The Best Inverter Generators for Backup Power

Get clean, reliable electricity in a pinch with these top power-producers.

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The Best Inverter Generator Options for Backup Power

Photo: amazon.com

Inverter generators may be one of the most essential tools for your home safety plan. In the event of a natural disaster, the extra power produced by this type of portable generator can provide a safety net and boost household morale by keeping your refrigerator running, your lights on, and ensuring you have plenty of juice to power your electronics and entertainment equipment. It can do all this while hardly being noticed—even at full electrical load.

Inverter generators are a different breed than the typical open-framed generators you’re probably most familiar with. While both use fuel (gasoline, diesel, or propane), open-framed generators use an alternator to make the power usable for homes, campers, and job sites.

Inverter generators use a computer-controlled inverter to provide usable power. This makes inverter generators lighter, quieter, and more efficient than open-framed models. The addition of an inverter ensures less fluctuation in the current of the power generated, somewhat like a regulator. This inverted current is considered “clean electricity,” which is important for safely charging sensitive devices—handheld electronics like phones and laptops especially.

Just like their open-framed counterparts, inverter generators come in different models and sizes, which means they lend themselves to some uses better than others. Understanding the hallmarks of a high-quality product and getting to know the pros and cons of various models will help you find the best inverter generator for your needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Champion 3400 Watt Dual Fuel Generator
  2. BEST VALUE: WEN 56203i 2000 Watt Generator
  3. ALSO CONSIDER: Westinghouse WH2000iXLT Generator
The Best Inverter Generator Options

Photo: amazon.com

Key Shopping Considerations

There are some important factors when it comes to picking the best inverter generator. A little bit of homework will go a long way toward making sure you choose the right one.

Wattage

Wattage should be the most critical factor as you shop. Inverter generators, like their open-framed counterparts, come in different wattage ratings. The higher the wattage rating, the more power they’ll be able to produce. Higher wattages usually mean larger, more expensive units, so here’s a guide to choosing the right size for your needs:

  • Light-duty (tent camping, tailgating, etc.): 2,000-3,000 watts
  • Medium-duty (RV camping, emergency home use, job site, etc.): 3,000-4,500 watts
  • Heavy-duty (powering an entire home, powering a welder, etc.): 4,500+ watts

A smaller generator may be feasible if you’re only using it to power a radio or a small refrigerator. However, be aware that you’ll have less flexibility for plugging in other devices. A case could be made that generators under 2,000 watts aren’t worth the investment.

Noise Levels

The most noticeable difference between inverter and open-framed generators is the amount of noise they produce. Open-framed generators are unrefined and loud, producing decibel levels far exceeding the 100 dB mark. Inverter generators are roughly half as noisy as comparable open-framed models, often in the 50-60 dB range. Inverter generators also use sensors to detect how much power they need to expend, throttling down for smaller loads and producing lower noise levels.

Your neighbors, either at home or a campground, will appreciate that you purchased an inverter generator over a noisy open-framed model.

Load Sharing

Purchasing a set of like-branded generators will often give you the ability to wire them in parallel, also known as load sharing. This means that by using a brand-specific kit, you can plug one generator into another. This safely combines their wattages to produce even more power. Also, owning two generators provides a fail-safe if one stops working. You’ll still have power-producing capabilities, just at a lesser output.

Load sharing can be a less expensive way to get into producing enough wattage to run a whole house or power everything in an RV at once.

Size

Physical size and weight will be a factor for some shoppers. Suitcase inverter generators are, as the name suggests, top-handled units that you can pick up with one hand and carry about. They’re light, usually in the area of 40-50 pounds. The drawback is that these units are typically 2,200 watts and under for power output. Wheeled units provide much more power (3,000+ watts), but they’re large and heavy, making them difficult to throw into the bed of a truck or a camper’s storage compartment.

Our Top Picks

Best Inverter Generators Champion

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST OVERALL: Champion 3400 Watt Dual Fuel Generator

The Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Inverter Generator is all about flexibility. This model can run on both gasoline and propane—a nice option when camping or when getting to the gas station is a challenge. It has enough power to run the essential appliances in a home during a power outage as well. Its simple, color-coded plug-ins for a parallel adapter take the guesswork out of wiring two units together correctly. It has two 20-amp outlets and one 30-amp outlet. It has multiple sensors, including overload and low-oil for safety. Running at 59 dB, it’s quiet enough for nearly any use. It also uses either a pull or electric starter.

Best Inverter Generators WEN

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST VALUE: WEN 56203i 2000 Watt Generator

For those on a budget with some flexible power needs, this option from WEN might just hit the mark. This suitcase-style generator is lightweight, at only 39 pounds, making it super maneuverable. It has enough power (2,000 watts) to run a small campsite or a small refrigerator and a few ancillary devices (cell phones, emergency radio, or a box fan). It’s very quiet as well, running as low as 51 decibels with only a device or two plugged in. It features two 20-amp outlets, one 12V outlet, and two convenient USB outlets.

This is a basic, affordable generator. The trade-off for the lower price is the lack of an electric or remote starter.

Best Inverter Generator WH2200iXLT

Photo: amazon.com

3. ALSO CONSIDER: Westinghouse WH2000iXLT Generator

This is a quiet and lightweight model from a reliable and well-known manufacturer. Just like the larger Westinghouse model on the list, the WH2000iXLT does its job well. This 2,000-watt suitcase weighs 43 pounds and runs at 52 dB, which makes it perfect for throwing in a truck to use at a tailgate party or campsite. It has two 20-amp outlets that can also be used to wire two Westinghouse generators in parallel for increased power.

While reliable and powerful, the Westinghouse model doesn’t have any USB power outlets, opting for only two 2-amp outlets and one 12V. This not only limits the number of devices you can charge at once but also eliminates the convenience of being able to charge USB devices.