** This post was updated on: December 2, 2018 ***
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Inverter generators offer some serious advantages over conventional models. They're highly portable, relatively quiet, and offer clean, stable power. This makes them ideal for any number of circumstances.
So what's the best inverter generator on the market?
A good minimum wattage for an inverter generator is 2000W. These models can handle a wide variety of loads while still being truly portable.
They're also highly efficient since they can regulate engine speed and fuel usage based on load. The 2000W category is ideal for quiet uses including camping and hunting. Here are our top 3 models. If you need more power than this check out our 3000W generator reviews.
In terms of outputs it offers a whole slew of power options including:
In terms of performance the Wen offers most of the same capabilities of the other two units. At 1600W it matches the continuous output of the Yamaha EF2000i and is 200W shy of the Honda. As with the other two units it can be run in parallel with an additional connection kit which is sold separately.
Out of the box you'll need to add oil and fuel. This took just a few minutes and we were ready to go. On the first pull the WEN started up easily and smoothly.
We tested out a variety of equipment on it to see what it could handle. Most impressively it managed to run a 5000BTU window unit air conditioner without even kicking it out of ECO mode.
It's a great unit for tailgating as it's super quiet and offers a whole slew of outputs for charging all your devices and running your TV.
With a run time of 6 hours at 25% load the WEN has the shortest run-time of the group. That coupled with the smallest engine, means it's the least efficient portable in terms of fuel usage.
That said you can parallel this guy to another identical unit (for a total price that still less than the Honda) and double your power output. It does require a separate parallel cable kit.
Like the Honda the Wen has a streamlined shape that makes it easier to carry. At 48lbs it's right in the middle of the pack on weight. Like the other two units it does not have wheels.
The warranty on this unit is 2 years parts and Wen does have a nationwide network of service technicians. It's not nearly as large as Honda's so that's something to consider in terms of repairs.
In terms of getting the most bang for your buck it's tough to beat the WEN 2000W. It offers nearly 7hrs of run-time per tank, a whole host of outputs for powering your devices, and is super quiet.
It doesn't offer quite as much power as the Honda, but you can buy 2 WEN's for the price of one Honda and parallel them together.
What makes this our pick for the best inverter generator? Pure and simple the EU2200i is a reliable workhorse.
It has by far the largest engine in the group at 98.5cc. This translates into better handling of large loads (over 1000W) as well as larger inductive (startup) loads without tripping it's overload circuitry.
Honda also just happens to have the widest network of service centers in the country. So if something DOES go wrong, you won't have to go far to get it fixed. This can be extremely handy when you're traveling around the country in an RV or camping.
Unless you've been living in a hole for the last 40+ years you're aware that Honda makes some of the best and most reliable engines on the planet. In fact they've been making generators almost as long as they've been making cars. And this portable unit is no exception to their tradition of quality.
The feature set is fairly similar to the other two in our comparison with the exception that the 12V DC output is unregulated so you'll want to use a proper 120V charger. It's also capable of being paired with another unit to increase total power output (requires separate adapter).
The run-time at 25% load for the Honda is 8.1 hours. At the rated (1800W) load this drops to 3.4 hours. This is slightly less than the Champion, but a good bit ahead of the Wen.
Honda's "Eco Throttle" system balances the engine speed to the required load. This allows the unit to be as fuel efficient as possible.
At 45lbs the EU2200i is relatively lightweight. It has a convenient handle on the top for carrying and it's streamlined shape makes it a bit less cumbersome to walk with than the square Champion. If carrying weight is a concern, this just happens to be the lightest portable unit of the group.
There are two big selling points for the Honda.
While WEN has a decent network of warranty repair shops, with Honda you can most likely find a qualified technician ANYWHERE. This is a huge advantage when you're relying on your generator for power in more remote areas.
While the Honda is nearly twice the price of the second place Wen, you only pay for quality once. And when it comes to backup power (or reliable power when you're on the road) the quality of the Honda trumps the cost savings of the Wen. For more information you can read our full Honda EU2000i review.
The Honda name is built on their reputation for reliability. Yes it's pricier than some models in this category, but you only pay for quality once. Honda's wide service network means you'll almost never be far from a qualified technician and parts. When it comes to reliable backup power what else can you ask for?
The EF2000iV2 from Yamaha is combines clean power, low noise, and a very affordable price. It runs at a continuous 1600 watts. The startup capacity is 2000W for induction loads like refrigerators and other equipment that draw more energy when powering up.
It offers the longest run-time in the group, and features a smart throttle that controls the engine speed based upon the current load. This is allows it to run for 10.5hrs on a single tank of gas. At 51dB (25% load) it's also the quietest unit in the group.
