LAST UPDATED: November 2, 2020
The Best Portable Inverter Generators (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020
Inverter generators offer clean and stable backup power in a small and portable package
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PUBLISHED ON November 2, 2020
Having electrical power when and where you need it is an underappreciated necessity. Whether for work, play, or even in an emergency, an appropriate generator can bring light into the darkness and take an experience from the Stone Age into the 21st century.
Just as important as a generator, depending on the situation, is having a reliable inverter to convert energy into something you can use. Many generator units are fully capable of fulfilling both roles. Some are small hand-portable devices, while others need to be moved about like a wheelbarrow. They range in price just as much as they do in size, and an appropriately powerful inverter generator can be found for just about any budget, for any task.
Briggs and Stratton is a popular brand that is known to make some of the best inverter generators, and this one is no exception.
- Compact, efficient, and quiet
- Provides an impressive runtime at 25 percent load on just a gallon tank of fuel
- 1700 watts is sufficient for a lot of outdoor activities, but might not be enough for more power-hungry users
This inverter generator is feature-rich and offers a lot of what one needs for a very attractive price.
- A slew of helpful features
- A long runtime that beats many more expensive options
- Maintenance is made more difficult by the hard-to-remove side panel
- Eco-throttle mode only works for loads below 1000 watts
The lightweight and easily portable design of this inverter generator makes it a great option for when you need backup power.
- Among the quietest in its class
- Also has one of the longest-running times, at 13 hours on a 1.3-gallon tank of fuel
- Housing seems to be made from flimsy plastic and can crack easily or get damaged if not handled well
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Benefits of Portable Inverter Generator
- When you need backup power. Whether it’s for tailgating, camping, or to endure those pesky power outages, a portable inverter generator is the most convenient solution if you need clean, backup power.
- Provides access to clean, stable, and consistent energy. Inverter generators have become a popular alternative to standard generators because they provide clean and consistent energy which is safe for powering up laptops, TVs, and other sensitive electronic items.
- Size and portability. If you need backup power wherever you go, then an inverter generator might be the best option. Inverter generators are typically smaller and lighter than standard generators; an average inverter generator weighs between 35 to 55 pounds while a standard generator can weigh four to five times more.
- Less noise production. If you need backup power but don’t want to deal with loud engine noises, then get an inverter generator instead -- they are much quieter, and the average inverter generator generates just as much noise as a normal conversation.
Types of Portable Inverter Generators
Small, Medium, and Large
An inverter generator with an output of 2000 to 3000 watts is considered small. These will be useful for activities that don't require too much power, like tailgating, camping, or for powering up a few essential items during a power outage. Inverter generators with an output of 3000 to 4500 watts are medium-sized and can provide backup power for a job site, an RV, and a good amount of essential home devices during a power outage. Beyond 4500 watts are large (sometimes open frame) inverter generators that can power an entire home or a construction site.
Briggs & Stratton
Founded in 1951, WEN is a company that’s been designing and distributing power tools for decades. It has expanded into developing other products since then, including inverter generators. One of its most popular inverter generators is the WEN 56200i.
Headquartered in Ontario, Calif., A-iPower is a company with over 30 years of experience in the industry, developing portable generators, pressure washers, water pumps, and engines. One of its most popular inverter generator products is the A-iPower SUA2000iV.
Portable Inverter Generator Pricing
- Below $500: generators in this price range will vary in terms of features but will fall into the small to medium category and be capable of producing around 3000 watts and under.
- Above $500: These generators will be medium to large (or open-frame) in size. They will be less portable but will offer a greater power output of 3000 watts and above.
Ease of use
Inverter generators, as opposed to standard generators, are typically more convenient and easy to use. They will generally be more portable, quieter, and will have a control panel that can be understood and operated on by even those who are new to the product. Compared to standard generators, inverter generators are also much easier to maintain.
Clean Power Delivery
One of the key features of an inverter generator is its ability to deliver clean, consistent, and stable energy. Since the energy is delivered in sine waves, it has less harmonic distortion and is therefore safe for powering up sensitive electronic devices such as laptops, TVs, mobile phones, and other gadgets.
Unlike conventional generators that maintain engine speed no matter how many appliances are being powered, inverter generators can adjust their engine speed depending on load requirements. This makes inverter generators much more fuel-efficient than conventional generators. This ability to adjust engine speed also means inverter generators won’t get as much wear as conventional generators over time.
- Parallel Capable. Most inverter generators available in the market are parallel capable, which means that two or more generators of the same brand can be paired with each other to increase the overall power output. This will be particularly useful if a generator’s output is less than what is needed.
- Warranty. Inverter generators are typically easier to maintain than conventional generators, and they won’t need as much regular maintenance. However, unlike conventional generators, inverter generators have a more complicated internal system, which is why the warranty on parts and services that a unit comes with is an important consideration that buyers should look into.
