What is an Inverter Generator and How Does it Work?

The power’s out, and you’re looking to shed some light on the situation. While conventional generators have long served as a reliable way to bring electricity into your home, inverter generators are the newest—and potentially most effective—home backup solution.

What is an inverter generator? It’s a highly efficient piece of equipment that provides quiet and consistent electrical power to your home during an outage. If you’re wondering if an inverter generator will be useful for you, read up on if an inverter generator will be useful for your home so that you can make sure you get the right generator for your own needs.

But these generators aren’t only useful for home outages—they can also power job sites, businesses, and outdoor recreation areas. Read on to discover how they work, their most innovative features, and their many advantages.

How Does an Inverter Generator Work?
The beauty of inverter generators is their simplicity of use: Turn it on, plug in your power, and watch as your electrical devices come to life.

Of course, the internal mechanisms of inverter technology are a bit more complicated.

So how does an inverter generator work? In practical terms, an inverter generator turns fuel consumption into electricity and inverts the current to create cleaner, more stable electricity in comparison to traditional generators. This provides a more consistent wave of current, which prevents power surges that may damage your electronics.

You can think of inverter generators as working in three distinct phases:

  • Generating AC – Alternating current (AC) is the starting point of any generator. Using a fuel source, a power generator creates unregulated AC electricity. The problem with unregulated AC is that it requires the engine to maintain a constant RPM to produce a stable and usable power output; and if the RPM deviates then the power output will deviate as well.
  • Converting to DC – Direct current (DC), is more stable than AC but doesn’t work as well over long distances. DC power will slowly lose energy as it travels, making it less useful for powering homes and buildings across a wide area. Inverter generators turn AC power into DC power internally, losing little energy in the process.

  • Converting back to AC – The final process requires DC to be converted back into a now more regulated and consistent clean AC. Because of the inversion process, this new AC electricity is more reliable and efficient, and calibrated by the generator to only put out the necessary amount of energy for your electrical needs.


What Are the Components of an Inverter Generator?
Ready to go under the hood? There are four primary components of an inverter generator—fuel source, engine, alternator, DC rectifiers, inverter, and power panel. 

Fuel Source
What’s powering your generator? Inverter generators need a fuel source to function—they can’t simply make electricity as a power output out of thin air.

Today, several inverter generators offer a variety of fuel options, including:

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Diesel
  • Natural gas

Whatever your fuel sources, you’ll want to keep plenty of fuel on hand to avoid running out during a power outage. Many modern inverter generators offer multiple fuel options, allowing you to choose your preferred fuel source or switch between two depending on what you have available.

That being said, combustion fuel sources can generate carbon monoxide (CO), a dangerous gas that could result in major health risks. Never use a standby generator indoors or in an unventilated space and keep the generator at least 20 feet away from your home’s windows or doors and at least 5 ft from any flammable material.

Fortunately, some modern conventional generators have CO safety mechanisms installed. These generators will sense when CO levels become too high and enter an emergency shut-off sequence, avoiding accidents before they happen.

Generators turn mechanical energy into electrical energy by using combustion energy. Just as a car uses an engine to power its movement, a generator utilizes the same concept to produce electricity that can power your appliances and electronics.

The engine is the centerpiece of both a standard generator and an inverter generator. A standard generator will output the energy created from the engine. However, the engine of an inverter generator requires a more complex three-phase process, described above.

When investigating inverter generators, consider the following criteria related to the engine:

  • Output wattage – How much electricity do you need? A generator could produce anywhere from a few hundred watts to more than 10,000. You may only need a smaller engine to power a computer or your lights, while air conditioners and large appliances could require a large engine capable of producing a lot of electrical output.

  • Cooling factors – Engines get hot. Quality inverter generators contain intricate cooling systems to keep the engine functioning correctly even as the heat rises. If you’re running a generator for a long period of time, you’ll want to ensure it's protected from potential overheating and malfunction.

