A generator with inverter technology is the safest source of power for expensive electronics like a computer or television, but they're not perfect. As a case in point, owners say the 52-pound, 2,000-watt Generac iX2000 inverter (*Est. $600) sometimes overloads or bogs down, even under light loads. It's also incredibly noisy, sometimes measuring more than 80 decibels or about as loud as a garbage disposal. 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."
The 46-pound Honda generator is rated for only 1,600 watts, with surge capability of up to 2,000 watts, but owners say it's very dependable. Unlike the Generac model, it can be daisy-chained to another Honda for extra power. Likewise, the 44-pound, 1,600-watt Yamaha EF2000iS (*Est. $1,000) surges to a peak of 2,000 watts and can be daisy-chained to a second Yamaha.
Alone, a Yamaha or Honda inverter can power basics such as a heater, refrigerator or freezer, and sump pumps. Daisy-chained together, they can provide enough juice to start and run most window air conditioners. 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. If you can spend a little more, the Yamaha EF2400iSHC (*Est. $1,400) is rated for 2,000 watts and surges up to 2,400 watts, but it can't be daisy-chained. At 75 pounds, you need two people to carry it.
All the inverters evaluated 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. They all have two AC outlets and a single DC outlet, and all but the Generac iX2000 comply with California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards.