The Don Rowe Blog
Inverters Or Generators?
An inverter is a power conversion device that turns the stored DC energy from batteries into usable AC power. With AC power, appliances and tools can be used in remote areas as well as on boats, planes, RV’s, tractors and trucks. Appliances such as computers, DVD players and small televisions are only a few types of electrical devices that can be used in any vehicle in any location, thanks to power inverters. Batteries are the inverter’s fuel supply; and a power inverter will provide 120 Volt AC power as long as there is adequate ‘juice’ within the battery or batteries supplying DC power.
When it comes to vehicles, let’s take boats, as an example. By supplying 120 Volt AC power, shore power and generators are not required, although typically, many boaters have both a generator and inverter on board. The question might be asked, “Why not just use a generator for every type of electrical need?” Simply put, generators work well with electrical loads that operate for prolonged periods of time, such as air-conditioners; while inverters are a better choice for intermittent loads or smaller long-term loads. Generators are expensive to buy, install and maintain; and due to their design, make a lot of noise. Inverters, on the other hand, cost much less to install and are entirely noise-free.
Inverters Verses Generators—It Depends On Need:
Whether one chooses just an inverter or just a generator or both, the choice will depend on one’s power requirements and one’s personal preferences.
As mentioned, generators are known for their ability to produce large quantities of continuous power—in other words, applications that are high-load with prolonged-use. If you have a large, stationary freezer full of venison and fresh-water trout at your off-the-grid cabin, a generator would probably be your best bet. Generators are good at taking fuel and creating lots of kilowatt hours of electrical power.
The down side of generators, however, is the fact they are expensive not only to purchase, but to run and maintain. Generators necessitate fuel and an exhaust system; and maintenance is required of not only the generator’s engine, but the generator itself. Additionally, the AC output can be compromised if an impurity is introduced into the generator’s fuel supply which would, predictably, produce irregular running, resulting in spikes or surges of electricity. This, in turn, could cause permanent damage to sensitive equipment such as computers or printers. Also, because generators consume fuel, they can pollute the environment; and when one begins to weigh the pollution issues versus the benefits, it can become problematic for a number of people.
Good quality sine wave inverters provide better performance and noticeable cost savings over generators. Power inverters do not use fuel, lubricants or moving parts like generators do; and they produce very little heat and do not create noise or pollutants. Additionally, inverters are extremely efficient compared to generators; and consume DC power only in direct relation to the amount of power they put out.
The size-to-power output ratio is typically much higher for an inverter; and this is a good thing, allowing inverters to be much more compact units. Comparatively, generators tend to be large and bulky and require a specified area due to their size, with even more space needed for proper ventilation. If you were to look at power inverters where the outputs ranged from 3000 watts to 5000 watts and then chose a generator that matched that peak output, you would find the generator to be many times the size of the much smaller inverter. Bottom line: for a lot of people, size does matter; and in this case, the smaller the better!