A generator with inverter technology is the safest source of power for expensive electronics like a computer or television. Computers and other power-sensitive equipment need a stable source of AC power without surges. Inverters create this clean power by first generating conventional AC power, then converting it to DC power before inverting it back to a stable flow of AC electricity. They are smaller and lighter than generators like the Generac GP5500, but reviews say their performance is surprisingly good. According to CampingLife.com, these compact generators "are incredibly smooth, quiet and fuel-efficient -- and have some amazing capabilities."
The Yamaha EF2000iS (Est. $1,100) stands out in several comparison tests as one of the best inverter generators because it's user-friendly, starts easily and is loaded with features. "Yamaha was the only generator in our test with a fuel petcock, which meant we could turn off fuel flow to the carburetor," say editors of CampingLife.com. "Other Yamaha features we appreciated included a gear-driven camshaft, as opposed to the rubber belt of the Honda [EU2000i], and a 500-hour emission compliance lifetime, which is twice that of the Honda's." This light-duty generator is lightweight and compact, making it easy to move and store.
Its highest-rated competitor, the Honda EU2000i (Est. $1,000) , comes in at 59 decibels under load -- the level of a normal conversation -- and is described as "nearly silent." An owner review at eHam.net says the Honda is "smooth, quiet, economical and easy to maintain … a typical Honda product." Although the Yamaha EF2000iS is a couple of pounds lighter than the Honda EU2000i, owners say the Honda's shape makes it easier to tote around.
Alone, the 1,600-watt Yamaha and Honda inverters can power basics such as a heater, refrigerator or freezer, and sump pumps. "We obviously have to juggle a bit between freezer, refrigerator, furnace and other appliances, but it's amazing how much this practical and reliable little generator can run," says a Honda EU2000i owner on ElectricGeneratorsDirect.com. Daisy-chained together, these two models can provide enough juice to start and run most window air conditioners. Both inverters here average between seven and 10 hours of operation per gallon of gas, depending on load, and have an economy mode or "smart" throttle to further reduce fuel consumption. Their emissions comply with CARB standards.