The Differences Between an Inverter and a Generator
People aren’t aware of the differences between generators and Inverters and often think they are the same thing. One big reason for this confusion is newer solar-powered generators and even some fossil-fuel generators have built-in inverters. (Well, gee, that really cleared things up!)
Alright, let’s try to get down to the brass-tack basics and attempt to genuinely clear things up. To really understand the differences of the generator versus inverter topic, we need to briefly go back and review some high school science basics.
First let’s review of the science of electricity.
Paraphrasing the US Energy Information Administration -- everything in the universe is made from atoms. The center of the atom is called the nucleus which is made up of protons and neutrons. Electrons spin around the nucleus in shells (or orbits). They are constantly spinning and moving to stay as far apart from each other as possible. The electrons are held in their shell orbits by an electrical force.
You know that saying that opposites attract? Well, this is what they’re referring to. Protons and electrons are attracted to each other. Protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge. The positive charge of the protons in an atom is equal to the negative charge of the electrons so that an atom is in balance when it has an equal number of protons and electrons.
So, what does that have to do with electricity?
We’re so glad you asked! Electricity is the movement of electrons between atoms. Imagine, the electrons normally stay a constant distance from the atom’s nucleus in their shells (or orbits). And picture that the electrons in the shells closet to the nucleus can hold two electrons. These electrons closest to the nucleus have a strong force of attraction to the protons. The electrons in the shells outermost orbits do not have such a strong force of attraction to the protons. It is these electrons that can be pushed out of their orbits by applying a force which can make one these electrons shift from one atom to another. These shifting electrons are electricity.
A further microscopic dive into electricity and the difference between AC and DC current.
So, electrical current is really the flow of electrons.
Remember that there are two types of electric current:
- AC or alternating current has an electric current that periodically reverses direction forward and backward -- hence Either direction the current is flowing it will still work to power your lamps or electrical devices. (In the U.S. alternating current is the type of electric power that is delivered to our homes and our businesses.)
- DC or direct current has electrons that all flow in one direction -- hence direct. A good example of direct current is the flow of electricity in a battery.
How does electrical current work?
To give a simple word-picture example of how electrical current works, you can picture that the conductor (the electrical wire) that the electricity flows through is made up of atoms with each atom having electrons orbiting its nucleus. When you add new electrons to the conductor, they move to join the existing atoms and each atom takes in a new electron in its outer orbit and “spits out” an electron to the next atom. This next atom takes this new electron and “spits out” another electron on the other side and so on and so forth with one atom handing off an electron to the next atom -- and this is what creates the electron flow which is the flow of electricity.
How do batteries produce electricity?
Briefly, an electrochemical battery creates electricity with two different metals in a chemical solution called an electrolyte. One end of the battery has one metal the other end another type of metal, then the chemical reaction between the two metals and the electrolyte releases more electrons in one metal than the other. The battery’s metal that frees more electrons develops a positive charge and the battery’s other metal develops a negative charge. If an electrical conductor (a wire) connects one end of the battery to the other, electrons flow through the wire to balance the electrical charge.
An “electrical load” is an electrical device that uses electricity to perform a job, so an electrical load forms part of the electrical circuit that consumes the electrical power (energy) and converts it into another form of energy. For example, if an electrical load, let’s say a light bulb, is placed along the wire, the electricity can do its work as it flows through the wire and lights the bulb. In an example using a battery and direct current, the electrons flow from the negative end of the battery through the wire and the light bulb and back to the positive end of the battery completing the circuit.
Electricity needs a complete path or electrical circuit before the electrons flow.
Electricity must have a complete path, or electrical circuit, before the electrons can move. The switch or on-off button on all electrical devices closes (turns on) or opens (turns off) an electrical circuit in the device. Turning—or switching—off a light opens a circuit and electrons cannot flow through the light bulb. Turning on a light closes a circuit, which allows electricity to flow from one electric wire, through the light bulb, and then through another wire.
Source: Adapted from National Energy Education Development Project (public domain)
How do solar generators work with solar panels?
A solar powered generator as its name implies generates electricity with the help of the sunlight striking the solar panel surface where it creates direct current (DC) electricity which is converted to alternating current (AC) by the generator’s built-in inverter to power your household appliances.
The Nature’s Generator systems have batteries that can store the DC electricity so that any electricity not used to power your home is stored for later use as backup power when higher Time of Use (peak-use) electrical rates (4 to 9 PM) begin, or when the sun, or the electrical grid goes down (a blackout).