Part of the reason they're able to offer this unit at such a low price is that the production takes place in China. However their strict quality control guidelines and oversight by Yamah management result in a top notch product that is as reliable as what you would expect from a name like Yamaha. On top of all this they offer stellar customer support.
Outputs include 2 120V (13Amp) outlets and a 12V charging outlet.
It has an economy mode that controls the engine speed based on the load. It is especially quiet while running like this, but larger loads will force the unit out of Eco mode.
There is also an automatic shut-off for low oil situations.
One particularly nice feature is the fuel gauge which none of the other units in this comparison have. On the downside the Yamaha does not have a USB charging port for phones and tablets. These devices can obviously be charged using the 120V ports of which there are two.
One negative worth mentioning with the EF2000iV2 is that it's predecessors have a reputation for burning oil. Yamaha has supposedly addressed this issue in the V2, but our tests were not long enough to verify this.
The 79cc engine has the longest run-time of the group at 10.5hours at a 25% load. This gives it a substantial edge over the Wen and Honda units.
There are no wheels on the unit. At 44lbs it's not so heavy that you can't carry it, but for older folks it could be a bit tough to manage. To be fair, none of the other units in our comparison has wheels.
The Yamaha comes with a 3 year warranty on parts. While not as extensive as Honda, Yamaha does have a good network of qualified repair facilities. This comes in very handy if your using it as a camping generator. If something goes wrong with your unit, simply look up a qualified service center in your area.
With it's abundance of clean reliable power, long run-time, and low price the Yamaha edged out the other two for the top spot in our best inverter generator comparison. It's a great solution for a variety of needs and is backed up by Champion's first rate customer support.
When it comes to portable camping generators our primary concerns are noise levels and run time. No one wants to hear a generator running when they're trying to enjoy the great outdoors.
It's also nice to have a unit that can run through the entire night. For that reason we suggest the Yamaha EF2000iV2 for camping situations.
At a 1/4 load it operates at just 51dB and can run for over 10 hours on a single tank of gas. If you're powering an RV and need more power you can easily parallel two units to double power output. This is generally sufficient to power an AC unit.
Of course you'll need to check with the specific campground as many have rules stipulating that ALL generators are to be shut off at 10PM. But if you're looking for a great camp generator, you can't go wrong with the Yamaha.
Portable generators have been around for decades. But it's been within the last few years that inverter technology has made the products safe for sensitive electronic devices such as modern TVs, BluRay players, smart phones, tablets, and computers.
There are even solar-powered generators like the Yeti-400 that we reviewed here available that utilize inverter technology.
In addition to providing extremely clean power, the generators we've selected in our comparison are also extremely quiet. This makes them ideal for a whole new set of applications such as fishing, hunting, and camping as well as activities such as outdoor barb-b-ques and tailgating.
While inverter generators are significantly more expensive than conventional models on a cost per watt basis, this is offset by some important advantages.
As someone who enjoys tent camping, I can assure you that a standard generator running in a campsite will earn you more than a few angry looks. But the models we are highlighting are so quiet that your neighbors are unlikely to even know it's running.
This style of generator is great for RV camping as well. A couple of the models we will be highlighting have 30A outlets specifically for hooking up to your RV to run air conditioning systems, refrigerators, and other devices. Most of these units even have enough power to accommodate a TV and lights as well.
While they're not powerful enough to power air conditioning systems, these units will power the air handler in your home to keep the heat on with a gas-based furnace. They can also power a full-sized refrigerator in addition to lights and more.
For more information on units big enough to power most of your home check our post on the best home standby generators.
There are a variety of factors and features that go into a reliable and feature rich portable generator. Some of the most important considerations include:
While there is no simple answer as to which type of generator is best, each has it's own set of advantages. Based on these, it's relatively easy to decide which type is best suited for your needs. Let's take a look at a few key features you should consider before making your purchase.
Since inverter generators are able to regulate engine speed based on current power demands they can be up to 40% more fuel efficient than standard models.
A standard generator must maintain a constant RPM in order to deliver the correct frequency of power. This is generally around 3600 RPM. As power demands increase, more fuel is used to meet this demand. But even under minimal loads the engine must maintain at least 3600 RPM
An inverter generator (IG) can run at much lower speeds because the technology incorporated into the unit allows for constant frequency output without a corresponding engine RPM. This means that an IG will consume less fuel when power demands are low, and can ramp up to meet additional load requirements.
Because of design differences between the two types of generators run-times can vary greatly. Standard generators are designed to supply a specific power output with less consideration for size. This means they generally have larger fuel tanks.
