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What is an Inverter Generator?

Firstly, what is a generator?

In layman’s terms, generators convert mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy to supply power to a range of equipment and devices. 

Generators can be used to provide back-up power during outages to homes and businesses and power facilities. They are also widely used during the construction of new developments, as well as in the resources, agricultural and civil infrastructure sectors, to provide power when there’s no access to electricity from the grid.

How do generators work?

Designed to run on petrol or diesel, both conventional and inverter generators use internal combustion to create energy that’s then converted into an electrical current. Two key differences between conventional and inverter generators include how the current is produced, and the quality of this current. 

  • Conventional generators use a mechanical alternator to produce alternating current (or AC) power that’s ready to use.
     
  • Inverter generators also use an alternator to produce AC power, but this current is converted into direct current (or DC), before a microprocessor inverts it back into cleaner AC power. This three-phase process produces much higher quality, more consistent and reliable AC power – similar to the power you might otherwise get from the grid.

Which is the right type of generator for me?

Generators come in all shapes and sizes, to tackle different power generation jobs. Choosing the right size and type of power supply will depend largely on where you are working, and what type of work you are performing. 

Some generators have a bigger power output; some are more mobile than others; some generator power is more consistent; and some generators are loud, where others are much quieter. Here are five considerations to help you find the right generator to meet your needs. 

1. Mobility: 

Generators are available in portable format, as a permanent/fixed power source, skid mounted or trailer mounted  – depending on how and where you need to access power.

In portable format, inverter generators are generally the smallest and most lightweight, making them easier to move around. Whilst conventional generators can be mobile, they are often much larger and bulkier than inverter generators, and more cumbersome to move around. 

Large skid-mounted generators are permanently mounted in a frame, or secured onto rails or a metal pallet – making them easier and more secure to transport. 

2. Quality of power

If you’re powering telecommunications devices other sensitive technology, an inverter generator is a safer choice. Many new electrical devices are sensitive to the quality of power they use. Using conventional generators to power these devices can cause malfunctions or damage to occur. Inverter generators provide a more constant and high quality power supply.

3. Amount of power

The charging time, amount and size of equipment you need to charge will influence the amount of power you need.

4. Efficiency

Efficiency can vary between different types of generators. Microprocessors allow the throttle on inverter generators to fluctuate depending on demand, which means they can run at variable speeds. This allows inverter generators to throttle back, saving fuel and reducing noise when the demand for power is light. 

Although conventional generators can’t fluctuate their throttle, they come into their own and operate most efficiently when a constant and very high power supply is required. 

5. Noise

Conventional generators can be fitted with an acoustic cabinet (i.e. a soundproof case) to offer reprieve from noise during operation. This can be particularly useful for working indoors or in confined spaces, where noise can be an issue. However, the casing on portable silenced generators does make them bulkier to handle, reducing mobility. 

How many watts to power a house?

Here is a handy worksheet that can help determine the wattage for your needs.

https://www.turfmaster.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/wattage_worksheet.pdf

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