So back to the inverter versus generator topic.
So, a generator generates electrical power while an inverter converts one type of electrical current to another. Remember there are two types of electrical current -- alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). (Can’t help but think what a great band name AC/DC is.)
If AC must flow long distances, it can lose some of its power, because of this it is better when DC current can be converted to AC power closer to where that power will be used.
With a Nature’s Generator or Nature's Generator Elite or Nature's Generator Powerhouse solar powered generator with a built-in inverter the DC power that is created when sunlight strikes your solar panels can be converted to AC to run your household appliances right there in your home (that’s about as close as you can get to converting DC power to AC power so you will not lose any energy over a long transmission line process where the resistance encountered can cause energy loss.)
Even though Nature’s Generator products have a generator and an inverter combined in one unit to work in conjunction with one another, we must keep in mind that a generator and an inverter are two different devices with two different functions.
So again, here are the generator versus inverter basics:
- Generators produce electrical power.
- Inverters convert one type of electricity to another. For instance, an inverter can take the direct current (DC) produced by sunlight striking solar panels and convert it to the smoother, alternating current (AC) electricity needed to run US household appliances.
We must also note that when we talk about generators there are many different types of generators. In this blog we are not going to spend a lot of time on the topic of gas-powered generator versus solar powered generator, because fossil-fuel powered generators emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change as well as the deadly carbon monoxide gas that can kill families while they slumber – we strongly feel the need to transition away from generators that burn fossil fuels for power ASAP. You can learn it more from my other blog - The difference between Nonrenewable and Renewable Energy
Also, it used to be a solar powered generator was a lot more expensive than a gas-powered generator, but cost should no longer be a factor in a homeowner’s’ decision because Nature’s Generator’s solar-powered renewable energy generators are a very affordable option.
So, with breakthroughs continuously making solar powered generators more affordable, we do not need to spend too much time talking about a fossil fuel technology that is obsolete, but we will make these following observations.
The drawbacks of fossil fuel powered generators.
In a traditional fossil fuel generator when the combustible fuel is burned it rotates the motor which creates alternating magnetic fields inside the generator to generate electricity. The traditional generator output can fluctuate while running – this is not good for sensitive electronics.
Traditional generators create electricity by the motion of its engine. There are many moving parts, and the operation can be noisy. The motor needs 3600 rpm to effectively produce electricity.
Another disadvantage of traditional fossil fuel generators is that they pollute. Also, you must continuously refuel them, and when they are used incorrectly inside or too near to a home’s door or window deadly carbon monoxide can accumulate inside a home and kill the occupants.
So, in sum, mechanical fossil fuel burning generators are noisy, emit noxious polluting fumes, require fuel to run, have many moving parts, require maintenance like oil changes, lube jobs, and must have distilled water added to their battery reservoirs. In contrast a Nature’s Generator solar powered generator is quiet, emits no gases, only requires sunlight for energy. Also, a Nature’s Generator has no moving parts, so it does not need oil changes or lube jobs. This means in the maintenance department a solar powered generator is much easier to operate and maintain than is a fossil fuel powered generator.
Additionally --and this is one of the key reasons that the Nature’s Generator’s founders created the company -- we strongly feel that when you are spending your hard-earned money to keep you family safe that any generator you purchase should not be capable of killing your family with the silent killer -- carbon monoxide gas. Just last month a family of four was found dead because the gas-powered generator was set up outside but too close to an outside door of their home and the automatic shut off switch on the gas-powered generator failed. People should not die because a switch fails or there is an error in the set-up.
When we say a Nature’s Generator is affordable, we mean it. Our starting Gold system, which includes a solar panel (Power Panel) and solar powered generator with a built-in inverter, starts at only $999.99. This generator is emission free and safe to have in your home. You do not have to worry about storing flammable fuel to keep a solar powered generator running and they’re extremely quiet and their energy output is clean and stable which is what is needed to protect sensitive electronic equipment.
Let’s talk more about Nature’s Generator’s solar powered generators.
Our solar-powered generators have a built-in converter for convenience. They do not pollute and are eco-friendly.
The Nature’s Generator Inverters have smart microprocessors that adjusts the power output to match the demand. Our inverters produce a smoother AC current in the form of a pure sine-wave output. Our inverter’s smoother current can protect sensitive electronic equipment form damage.
With a Nature’s Generator inverter, the back-up running time is inversely proportionate to the load, meaning that the lower the load the higher the amount of back-up running time.
