If you think about it, a generator is basically an engine and an alternator.
The quality and style of these two components will determine a generator's size, quietness and, ultimately, price.
Most people assume that the engine - which generates the power - is the most influential component.
In fact, the style of the alternator - which converts the power into electricity - is actually the difference maker.
There are two styles of alternators: conventional and inverter.
Conventional generators consist of heavy copper coils, which generate a raw form of electricity.
The engine must maintain a constant speed of 3,600 rotations per minute to produce AC power. In other words, it must run at full speed, regardless of the load needed, consuming more fuel and generating more noise.
The electricity produced isn't as clean as utility power. Therefore, standard generators are NOT recommended to power sensitive electronics like computers.
What is the difference between an inverter generator and a non-inverter generator?
Hear the difference in sound output between the new PowerSmart Series Inverter Generator from Briggs & Stratton and a comparable, traditional camping generator.
Inverter generators, however, utilize a different type of alternator to generate very clean AC power.
The inverter technology reduces the generator's size and weight. But more importantly, the engine can run at varying speeds, significantly reducing the noise levels and fuel consumption.
Conventional generators are becoming as unpopular as "dial-up" Internet service. Inverters, however, are now considered their "broadband" replacement.
The state-of-the-art technology was very expensive several years ago. However, prices have dropped significantly on small recreational generators. They are extremely popular with RV enthusiasts and tailgaters.
Unfortunately, inverters are not affordable and practical enough for larger home standby applications... yet.