Skip to comments.Are inverter generators worth the higher price?
Posted on 07/03/2014 5:39:13 AM PDT by TurboZamboni
Theres nothing like the approach of a possible hurricane, such as this season's first named storm, Tropical Storm Arthur, to get everyone in its expected path thinking about generators. But for some prospective buyers, the noise and the quality of power that a portable generator supplies is a turn-off. Thats where an inverter model comes in. Using new technology, inverter generators deliver cleaner power and are typically quieter, lighter, and more energy efficient. But as Consumer Reports is learning in its ongoing generator tests, not every inverter generator is worth the 100-to-200-percent premium youll pay over the usual cost of a conventional portable.
We havent yet completed testing of the Honda EU7000is, Kipor Sinemaster IG6000h, and Yamaha EF6300iSDE. But limited testing has shown us that sometimes its features other than wattage and connection options that make a generator worth having.
Honda EU7000is. At $4,000, this is the most expensive of the three inverter generators were testing. But for usability, so far this one comes out on top.
(Excerpt) Read more at homes.yahoo.com ...
(bump & bookmark for reference)
If you can afford it, they are worth it. The generators in this class, like the Honda noted, are widely viewed as bullet proof. Really quiet, reliable and clean power.
Thanks for the reminder — I have been meaning to look into a PTO generator. The price has come *way* down. This one is probably Chinese, but it’s getting decent reviews.
Those people can sit in the dark then and watch their food go bad in their freezers.
If your home has natural gas, then convert your generator to NG. Also buy an 1800 rpm generator if possible. They last longer when used continuously and are quieter.
I have a friend that uses generators regularly to power some electronic equipment (laptops, radios, and the like) in remote locations. He swears by inverter generators - won’t plug his gear into anything else. (ie. no “construction” generators) He does tend to favor Honda generators. My experience with them and his gear is the Honda’s are amazingly quiet and work even above treeline. (where thin air can make some hard to start)
If you HAVE to have power that PTO generator is a nice HAVEPOWERANYWHERE tool. Not very fuel efficient, but weighed against losing 1500 hens in the heat or a year’s meat/veggies in a freezer, it’s a no-brainer.
Optionally a clever person CAN readily muffle/suppress the exhaust-side noise from a typical gas-powered generator either for convenience/sanity or OPSEC. Attic fibreglass insulation and a few left-over drop ceiling panels make a fine acoustic baffle box. You just have to be mindful of heat dissipation.
ALSO the quality of the power coming out of a generator from ANY provider in the consumer category can be pretty dirty and variable. The easy dual-purpose fix is to plug in a couple UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) that would normally protect a PC/server or home entertainment in your home on a day to day basis. Plugging these in in-between your Home Depot generator and your fridge and freezer WILL save them from what generators just naturally do. Be sure to have UPSs with sufficient Wattage/current throughput.
Lastly have a couple of the 2500 watt inverters that attach to your vehicles’ 12 volt batteries (one per vehicle). They produce *pretty good* power (generally square wave but steadier than a gas generator) so you don’t need the in-line UPS’s line conditioner a gas generator REQUIRES, and they can also go anywhere. A car or diesel truck burns fewer gallons per hour than an idling or set-throttle PTO generator, but will of course provide less power.
And from an OPSEC standpoint, and idling car driving 2500 steady watts of power to your freezer and fridge can’t be heard 50 feet away.
Here’s the deal on inverter generators...
On a regular generator, the frequency (60hz) is determined by the RPM of the engine. That RPM is either 1800 RPM for a 4 pole generator, or 3600 RPM for a 2 pole generator.
This speed must be maintained regardless of the load, and those speeds are not necessarily the speeds that give you the most fuel economy.
An inverter generator usually has a three phase AC alternator (similar to the one in your car or truck) which is rectified to produce a high DC voltage. This DC voltage feeds an inverter (like the ones you can by at Harbor Freight) and the inverter synthesizes the 60 HZ sine wave on the output.
This not only frees the engine to run at a speed that matches the horsepower to the load, but it also fixes power factor issues you have with generators.
The article doesn’t mention this, but some of the most expensive generators are inverter generators, but also some of the cheapest ones are inverter generators.
