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Generator vs Inverter (2021): Which Is Best?

One of the most common questions shoppers have when looking for a new portable generator is which is better: a conventional generator or an inverter generator? We outline the key advantages and disadvantages of both generator types below, using the Champion 100559 3500-Watt Generator and the Champion 100263 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter to better illustrate their differences.

Generator vs Inverter Comparison Chart

ModelChampion 3500-Watt GeneratorChampion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter
Champion Power Equipment 100555 4375/3500-Watt RV Ready Portable Generator, CARBChampion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Electric Start
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Rating

TypeConventionalInverter
Model No.100559100263
Engine4-stroke4-stroke
Displacement208cc192cc
Starting SystemRecoilRecoil, electric
Max AC Output4375 W3400 W
Rated AC Output3500 W3100 W
Voltage120V120V
Max AC Current36.5A28.3A
Rated AC Current29.2A25.8A
DC OutputNone12V
Fuel TypeGasolineGasoline, propane
Fuel Tank Capacity4.7 gal1.6 gal
Run Time12 hrs at 50% load7.5 hrs at 25% load
Noise Level68 dB59 dB
Low Oil ShutoffYesYes
WheelsNoYes
Parallel CapabilityNoYes
Dimensions23″ x 18.3″ x 19.9″25.1″ x 17.3″ x 18.3″
Weight102.1 lbs95.7 lbs
CertificationsEPAEPA, CARB
Warranty3-Year Limited3-Year Limited

Engine and Power

Conventional generators can produce more power, but inverter generators are more fuel-efficient.

Generator vs Inverter Engine and Power (Champion 100559 and 100263)
Conventional generators such as the Champion 100559 (left) will generally provide more output than inverters like the Champion 100263 (right).

Try looking at the range of power output or wattage that generators are being offered in. You’ll notice that conventional portable generators can go from 500 watts up to 25,000 watts or more, while portable inverters range from 1,000 to 5,000 watts or so. Simply put, if you want to run more demanding machines or run more appliances simultaneously, you’ll find conventional generators better suited for the job.

Power output also has a direct impact on your budget, since the more complex electronics and machinery of inverter generators typically make them pricier than their conventional counterparts. Consider the Champion 3500-watt generator and 3400-watt inverter in this comparison: while they’re being offered at similar-looking wattage, the former is actually less than half the cost of the latter.

Moreover, the Champion 100559 has a max output of 4375 W and rated wattage of 3500 W. In comparison, the Champion 100263 (inverter) maxes out at 3400 W and only has 3100 running watts. This means you need to spend two, maybe three, times more to get near enough power if you’re choosing an inverter generator. Putting it another way, if you have a fixed budget, choosing a conventional generator will give you more kilowatts than inverters.

However, over time this initial cost can become offset by how much fuel you’ll be saving opting for an inverter generator instead. While conventional generators typically have larger fuel tanks, they also consume fuel faster and at a steady pace. In our comparison, the Champion 100559’s 4.7 gallon tank will last around 12 hours at 50% load. The Champion 100263, which only has a 1.6 gallon tank, lasts 7.5 hours on 25% load. The inverter’s engine will run at a slower RPM during lower loads, saving fuel, while conventional engines maintain their constant speed of 3600 RPM.

Convenience

Inverter generators are quieter and more portable than conventional generators.

Generator vs Inverter Convenience (Champion 100559 and 100263)
You’ll find that portable inverter generators tend to be lighter than conventional generators.

Because of smaller fuel tanks and engines, portable inverter generators are usually lighter and less bulky than conventional generators. Moreover, generator manufacturers design inverters to be more portable too, incorporating wheels and handles to make them easier to move. Many conventional generators aren’t equipped with wheels, like the Champion 100559, any require separate wheel kits. Meanwhile, the Champion 100263 inverter is equipped with solid tires and a fold-down handle that allows it to be pulled along.

Generators produce noise as a result of their engines churning at high speeds, but inverter types generally make less noise than conventional ones. From 23 feet away, the conventional Champion generator registers a noise level of 68 decibels, which is about how loud most vacuum cleaners get inside the house. In comparison, the Champion dual-fuel inverter only produces 59 dB at that distance, which is similar to the loudness of normal conversation.

Though it varies by brand and model, you’ll find that inverter generators more often than not will feature an electric start via an included battery. This makes it much easier to get going than the usual recoil pull starting system of conventional generators.

Features

Inverter generators have parallel capability and provide more stable current than conventional generators.

Generator vs Inverter Features (Champion 100559 and 100263)
Using an optional parallel kit, you can combine two inverters of the same (or similar) model to get more power output.

Perhaps the biggest reason to select an inverter generator, over a conventional one that produces more power, is the stable, high-quality current it produces. It’s able to deliver a constant supply of electricity that doesn’t surge or drop by using electronics to invert the raw Direct Current (DC) produced by its engine into a perfect Alternating Current (AC) similar to what utility companies provide your home. This unvarying AC power makes inverter generators safe to use for electronic devices such as computers and phones, which can otherwise be damaged by conventional generators.

Inverter generators can also have parallel capability, which lets two units of the same or similar model pair up to produce more power. The Champion 3400-watt Inverter has this, so you can use an optional Parallel Kit to combine it with another if you want to upgrade how much backup power you have while still keeping their portability and flexibility.

One note we’d like to add in this comparison is that the dual-fuel engine of the Champion 100263 is not something specific to inverter generators, in case you were wondering. You can find portable generators that can run on either gasoline or propane whether they’re conventional or inverter type.

Verdict

Conventional generators are better as backup power for homes while inverter generators are better suited for outdoor recreation.

Ultimately, the best generator to get is the type that matches your needs and preferences closer. If you’re after a dependable power source to bring out when the grid’s down, conventional generators like the Champion 100559 3500-watt generator are better. They can provide enough output to run several critical appliances like a fridge, deep freezer, heater, etc., at the same time. Their larger fuel tanks mean longer run times, and you won’t mind their noise when they’re bringing you sweet electricity. They’re even better if you’re on a budget, since you can get a lot of wattage without spending a lot.

Now, if you want something more portable that you can bring on camping, tailgating, and other outdoor activities, inverter generators are easily more convenient and accessible. Similar to the Champion 100263 3400-watt dual-fuel inverter, they’re designed for mobility and quiet operation. They can run at low enough sound levels that won’t hamper all the fun you’re having with family and friends, and efficient enough with its fuel supply to keep running longer. You’ll still be able to rely on an inverter generator during outages too, though you’ll likely need to be more picky in choosing which utilities to run.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.