  • Oil – You may be familiar with taking in your car for an oil change—an inverter generator will require similar upkeep. Oil provides lubrication to the engine, keeping all the moving parts from wearing out prematurely.

The engine will power the generator, creating an electrical field of AC that can then be harnessed and converted.

The alternator is responsible for changing the mechanical energy of the engine to an unfiltered AC power output. Please note that AC power at this stage is unstable and needs to be cleaned before it is usable.

As the final part of the conversion process, the inverter transforms the unregulated AC power to DC power, then will turn DC back into clean regulated AC and this process requires the following components: 

  • Batteries – Inverters need somewhere to send the AC after the inversion process. This is why they’re typically attached to batteries, with the capacity to store the energy until you need it.

  • Current filters – The intention behind inverting DC back to AC is twofold. Firstly, it turns the current back into a more usable form, able to be utilized by common electronics and appliances. Secondly, filters are applied to the current, smoothing out the waveform and creating a consistent energy source ideal for phones, computers, tablets, and other devices.

While inverters can be used in a range of scenarios, the inverted component itself does not create electricity. Don’t mistake inverters or power converters for inverter generators. These are different products with distinct uses.

Power Panel
With all the power you need, the power panel supplies a simple user interface to make a connection, monitor your usage, and put your inverter generator to full use.

That being said, the power panel is more than an on-switch and a plug. On a modern, well-manufactured inverter generator, you can expect the following features:

  • Fuel meter – Keep up with your usage with a meter designed to display how much fuel remains in your inverter generator. Some fuel meters may also include a secondary display to show you how many more hours of use you can expect at your current fuel level. You never have to worry about unplanned shutoffs.

  • Idle switch – If you’re using your inverter generator intermittently, you can use the idle switch to conserve fuel when not in use. This may be an ideal option when using an inverter generator at a construction site, as it helps you save energy as you pause between jobs or switch tools.

  • USB port – Because inverter generators are ideal for powering digital devices, some models may include a USB port to avoid the need for adapters. You can look forward to a quick and efficient charge straight out of the generator.

Typically, power panels offer options for 120-volt outputs. Often, you’ll have the choice between 30-Amp connections (best for large appliances and power tools) as well as 20-Amp connections used for most household applications. If you’re wondering if an extension cord is beneficial for your generator, read up on extension cords for generators to see what plugin setup is best for you.

What Are The Difference Between Inverter Generators and Standard Generators? 
Besides the process of AC to DC inversion, and components, there are several practical differences to consider between inverter generators and standard generators. After all, it's not just about how these generators function internally but also what features and functionality they can provide. For a complete guide on everything you need to know about backup generators, our resource center can help you become familiar with home generator maintenance so that you can get all the assistance you need with your own at-home power generator.

A few major differences between standard generators and inverter generators include:

  • Use the power you need – Standard generators require a consistent RPM to produce usable energy, and due to this issue the fuel consumption is less efficient. Inverter generators can vary in RPM and still produce a usable energy, so these generators can lower the RPM and conserve fuel when a lower load is demanded.
  • Easier to transport – Inverter generators will typically be lighter than the comparable traditional generator counterparts.
  • Less noise – If you’ve ever started a standard generator, you know things get loud quickly. An inverter generator is far quieter and able to run without disturbing neighbors or interfering with tranquil settings.


DuroMax: For All Your Inverter Generator Needs
Smooth, efficient, and useful for a variety of scenarios, there’s a reason so many people are turning to inverter generators for their electrical needs. Now that you know the finer details of inverter generators, you’ll be happy to know that they’re widely available. 

But don’t wait until the power’s out to find your generator. Check out our offerings at DuroMax today.

Whether you’re shopping for a home, recreation, or construction generator, DuroMax has you covered with elite-quality products designed to put the power in your hands. From inverter generators to bare engines, we offer equipment that’s crafted with durability and reliability in mind. Explore our offerings today.