IG's are generally designed from the beginning to be smaller and more portable. This has a direct impact on the amount of fuel it can store. But even with smaller fuel tanks, many IG's have run-times of up to 10 hours due to their highly efficient engines.
A more efficient engine also has the added benefit of reduced exhaust emissions and a smaller carbon footprint.
Winner: Inverter Generators
While many standard generators are considered "portable" they are often very heavy as they are essentially an engine and gas tank connected to an alternator. Design considerations for a regular generator give more priority to power output and run-time than to the size and weight of the unit. This would be an important consideration if you're looking to run equipment that requires a heavy load such as a plasma cutting tools or welding equipment like these.
Many standard generators are heavy enough that they require metal bars for lifting and/or wheels for moving.
As previously mentioned inverter generators are designed from the ground up to be more portable. As a result they offer lower power outputs (typically ranging from 500w to 4000w), but in a much more compact and lightweight design. As a result they are small enough and light enough to be carried by one person and can easily be stored in a car, RV or boat.
They certainly aren't light enough that you would want to go trekking into the woods with one, but compared to a standard model they are substantially smaller.
Winner: Inverter Generators
This is an especially important consideration depending on the intended use of your generator. For applications like camping or powering equipment in areas that are sensitive to noise an inverter generator is going to be the way to go.
Many are designed with the following:
All of these combine to keep overall noise at remarkably low levels. And since IG's aren't required to maintain 3600 RPM to maintain a steady flow of clean power like a standard model, the engine is running lower most of the time as well. Some models produce as little as 50 dB (the equivalent of a normal conversation) of noise while running under a partial load, and less than 60 dB at full load.
Many conventional generators are rated well above that with some as loud as 75 dB. This would be the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner or the road-noise of a car traveling around 65 MPH. You can imagine this level of noise would make for some unhappy neighbors in circumstances such as camping.
Conventional generators are available in just about any size ranging from 500 watts on the low end to 50,000 watts or more on the high end. Inverter generators are much more limited due to their primary design concerns of portability and noise. They typically range from 1000 watts to 4000 watts.
Winner: Standard Generators
In terms of the power produced there are significant differences between the two types.
Conventional generators are very basic in design. Essentially an engine hooked up to an alternator, the speed at which the engine runs determines the AC (alternating current) frequency. This is totally independent of the load. While in use, any increase in load will cause a subsequent increase in throttle to ensure that the speed of the engine (3600RPM) remains consistent.
The output from the alternator passes directly to the attached equipment with no regulation or processing.
Inverter generators are an entirely different beast.
While conventional generators pass electricity directly to the load, inverters utilize a rectifier to convert the alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). To help smooth out any fluctuations in this power capacitors are used.
The next step involves "inverting" the DC back to clean AC power at the desired frequency and voltage. (typically 120VAC @ 60Hz). This produces a much more consistent and clean power that is completely independent of the speed of the engine.
The result is power that is comparable to the electricity generated by your utility company. This is very important when powering devices that are sensitive to power quality including TV's, cell phones, gaming systems, computers, and even some appliances.
So if you're planning on running these types of devices you're much better off with clean, regulated power.
Winner: Inverter Generators
One particularly attractive feature of many inverter generators is that they can be used in parallel or combined to increase their power output.
Typically two identical units would be used to double the power output. This is accomplished while still preserving the primary benefits of portability and lower noise output.
This is a function that standard generators are unable to provide.
Generally all that is needed to accomplish parallel operation is a special cable that connects the two units. This can vary by unit, so be sure to read the details about the particular model you're looking at to ensure it provides for this capability.
Winner: Inverter Generators
When it comes to simplicity of design there is little doubt that conventional models have the upper hand. Since they are basically an engine connected to an alternator there are significantly fewer points of failure. This can be important in certain circumstances and should not be overlooked when making your decision.
That being said, in the years that inverter generators have been around there is little evidence to suggest that they have a significantly higher failure rate than conventional models.
However, the more complicated circuitry and electrical components do make them more difficult to repair.
It really just boils down to what your personal preference. If you need something that is very simple to fix, a conventional model would most likely be your best bet.
Winner: Tie (Personal Preference)
While inverter generators do have many advantages, there is one potential downside. In terms of price per watt of power, they are significantly more expensive than conventional models.
Prices on inverters have continued to fall over the years but they are still significantly more expensive due to the amount of sophisticated electronics necessary to build them.
Which model is best for you boils down to deciding whether power output is more important than size, portability, and noise level.
Winner: Conventional Generators
Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys.