If you’re searching for a generator to use as a home backup, or for camping or other outdoor activities, you have probably noticed the term ‘inverter generator’ and wondered what these are, and how they vary from other types of portable generator.
Inverter generators have several advantages, including their compact size and portability – you may even see their design means they can be referred to as a suitcase generator. They’re also desirable for their fuel efficiency, quieter operation and the ‘clean’ electricity they produce.
We’re going to guide you through the benefits that the best inverter generators can offer, and review some of the best generators on the market. We’ll wrap up with our thoughts on the best portable inverter generator to help you in your own selection.
Best Inverter Generators
Best Overall1WEN 56200i Inverter Generator
Best OverallWEN 56200i Inverter Generator
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Best For Higher Budgets2Champion Portable Inverter Generator
Best For Higher BudgetsChampion Portable Inverter Generator
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|3||Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Inverter Generator||Buy On Amazon|
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|4||Westinghouse WH2200iXLT Inverter Generator||Buy On Amazon|
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Best For Low Budgets5Pulsar PG2000iSN Inverter Generator
Best For Low BudgetsPulsar PG2000iSN Inverter Generator
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|6||Generac GP2200i Inverter Generator||Buy On Amazon|
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1. WEN 56200i Inverter Generator
- Produces 1600 rated watts (2000 surge watts).
- Eco-mode feature to adjust fuel consumption.
- Long runtime (9.4 hours at quarter load).
- Limits harmonic distortion so can safely run laptops, tablets and phones.
This is a great option if you’re looking for a generator for camping trips, as this model is portable, compact, and quiet, running at 51dB at quarter load.
Weighing 48 pounds it’s easier to move this inverter generator around as needed, and although the fuel tank holds only 1 gallon, it will run for over 6 hours at half-load. Harmonic distortion is limited to less than 1.2%, so it’s safe to run more sensitive electronics such as laptops and tablets, and there’s even a USB port. Alongside this are two three-prong 120V and one 12V DC ports.
We like the Eco-Mode, which adjusts the generator’s motor and therefore the fuel consumption when items are plugged and unplugged. The output is limited to 1600 rated watts, but if you need more power you can link up a second generator using a connection kit (not included). The two-year warranty gives you added peace of mind.
- Compact and portable design, ideal for camping or worksites.
- Extremely quiet operation at 53dB at quarter load.
- Four outlets including a USB port.
- 2 year warranty.
- Relatively low output, so can only handle a few devices simultaneously.
- Oil needs to be changed after the first 20 hours of use.
2. Champion Portable Inverter Generator
- Can run on gas or propane.
- Convenient electric start.
- Can be linked to another unit to increase the wattage output.
- Runs up to 14.5 hours on propane (7.5 hours on gasoline).
This is a dual fuel generator that can run on either gasoline or propane, right out of the box. You need to be aware that the performance will vary depending on which fuel you choose.
Opting for gasoline, it will produce 3400 starting watts and 3100 running watts, with a runtime of 7.5 hours at quarter load. Choosing propane gives you a longer runtime – 14.5 hours at 25% load – but a reduced starting wattage of 3060 watts and 2790 running watts.
You have the option to connect with another inverter generator for increased power. There’s a useful Economy mode to reduce the electrical load and provide quieter operation, and an easy push-button electric start. Whichever setup you decide on, the generator operates at a quiet 59dB making it ideal for camping, or to use around the home or worksite. The wheels and foldaway handle make it easy to move the unit around.
- Produces clean power for sensitive electronics.
- Features an Economy mode for quieter operation and fuel savings.
- Has a wheel kit for easy portability.
- Operates at 59dB.
- No hour meter to keep track of run time for maintenance.
- No remote start.
3. Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Inverter Generator
- Generates up to 2000W of clean AC power.
- Auto-decompression system for easier starting.
- Fuel gauge allows fuel level to be seen at a glance.
- Durable, high quality components.
Weighing in at just over 44 pounds, this compact inverter generator is extremely portable. It has an impressive runtime of up to 10.5 hours at quarter load, meaning a full tank of gas goes a long way.
It produces 2000W peak watts / 1600W running watts of clean power, with voltage stability within a 1% range. This means it will safely run more delicate electronics such as laptops and tablets, though we’d have liked to see a USB port to easily charge these items.
There are lots of handy features, such as an oil watch warning system and a fuel gauge for easy monitoring of your fuel level. The Smart Throttle feature varies engine speed according to load, and auto warm-up increases the speed during cold starts so there’s no delay in handling appliances with a high power demand straight away. The quiet operation – up to 61dB at rated load – is another attractive benefit of this Yamaha model.
- Portable, lightweight and compact model.
- Can run for up to 10.5 hours without refueling.
- Smart Throttle feature varies the engine speed depending on the load.
- Quiet operation, between 51.5dB and 61dB.
- Although this generator is suitable for vulnerable electronics such as laptops, it doesn’t have a USB port.
- Some users comment on the high oil consumption of this model.