All of the (cheap) small, light 2 stroke generators are inverter generators. This is because 2 stroke engines are terribly inefficient at 3600 RPM.
Just curious - I had always thought the store-bought inverters produced ‘AC’ that was more square wave and less-so smooth sine wave.
referencing your remark “the inverter synthesizes the 60 HZ sine wave on the output”
Be nice if they did produce smooth sine wave. I don’t know; what say you?
>> Not very fuel efficient, but weighed against losing 1500 hens in the heat or a years meat/veggies in a freezer, its a no-brainer.
That’s what I was thinking. Its normal use would be occasional, when I need power out in the field; and then I have it in case of a serious power outage.
You’re right, fuel efficiency is a minus with a PTO setup. An offsetting plus is the fact that a dedicated generator engine is yet another piece of equipment to maintain (and test and run once in awhile and store and etc.) whereas there’s always a couple tractors around — that I already have to maintain. I KNOW they will start, and fuel for them is kept on hand naturally.
Another plus is that stockpiling diesel is safer, more efficient, and all-around easier. Plus I use enough to keep the stock fresh.
You have good points re: the car-operated small inverter for that “special” kind of emergency. ;-) Thanks for pointing that out.
>> I had always thought the store-bought inverters produced AC that was more square wave and less-so smooth sine wave.
Indeed, that used to be true. Technology marches on; newer inverter technology produces quite clean sine wave power.
That said, I’m sure you can still find cheap crappy square-wave inverters from *some* Chinese vendor. :-)
hmmm. Will check the specs on what I have. No longer have a scope to actually LOOK at the output. Last scope I connected was over 25 years ago ;-)
“Be nice if they did produce smooth sine wave. I dont know; what say you?”
Modern inverters do produce a sine wave. You just need more mosfets on the output.
Older inverters used power transistors and we didn’t have the digital circuitry to do the syntheses anyway.
inverter generator ping
I started my technical career using Tectronix 555 scopes. Used to turn them on first thing in the morning to warm up the lab.
I thought it was. I own a Honda Inverter. I paid about $3500 for a 6500 watt. You are not just paying for the inverter technology, but Honda’s engines are much better quality and they are much quieter. They always start. They do not burn oil. Their small power equipment is better than pretty much anything else made. The only product that was not that great was their riding lawn tractors(good engines, cheap everything else). Stihl is the only other small equipment worth buying.
The other difference is if you want to be able to run your big screen TV, especially a plasma.
IF you do not care about any of the above. Buy a Generac for about 1/3 the price.
LOL SOOOOOO true ;-)
But if you are the only one around with light and power...
the Zombies will gitcha....yikes!
Also, figure out what exactly you need to run, in the event of a power outage. IF you have natural gas or Propane already at your house spend the extra money and install one of those.
If you do not have a water well, you can probably get by with a 4500 watt gas generator.
The problem with gasoline generators is you need 10+ gallons of fuel to run it per day. Therefore, you need to have containers to HOLD 20+ gallons. The last time we had a major power outage here in NH there were only TWO gas stations that had power to run their pumps. The lines were a mile long at each.
If you have a propane or natural gas standby generator you do not have to worry about getting fuel to run it.
If you use oil to heat your home - buy a diesel generator.
You’ll have a 250 gallon tank of fuel in the basement ;)
I’m thinking if the grid goes down, natural gas in our house won’t work either?
Best motorcyle and mower I’ve ever owned were Hondas(as is my current 10 year old car)
If the grid goes down. The gas stations will not be able to run their pumps.
I am not sure about natural gas. However, if you have a full propane in a tank in your yard, it would take a couple weeks at least to run it dry.
