One of the problems every homeowner has to deal with is a power outage. Whether you live among the pines and have to worry about severe weather taking out your power lines, or you’re simply in an area prone to brownouts, there will always be a time when you’re left in the dark.
Thankfully, homeowners are now equipping themselves to become more self-sufficient when the power goes out. And yes, a generator is a great option when you need backup power, but what if you want to go one step further and add an inverter to your generator? Can you add an inverter to a generator?
Well, if that’s your concern, then this page is just for you! We’ll go over everything you need to know about linking an inverter to your generator. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Do I Need an Inverter For My Generator?
If you’re looking to supply power to some smaller, more sensitive devices, then an inverter is something you’ll need to consider adding to your generator. That’s because the power generated by a typical generator is what’s known as “dirty power.” It’s not as smooth as the power you get from your utility company.
Before we proceed, we must acknowledge that generators are a real boon during power outages. They help you keep your fridge running, so your food doesn’t go bad. You can also use them to power up lights and keep your home warm. And in case you are heading out for a camping trip, a generator can help you keep all your devices juiced up.
However, that alone doesn’t tell us about the kind of power a generator produces. And generally generators don’t generate stable power. That’s to say, the power from generators has a lot of fluctuations than most of your electronic devices can handle, and that’s where an inverter comes in.
An inverter takes the unsteady power produced by a generator and converts it into clean power. It does that by passing the output wave through filters. That results in a steadier flow of electricity, which is safe for use on sensitive appliances such as laptops and tablets.
Some even come with an auto-shutoff feature that kicks in when the power output is not within the safe margins. That way, you can rest assured that your devices are safe from sudden surges.
So, as you can see, adding an inverter is essential if you want to protect your appliances from damage. But if whatever you are running off your generator can deal with fluctuation, an inverter isn’t necessary.
Differences Between Inverters and Generators
Although some people can’t tell the differences between inverters and generators, the fact remains that the two are very different. As much as they help in power outages, they serve distinct purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two based on power storage, noise level, portability, energy requirement, and maintenance. To do that, let’s draw a table and see how inverters and generators differ.
|Function||Generates electricity through internal combustion||It converts direct current (DC) into a more stable and “cleaner” alternating current (AC) to power on appliances.|
|Storage||It doesn’t store electricity. The generated power goes directly into usage.||Stores DC power in batteries and reconverts it into AC when there’s need.|
|Noise level||Produces more noise||It has a quieter operation|
|Efficiency||Lower efficiency, especially when not on full load||Higher efficiency|
|Pollution||Produces carbon (ii) oxide from burning of fossil fuels||Doesn’t pollute the environment|
|Maintenance||Require dedicated maintenance||It doesn’t require much in maintenance|
So, as you can see, there’s a big difference between the two. They don’t do the same work but can help each other during a power outage.
Can You Run an Inverter Off a Generator?
Yes, you can run your inverter off a generator. Inverters use storage batteries to supply power during a power outage. However, the battery will only last for a limited time since the inverter itself doesn’t generate power.
As seen in the table, one of the primary differences between inverters and generators is that the former does store power in batteries, while the latter generates power and sends it directly to your home.
When hooking up an inverter to a generator, the unit doesn’t draw the stored power in batteries. Instead, it gets power from a generator, stabilizes it, and sends it to all critical loads. That keeps the stored energy intact for later use. That means as long as the generator is on, the inverter will keep running no matter the size of its battery.
However, when not linked to a generator, the inverter will use stored power in batteries to run devices plugged into it. And as we all know, batteries don’t last forever. They need recharging occasionally. So, the number of hours your inverter will run off batteries depends on the size of the battery and the number of devices plugged into it.
Some inverter batteries can run up to 10 hours while others can only run for 3 hours under an equal load. That should tell you that there’s a significant difference in battery size.
But in case you want more hours of runtime, adding extra batteries should help. They’ll cost you more money upfront. But if you live in an area with many power outages, it’s a worthy investment.
Can You Run an Inverter and Generator at the Same Time?
Yes, you can run both an inverter and generator at the same time. That’s one of the benefits of having an inverter. An inverter gives you the option to use either a generator or batteries. That way, you can choose what best suits your needs at any given time.
While you can run an inverter independently as a power source, it’s still possible to use it simultaneously with a generator, as earlier said. Inverters don’t produce their own power, so they need generators to charge the battery and to supply the energy they need to convert and send to your critical loads.
The only difference when running an inverter and a generator concurrently and running an inverter alone is the power source. When not linked to a generator, the unit will use stored power in batteries to run devices plugged into it.
However, when connected to a running generator, the inverter will pull power from the generator, convert it to DC, back to AC, and finally send it to your plugged devices. That’s how you can use both an inverter and generator concurrently.
Can I Use My Generator To Charge My Inverter?
Yes, you can use your generator to charge your inverter. Charging your inverter with a generator will offer an extra backup power source for those times when the generator isn’t on, whether because of fuel or just giving it a break.
Once you exhaust the stored power in batteries, the inverter will need to be juiced up again. And one way to do that is by using a generator. Just connect your inverter to the generator, and it’ll start charging.
So, much like solar panels, you can charge your inverter’s battery using a generator. It won’t even affect the output section of the inverter, meaning that it can simultaneously power your devices while the battery is still charging.
Only remember that you shouldn’t exceed the inverter’s charging rate. That’ll damage your inverter, and it’ll void the warranty.
Can You Run a Computer on a Generator?
While you can run a computer on a generator, it’s not the best idea. Generators don’t supply stable power, which may damage your computer’s sensitive components. But as long as you have an inverter generator, you are in the clear.
As we’ve discussed, it’s possible to link your generator to an external inverter. The power coming from an inverter is safer and more stable for sensitive home appliances like your computer, laptop, TV, refrigerator, water heaters, and others.
Now, one thing worth mentioning is that manufacturers have started producing inverter generators. An inverter generator is a generator that comes with an in-built inverter.
In other words, you won’t need to buy an external inverter as the generator will already have one. That makes it safe to hook up your computer and other sensitive electronics to it. So, provided you already have one, you can use your generator to power a computer.
Can I Run an Air Conditioner With a Generator?
Yes, a generator can run an air conditioner provided it can produce enough power to support the startup and run the system. But again, it’s still best to work with a reliable inverter to avoid sudden power surges that may damage your AC.
As we all know, an AC requires a lot of power to start up. Once it’s up and running, it’ll only need about 1,500 watts to run. That’s not a lot compared to other home appliances, but it still requires a good and stable power source.
Now, the startup power requirement is what makes it tricky to run an AC with a generator. Most generators can’t produce enough power to start an AC. And if it can, there’s a good chance it’ll only be for a brief moment before the generator shuts down because it can’t handle the load.
That’s why, if you’re planning to use a generator to power your AC, you’ll need a heavy-duty one that can produce enough power for startup and run.
It’s also a good idea to connect the generator to an inverter. And in this case, go for an inverter that’s powerful enough to support your AC power requirement. An inverter will act as a buffer between the generator and your AC.
A generator primarily serves as a backup power source for when the power goes out. On the other hand, an inverter converts DC power into AC power. Even so, you can still connect your inverter to your generator to benefit from the advantages of each.
Alternatively, you can skip the hassle of connecting two separate units by buying an inverter generator. It’s more efficient, quieter, and weighs less, to mention a few benefits. So, an inverter generator combines the benefits of both devices into one unit, so you won’t have to worry about the disadvantages of using each device separately.