4. Westinghouse WH2200iXLT Inverter Generator
- Produces up to 2200W.
- Very quiet – just 52dB at 25% load.
- Less than 3% THD to safely run sensitive electronics.
- Features efficiency mode to maximise fuel efficiency.
This is a great entry-level, portable, inverter generator. Being so lightweight – just 43 pounds – and compact makes it perfect for camping, tailgating and as a backup supply that can be transported around as needed.
This generator will run for up to 13 hours on the 1.3 gallon fuel tank (at 25% load), with an efficiency mode that adjusts the engine speed according to the load, to minimise fuel usage. It produces 1800 rated watts at less than 3% total harmonic distortion, so it’s safe to run sensitive electronics such as plasma televisions, laptops or tablets.
If you need more power, you can combine this generator with another (you’ll need a parallel cord which isn’t included). We would have liked to see some an electronic start, and some other features such as a fuel gauge and hour meter to keep track of maintenance, but for the price this model is a solid option.
- Highly fuel efficient, with up to 13 hours runtime at 25% load.
- Lightweight, at just 43 pounds.
- Can be paired with another generator to produce more power.
- Two household 120V outlets.
- No electric start.
- No fuel gauge or hour meter.
5. Pulsar PG2000iSN Inverter Generator
- Compact ‘suitcase’ design.
- Produces 2000 peak watts / 1600 running watts.
- Easy to use control panel.
- Features four outlets, including a USB port.
This Pulsar inverter generator has a neat and compact suitcase design with a top carry handle so you can move it around your campsite, home, or wherever else you need power. It will run for up to 8 hours at half load on a 1.18 gallon tank of fuel, making this a very fuel-efficient option.
It produces 1600 running watts of pure, safe power so is ideal for charging sensitive items such as laptops or phones. If you need more power, this unit is ready to be connected to another (you’ll need a parallel kit sold separately for this). The very quiet operation – less than 59dB – is great for camping.
- Can run for up to 8 hours at half load on a 1.18 gallon fuel tank.
- Produces safe power for charging sensitive electronic devices such as laptops.
- Can be connected to another unit for increased output.
- Low oil sensor.
- No fuel gauge.
- No hour meter to monitor maintenance intervals.
6. Generac GP2200i Inverter Generator
- Compact design, ideal for camping and outdoor activities.
- Produces 1700 running watts (2200 starting watts).
- Economy mode maximises fuel economy.
- Provides stable power for sensitive electronics.
This is a very portable inverter generator, with a compact design and built-in carry handle. It produces up to 2200 starting watts and 1700 running watts and runs on a 1.2 gallon fuel tank.
A full tank will give you up to 10.75 hours of runtime at 25% so this is an efficient option for camping and outdoor activities or to power the essentials in your home during a power outage.
The output is stable enough for sensitive electronics, and there’s an Economy mode which helps to reduce fuel consumption and noise. If you need more power, you can purchase a parallel kit to connect a second generator.
This generator is easy to use, with an off/run/choke dial, though there’s no electric start. It also has a variety of outlets, including a USB port. The manufacturer doesn’t provide any decibel readings, but other users report that operation is quiet.
- Up to 10.75 runtime at 25% load from the 1.2 gallon fuel tank.
- USB port for tablets, cell phones and other gadgets.
- Can be connected to another inverter for increased output.
- 2 year limited warranty.
- No electric start.
- No noise level information available from the manufacturer.
Inverter Generator Buying Guide
Inverter Generator vs Regular Generator
Inverter generators and regular generators are often compared side by side, but there are some mechanical differences in how they produce power. A standard generator uses an engine to turn an alternator and produce alternating current, known as AC. An inverter generator has a few extra steps in the process of electricity production, to make the current much more stable.
The differences in operation mean that inverter generators are more efficient generators and quieter than the majority of regular ones. The downside is that they usually produce less power, so whether an inverter generator is the right choice for you really comes down to what you need the generator for.
Check out the FAQ at the end of this piece for more information about how an inverter generator works.
As with regular generators, inverter generators typically run on fossil fuels. They also have a battery. There are different options on the market depending on the fuel you want to use, which comes down to availability and cost as well as your preference. Inverter generators are typically compact and portable, so have small fuel tanks, often below 1.5 gallons.
Dual Fuel Inverter Generator
A dual fuel option gives the advantage that you have a choice of which fuel to use – gasoline or propane. Propane can be popular as it’s cheaper, and less harmful to the environment. The output and runtime may vary depending on the fuel input, so if you’re looking to buy a dual fuel generator, make sure that the lowest output (in rated watts) is sufficient to cover your needs.
Gas Powered Inverter
Gasoline is probably the most common fuel to run an inverter generator. The advantage of gasoline is that it’s widely available, so easy to get hold of additional supplies if you’re camping.
Digital Inverter Generator
Digital inverter generators produce clean power that can safely power more sensitive electronics, such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. They do this by converting AC electrical energy (produced in the same way as a conventional generator) into DC power. The inverter then turns the DC power back into AC power. The result is a smoother power supply with minimal THD, or total harmonic distortion.