I have owned:
Ariens self propelled walk behind mower (good quality)
John Deere LX 255 tractor (good quality)
John Deere RX75 rear engine rider (good quality)
Echo hedge gas hedge trimmer (cheap)
Echo weed wacker (good quality)not a HD model
Stihl chainsaw (very good)
Stihl straight shaft trimmer (very good)
Honda 20” snowblower (very good)
Simplicty by Allias Chambers 1972 28” snowblower (the beast)
Yamaha 125 motorcycle (my first bike)
Kawasaki KDX 175 motorcycle (very good)
Kawasaki KZ650 motorcycle (very good)
Yamaha Phazer 500 snowmobile(very reliable)
Honda 6500 inverter generator (very good)
3 Toyota Tacomas(1988,1999,2012) all very good
2 Volvo 240DLs(1976,1982) great motors, parts too expensive
Honda Odessey Minnivan(2008) great van wife’s ride
Honda Civic great little car, fun to drive, wife’s first ride
1996 Ford Explorer good truck, like driving a school bus, wife’s 2nd ride
1999 Lexus SC400 (only car I ever sold for the same as I paid for it) my midlife crisis car bought for $12.5K, sold for $12.3K a year later, great quality car
1975 GMC Pickup (my first vehicle) great motor, the rest rusted out.
quite a list. you must be my age.
the SC400 is a nice car. even today the styling is modern.
Thanks for that information.
you must be my age.
SC400 1998-2000, they added another intake and exhaust valve to each cylinder and increased the horsepower of the same V8 engine. They were overpriced to start with @ $60K.
You could have bought a 911 turbo for the same. I bought and sold mine on EBAY. It was a fun car to drive, but I found out that I am not really a fancy car guy. Someone ran into it in a parking lot 2 months after I bought it. After that I was always worried about where I parked it. Then the recession hit and I could not justify having something sitting around that I could only drive in the summer.
My next purchase will be a Kubota B series or L series loader/tractor with a finish mower and brush hog. The trouble is even 10 year old used they are still $10-17K. Some of them actually are selling for more than their original price from 10 years ago. It is all about how many hours they have and how they were maintained.
“quite a list”
I forgot two leaf blowers
1 Huscavarna (junk)I found out after I bought it, it was made by Poulan for Huscavarna . The ONLY thing they actually make are chainsaws. All the rest of their equipment they have the maker put their name on.
1 Stihl (very good)
This is a timely topic - I have been intensely researching inverter generators in particular for the past few days. I have been comparing brands, models and buyer reviews.
Here is my rationale: I live on the Gulf Coast and am always seeking improvements for hurricane readiness. The last Hurricane, Ike, knocked out power in my neighborhood for two weeks. That time, we used Coleman LED camping lanterns to see at night, cooked outside on a propane stove and sweltered in the heat. I vowed to be more comfortable next time and have already completed a number of improvements.
1) I installed a completely independent and parallel lighting system in my house that uses Cree LED bulbs powered by a cheap Harbor Freight 400 watt power inverter supplied by some deep-cycle golf cart batteries. The rooms are bright enough to read in comfortably. That system will run a week before the batteries have to be recharged.
2) I already have a conventional 2,000 watt camping generator that can charge the golf cart batteries and also run a freezer or a small A/C window unit (probably not at the same time). However, it is loud and consumes gas faster than I would like. After a hurricane, gas will be scare. I can only stockpile so much gas.
The inverter generators run at lower speeds under light loads, thus less wear and consuming less gas. They are quieter and generate pure sine-wave power at regulated voltage and perfect 60 Hz frequency.
I want to buy a very small inverter generator that would at least run the lights, fans and small appliances for extended periods after the 1st week without frequent refueling, particularly at night. External fuel tank kits are sold for the Honda EU1000i and EU2000i models that allow continuous running at for at least 24 hours (which is the oil-change interval anyway).
The only brands that I would consider buying are Honda or Yamaha, due to their reputation for reliability. Yes, they are darned expensive, but I’ll have no regrets.
Not sure I understand how a toaster, hand iron and a coffee maker use more wattage than a fridge.
I would buy this product though. I would think fuel injection makes it more efficient.
The caveat is the cost. Why would I want something with a built in inverter for that kind of money.
I’m thinking redundancy and costs.
Inverters don’t cost $50 bucks. I have one I installed in my car. Rather, I plugged it in to my cigarette lighter socket (I can direct wire it if I ever need to but, with with 4 sockets to plug into I got lazeeeee).
I also have a couple more I’ve picked up over the years for various reasons, besides my habit of buying two or more of things I find kewel.
So I’m thinking buy one of these or two, if you got .oney but, probably a better and more cost effective to buy the older versions for other reasons I’d discuss later.
Don't be so sure. There is a reason most fire marshals will not accept natural gas for the only fuel on a life safety generator. The supply system is very easy to shut off.
