical energy and is connected to an alternator that takes this mechanical energy and turns it into power.
It also is run through several circuit breakers and most often a voltage regulator that maintains consistent power. In the case of an inverter generator, the mechanical energy from the engine is still supplied to an alternator but the electrical energy is then passed through an inverter that changes the current from Alternating Current, (AC) to Direct Current, (DC) and then passed through again to convert the DC power back to AC.
This produces the effect of evening out any variations in the power distribution curve. To place that in layman’s terms, it produces a clean, near perfect sine wave of 60 Hertz electrical energy.
Clean Power is Sensitive Power
Modern electronics, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and even medical equipment rely on clean power. This means the power can vary little, or specifically have a extremely small Total Harmonic Distortion or THD.
A variance of even a small degree, say more than 5 percent, can fry these types of electronics or cause various system issues and failures. Most conventional generators deal with this by using an AVR or Automatic Voltage Regulation system to keep the THD small, in some cases down to 1 Percent with a variance up to 6 percent depending on model.
With an inverter generator, the THD is often less than 1 percent THD. That is not to imply that conventional generators will necessarily destroy phones, and laptops only that for better and more consistent power, the inverter generator is superior in that regard.
Small and Compact
Another advantage over conventional portable power generation is that inverter generators are very compact and small. A 1000 Watt continuous inverter generator can weigh less than 30 pounds. Comparable generators can weigh up to 45 percent more.
This makes taking a inverter generator easy for camping trips, road trips, RV use or anywhere portable, electric power is needed. Even the large output inverter generators are more compact than comparable portable power generators.
On a conventional generator, often the power output stays the same. So if the generator is producing 4500 Watts, that is what is being produced all the time. So if you only use have the electrical output the run time is longer. Which is why most generators estimate run time at half load.
Inverter generators vary the idle based on the load or more specifically, regulate the amount of mechanical energy necessary to match the electrical demand. This means that the smaller the demand the longer the run time. Inverter generators use two modes of operation, as a rule of thumb, Eco mode and High Mode. Eco mode is for low demand and High is when half the output or more is needed. The overall effect is more efficient use of fuel and a longer run time than conventional portable generators.
When a person uses a conventional generator, its rating is what they get. There is no way to link conventional generators to increase the overall output. However, inverter generators can be linked in parallel to increase the overall output.
Four 1000 Watt inverter generators linked in parallel will produce a final output of 4000 Watts. This means that the power is scalable to the demand, which is something conventional generators can not do. While this might not seem an obvious advantage but imagine multiple families on a camping trip.
With multiple inverter generators, they can be linked, (If the models allow it.) and more power produced and therefore can support a higher demand. The same can be useful on a job site, where the power demands can increase depending on the size of job and tools needed.
It Isn’t All Cupcakes and Sunshine
There is a disadvantage to inverter generators and that is cost. An inverter generator can cost as much as double or close to three time the amount of a conventional generator. This is certainly the case when the power is increased. A 5000 Watt invertor is close to three times that of a comparable conventional portable generator.
Another potential disadvantage depends on circumstances, that is there is more to go wrong, parts wise inside a inverter generator as opposed to a conventional portable generator. That does not mean they are not of high quality, most are, but on a job site or subject to the elements, they can be damaged easier. Again, this is circumstantial and should not be considered and overall disadvantage.
Overall, Inverter generators are an excellent, albeit recent addition to the portable generator market. They are light weight, extremely portable and produce, very clean, power for sensitive electronics. They are variable in that they adjust to thedemand and can scale to meet a larger demand by being linked parallel.
This makes them versatile and very easy to use and can be used anywhere there is a demand for portable power, Camping, in the RV, on the road, at the job site or even for portable, emergency backup power for the home.
As far as the disadvantage, over time and as more and more manufacturers bring more and more inverter generators to the market and most successive generations of the models also come out, the price should eventually fall.