With our solar-powered generator systems with built-in inverters you can generate free electricity from the abundant energy of the sun. Our solar-powered generators use clean renewable energy and produce zero pollution, they also tend to be smaller, quieter, and easier to run and maintain than traditional fossil fuel generators making them a great choice for a home-use generator.
Keep in mind that many, if not most, of the electrical products in our homes today are designed with some type of microprocessor like (obviously) computers, but also, televisions, game consoles, printers, washers, dryers, smart refrigerators, and various other kitchen appliances. Devices that have microprocessors are considered sensitive electronic equipment because of their electronic circuitry.
You want to use “clean” power which is defined as power that is stable because equipment with microprocessors is extremely sensitive to electricity quality. If you use “dirty” electricity to power sensitive electronics, it is possible that the devices will malfunction or be damaged.
The term “dirty electricity” is akin to line noise or electromagnetic interference like high frequency electrical energy instead of the needed 50/60 Hertz alternating current electricity. Modern appliances manipulate (sometimes thousands of times a second) alternating electrical current. This continuous adjusting the flow of power causes transient changes in the voltage that can disturb the flow of standard alternating current, creating surges and unwanted higher frequencies. This dirty electricity can permanently damage sensitive electronics.
Our Nature’s Generators are quiet, emit no toxic gases, and importantly, produce a clean, stable, electrical power that won’t damage your appliances or devices with microprocessors.
Nature’s Generator’s expandability can increase your power capacity.
It is good to note here that solar powered Nature’s Generators with their built-in inverters can be connected in parallel with a Power Pod to double your power storage capacity. Our generators are designed to be daisy-chained in this manner. This is a good way to get higher power storage from lighter, smaller, more mobile generators that can be brought inside a home without risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Nature’s Generator designs all its generators to be stackable (so more units do not take up extra space) and to have wheels for easy mobility. So, by adding one or more Nature’s Generator Power Pod in a parallel configuration, you can get the power output you would get with a larger, polluting, fossil fuel generators but with smaller, lighter, eco-friendly, portable, solar-powered generators with built-in inverters that produce a quality, clean, and stable electricity output.
Also, and importantly, our products are affordable, so it won’t cost a king’s ransom to keep your family safe and comfortable in the next power outage.
So, to review what we’ve learned about the generator versus inverter topic:
- A generator doesn’t store electricity -- it generates electricity.
- A solar generator generates electricity when attached to a solar panel.
- A solar generator takes the free sunlight energy striking the solar panel and uses it to generate (DC) electricity.
- An inverter uses switches and rectifiers to turn direct current into alternating current. (It can also reconvert alternating current into direct current.)
- An inverter needs an electrical energy source like the solar panels (or even a home outlet in a pinch) to charge up the batteries.
- An inverter can store power in the generator’s battery system in the form of direct current (DC).
- When going from DC to AC (the power needed to run your household) our Nature’s Generator’s inverter output wave is “filtered” to smooth it out and stabilize the current.
- So, when DC power is converted by the inverter into alternating current (AC) electricity, the result is a “clean” unvarying pure sine wave electrical signal.
The most affordable and best solar powered generator with built-in inverters for your money.
Nature’s Generators come in varying sizes, the small Standard or Elite systems are portable and on wheels with an extending airport-luggage-like handle or more heavy duty Powerhouse systems. They are easy to maneuver and can be used inside your home because they do not emit toxic fumes like carbon monoxide – in fact they do not emit any fumes or gases – they are clean and green.
With the Nature’s Generator solar powered generator products, where an inverter is built right into the solar powered generator, it is undoubtedly a convenient design, but we admit, it probably does add to the confusion people have trying to decipher the differences between a generator and an inverter.
Although we just wrote a blog to explain the difference between a generator and an inverter as well as some of the inner workings of some of our Nature’s Generator solar powered generator product’s, the truth is that you don’t necessarily have to know how it works -- just know that it does work.
We have spent a lot of time and money designing our products for your convenience so that you can afford to keep your family safe and comfortable during blackouts and you can save money by generating electricity from the free abundant sunlight that hits the Earth’s surface every day.
We also took great care to design affordable solar powered systems to make sure you can afford the system you need and won’t have to pay for anything that you don’t. Our systems are reliable, ecofriendly, and safe for your family. We invite you to check out our affordable products at the link provided below.
Be assured that for affordable solar powered generators with built-in inverters that Nature’s Generator has your back and is determined to give you the most power and the most safety for your money.