Electromotive force is measured in volts. It’s a way of measuring the electrical action produced by a non-electrical source. Generators produce electromotive force by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.
220v Inverter Generator vs 240v Inverter Generator
Most of the inverter generators we’ve reviewed are 120V, and have varying types of 120V outlet. These are the type of outlets you need to plug in items such as refrigerators or laptop chargers.
If you were looking to power large household appliances, such as a washer/dryer, you may need 240V outlets. That would tend to mean you need a more powerful generator.
Inverter generators are more energy efficient, but are able to produce less power than a conventional generator. For that reason, they’re better suited to occasional use. For example, they are a great option for camping or outdoor use but not the best choice for a home emergency generator.
Before deciding on which model to buy, calculate the number of watts you need to power the appliances or items you want to run. A generator will have two output figures – the starting watts and the running watts. Remember that some items have a higher starting watts requirement, meaning they need a surge of power when they start up, which then drops to a lower running level.
1000 Watt Inverter Generators
A small 1000W inverter generator would be an ideal size to take on occasional camping trips, to power lights, a TV or recharge your phone.
2000 Watt Inverter Generator
A 2000W inverter generator may be able to run a refrigerator (you should check your appliance to be sure), or a number of smaller items such as lights or fans for your campsite.
6000 Watt Inverter Generator
A 6000W generator should provide enough power to serve as a home backup for your most important appliances should your mains power fail. This of course depends on the size of your home and the appliances you need to run, so be sure to calculate this before you buy.
A benefit of inverter generators is their quieter operation. The way they work means that they produce a more stable current, making them quieter than conventional generators. Inverter generators can adjust their voltage according to the demand from connected appliances and chargers, which means that the volume adjusts according to the load. As inverter generators tend to be more compact, their housing also helps muffle their operation.
A quiet inverter generator can run at less than 60dB, which is about the volume of normal conversation.
If you’re looking for a cheap generator, you can find lower output models for a few hundred dollars and up, depending on the brand you choose. There are many popular brand names such as Honda and Yamaha who offer various inverter generator options.
The best inverter generator for the money depends on your needs, with lesser-known brands offering well-reviewed models for half the price of the bigger companies.
An attraction of inverter generators is their compact size, with many having a suitcase design that makes them easy to transport and store.
Small Inverter Generator
A small inverter generator is ideal for camping and outdoor use, and often weighs less than 50 pounds. These models regularly feature a carry handle for ease and convenience, and they’re easy to store when not in use.
Large Inverter Generator
Larger inverter generators tend to be those with a higher power output, for use around the home. Their weight means they can’t be carried around as easily as smaller models, but they will often have a wheel kit for transport.
An inverter generator can be a very useful item to store in the garage for a variety of uses.
Inverter Generator For RV
If you want your own power supply, to avoid hooking up at a campsite or for when power isn’t available, an inverter RV generator gives you flexibility. You can power up items such as a television, microwave or your gadgets such as tablets and phones.
Inverter Generator For Camping
Their compact size and ease of transport makes a small inverter generator perfectly suited to camping trips, for powering lights, fans and any other small items you might need to make your trip more comfortable. If you want to have a better look at best camping generators, we have created a buying guide with several high quality generators for you to choose.
Home Backup Inverter Generator
A larger inverter generator can work well as a home backup. The clean electricity it produces is suitable for sensitive electronics you may want to power, such as televisions and laptops.
Frequently Asked Questions
As with a conventional generator, an inverter generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. Fuel, such as gasoline, contains chemical energy, which a generator converts to heat and force through a process of combustion.
The mechanical force helps rotate the alternator in the generator, creating the magnetic field for electromagnetic induction that turns mechanical energy from the fuel into AC (Alternating Current) electrical power.
From this point is where an inverter generator works differently. An inverter generator takes this AC power and sends it to a rectifier, which converts it into Direct Current (DC) power. A computer inside the generator then inverts it back from DC into AC power again. This results in a power supply which has a much lower THD or total harmonic distortion than regular generators.
Both a regular generator and an inverter generator essentially complete the same task, of using fuel to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. The difference is that the electrical energy produced by an inverter generator is ‘cleaner’, with less distortion.
If you think of distortion as peaks and troughs of power, you can understand why that could be detrimental to sensitive electronics such as laptops.
Inverter generators are also usually more compact, and quieter. This makes them desirable for occasional use and activities such as camping, but less attractive for larger power requirements.
If you’re searching for a quiet, compact, easy to use and easy to transport generator for camping and similar activities, an inverter generator can definitely tick all of these boxes. They can be a little more expensive than regular generators, but the convenience makes up for it.
Of the models we reviewed, we especially recommend the Westinghouse WH2200iXLT, which is a great entry-level product. It’s very efficient, with up to 13 hours runtime at 25% load meaning it can run through the night on a tank of fuel. It’s also very quiet, at just 52dB running a quarter load. Westinghouse generator gets great reviews from other customers for ease of use and reliability.