No hurricans here in MN, but power outages due to cable cuts,winter snows, and tornadoes .
Not sure I’d ever recoup my investment.
Wattage Estimation Guide
Given I live in N.E. Illinois and we just had some NASTY storms earlier this week, my 20 yo generator has gotten quite the workout. Sure it's LOUD AS HELL but it feeds the entire house with exception of furnace and AC. Have to keep those off.
Yeah, no. I’ve seen these before. I just don’t understand how something that uses a compressor and types of fans uses less energy than a hair dryer.
“No hurricans here in MN, but power outages due to cable cuts,winter snows, and tornadoes .”
“Not sure Id ever recoup my investment.”
Spending a few days shivering in the dark might put a new perspective on “investments”. You sound more apt to need a generator than I do.
Heat. Anything that generates heat is high load.
oil lamps and wood stove backup.
Thanks for the news on inverter generators. I’ll comment here on something related but different before talking about generators later in this same comment.
Here’s something that I happened to be looking at lately. One of the best things to do for saving energy—disaster or not—is to replace flourescent and other lighting with LED lighting. Products for LED replacement fixtures and lights are very available through the Internet now.
There are also low cost LED replacements for those willing to search enough, even for RVs. Flourescent lighting is a costly choice with short times before failures for extremely cold climates, BTW. LED lighting with luminescence comparable to flourescent lighting will use as little as 1/3 of the wattage (remember ballasts).
For RV Lighting (DC/battery)
That said, a little study of products is recommended before buying LED replacement lighting. There are different kinds of LEDs and arrangements of LEDs in various products. Some LED products (dimmer-compatible) work with dimmers (LED compatible) that are made specially for LED lighting.
The news about inverter generators spurred a look at a catalog here. Harbor Freight has a 2200-watt (2500 surge) inverter generator for $500. It would be great for anyone who doesn’t need air conditioning, electric range, electric dryer, forced-air/electric heating or to pump water from a deep well. For those who would object to the brand, China makes Hondas now, too, BTW. ;-)
For a suburban power outage for a few days after a hurricane, a generator is probably the way to go. For a house away from the power grid in a cold climate, PV solar works far better except for welding and some of the appliances mentioned above. Arc welding, for example, requires at least over 8,000 watts from a generator. Flux wire welding, not so much (about 5,000 watts or more).
It’s a toss-up for deep water well pumps between diesel generators and small PV solar power plants with slow pumps and cisterns (instead of batteries). Between a quarter-gallon and half-gallon of diesel fuel for a 1/2 HP pump, give or take, will fill a smaller cistern (smaller being smarter for preventing health problems). Once every few days—not bad. Someone who knows what they’re doing can muffle generator noise very effectively (acoustic insulation and intake, exhaust, engine cooling ventilation).
A PV solar plant with a slow pump and cistern is completely quiet and prevents any need to mess with pumping water at all. The only problem with it would be cost for extra PV modules and larger cisterns (instead of batteries) for those in very cloudy areas. There are also DC chest freezers made for much more efficient use with PV solar plants.
All stuff for off-grid applications or much more elaborate applications for suburban power outages.
But for hurricanes, generators are king. Add some golf cart batteries (good for solar, too), a great, smart battery charger and a good inverter for stored, quiet power—great with very energy-efficient appliances (like LED lighting).
MN? Have a look at these, if you haven’t already seen them.
rocket stove mass heater
$2K Solar Space + Water Heating — One Simple DIY System
Good source of info on generators and emergency preparedness.
What would be a good cheap efficient model/brand if you only cared about keeping the freezer running? I’d alternate power between the freezer and fridge until the fridge was empty. Also, switch it over to the microwave for quick meal cooking. From charts, the microwave pulls the most 925 watts, a fridge at 725, and freezer at 600. Order of need is #1 fuel efficiency, #2 cost, #3 ease of maintenance and reliability over the long haul and #4 noise.
A big plasma tv during any outage wouldn’t even make it onto my list.
Good post, and speaks to the heart of the logistics problem when gasoline is not readily available.
What do you think of solar powered generators. In TX, we mainly rely on gasoline and, as you said, the pumps won’t be working.
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