- Number of output ports. Naturally, the number of output ports a generator offers will be an important consideration. Smaller generators will have one or two output ports, as well as a few USB ports for smaller devices. Medium to large generators, on the other hand, will have more and will have additional RV-ready outlets.
Best Portable Inverter Generator Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Briggs & Stratton P2200 offers 1700 running watts of electrical power anywhere you need it. The P220 is powered by a compact, efficient, and quiet 111 cc overhead valve engine. This engine, combined with a one-gallon fuel tank, allows for continuous operation from 6.5 to eight hours at a 25-percent load.
At just under 55 pounds, the unit can be moved around easily and can be linked in parallel with another unit for extra power. With harmonic distortion levels of less than three percent, the P2200 is safe to use to provide power to laptops, TVs, mobile phones, and other fragile electronic devices.
This generator might not be enough for more power-hungry users, however. While you might be able to power your refrigerator depending on its wattage demands, you won’t be able to power up larger appliances.
The Champion Portable Inverter Generator goes far beyond the needs of most, with high levels of power produced by a truly heavy-duty, dual-fuel wheeled system. From the factory, this inverter generator can use both gasoline and propane and includes an extremely convenient electric start system.
The generator produces 3,400 starting watts and 3,100 running watts and can produce power for up to 7.5 hours on gasoline. For such a large and capable unit, a weight of just under 100 pounds is respectable, but Champion has thought ahead and included wheels to dramatically ease the process of moving the generator to where it needs to go.
With its overall heft, we just wish the tank was capable of holding more gas. While the output is great, its relatively small tank means it will need constant refilling.
Generators in the WEN 56200i’s price bracket very rarely can be called quiet, and they’re pretty much never described as powerful. They are often heavy, bulky, and challenging to move. This WEN generator performs above its price class, however. It produces just 53 decibels of noise, has an engine that is both EPA III and CARB compliant, and weighs less than 50 pounds.
With a total production of 1,600 rated watts and 2,000 surge watts, the 56200i makes the electrical oomph one needs, all in a small and portable package. It boasts a very impressive 9.4-hour run time under one-quarter load, lasting longer than some generators well over double its price.
The side panel, however, is difficult to remove, making maintenance of the unit that much more difficult. Another drawback is that the eco-throttle mode only works for loads below 1,000 watts.
With agility comes versatility, and the A-iPower SUA2000iV provides a huge amount of agility. Weighing in at a very low 46 pounds, the SUA2000iV can be moved around more easily than most of its competition.
With 1,600 running watts and 2,000 starting watts available, the SUA2000iV performs just as well as other portable power generators, but it's lighter. It does all this while only emitting 58 decibels of noise. The power the SUA2000iV provides is safe for sensitive electronic devices, so it can be used to directly power laptops, tablets, and similar devices.
This generator’s runtime of seven hours at 50-percent load on a full tank of gas is a bit low compared to other generators in its output range, and these numbers might be a deal breaker for some.
With the Rainier R2200i, power can be put anywhere. The R2200i has a lightweight and easily portable design that still doesn’t skimp on power production. Anywhere you need 1,800 running watts and up to 2,200 peak watts, the R2200i can produce that electricity at that location. In addition, its up to 13 hours of runtime will keep that power going for as long as required, thanks to a 1.3-gallon gasoline tank.
Despite its light weight, the unit doesn’t roar annoyingly like a standard generator, but more so hums at a relatively quiet 52 decibels. Whether this generator is used to power a construction site, a campground, or handle a home’s electricity during a power outage, the extra capacity means peace of mind.
However, the housing of the generator seems to be made from flimsy plastic and can crack easily or get damaged if not handled well.
- Always make sure to follow the guidelines listed in your generator’s maintenance schedule. Doing this will ensure that your generator always runs at peak efficiency. This will also lengthen the lifespan of your inverter generator.
- Always keep your inverter generator covered when it’s not being used. This will keep it protected against dirt, dust, and moisture, which can clog up its internals and cause shorts.
- Never use your inverter generator indoors or in spaces where carbon monoxide buildup can occur, because prolonged exposure to this gas can be fatal.
What is an inverter generator?
A. An inverter generator is a device that converts mechanical energy into clean, usable AC electrical energy with a Total Harmonic Distortion that is less than six percent, making it safe for powering up sensitive electronic devices.
What is the best portable inverter generator?
A: The best portable inverter generator will have the best balance of price, portability, power output, and ease of use. It will also need to be reliable and come from a brand with a proven track record.
What are the advantages of a portable inverter generator?
A: Compared to traditional generators, inverter generators are typically smaller, quieter, and more fuel-efficient. They also produce stable energy and safeguard against surges which make them safer than conventional generators for powering up sensitive electronic devices.
The Briggs & Stratton P2200 gets our pick for Best Overall. It is light, extremely portable, and has a good balance of features that makes it perfect for tailgating, camping, and other off-the-grid activities.
If you need a more affordable but feature-rich option, then check out the WEN 56200i.