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Best Inverter Generators

By: Amy Livingston on December 12, 2017

Inverters produce power that's safe for delicate electronics

A generator with inverter technology is the safest source of power for expensive electronics like computers and televisions. 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 standard generators, but reviews say their performance is surprisingly good.

Professional reviewers say the Honda EU2000i (Est. $1,000) is the best small generator you can buy, and owners tend to agree: This longtime favorite earns highly favorable feedback. It's fuel-sipping, and its small size and weight (a compact package just under 46 pounds, shaped like a suitcase with a handle) make it easy to carry. It's also super-quiet: At 59 decibels under maximum load, it's quieter than a normal conversation, making it perfect for tailgating or campsites where a noisy generator would incur the wrath of your neighbors.

In short, the Honda EU2000i has "revolutionized the small-generator industry," Popular Mechanics says. With its "flawlessly easy pull starting" and "excellent power quality," it earns a perfect 5-star rating. Owners add that it's also rock-solid reliable, with a three-year warranty and plenty of service providers should problems arise. We found hundreds of reviews for this little generator at Amazon, Home Depot, Electric Generators Direct and elsewhere, with impressive overall ratings of 4.7 to 4.8 stars.

The downside is that the Honda EU2000i is extremely pricey for the limited wattage it produces: 2,000 watts peak, 1,600 watts continuous. If you need more than that, two of these generators can be linked together via special cables and run in parallel to provide enough juice to start and run most window air conditioners – but of course, that doubles the cost as well.

The Yamaha EF2000iSv2 (Est. $900) follows close behind the Honda in reviews. On paper, the two generators look nearly identical: same wattage, similar size and weight, same warranty period, and same ability to be run in parallel if more power is needed. Honda holds the edge in reviews, partly because owners say that when it's time for service, there are more Honda authorized dealers scattered around than Yamaha dealers. The Honda also has a bigger engine (98.5 cc versus 79 cc). In tests at Popular Mechanics, the Honda beats the Yamaha by a nose at delivering "clean" power with no fluctuations. And, under maximum load, the Honda runs just slightly quieter than the 61-decibel Yamaha.

On the other hand, the Yamaha has a few nice features the Honda doesn't, including a fuel gauge and a fuel petcock, which allows you to switch off fuel flow to the carburetor. It's also a bit more fuel-efficient. A full tank (1.1 gallons) of gas can keep the Yamaha running for 10.5 hours at 25 percent load, while the Honda can only go 8.1 hours on its slightly smaller, 0.95-gallon tank. The Yamaha is a couple of pounds lighter, and unlike the Honda, it's CARB-compliant for use in California.

Popular Mechanics calls the Yamaha EF2000iS "indestructible." Users at Amazon.com might not go quite so far, but they're generally positive about its reliability, as well as its features, efficiency, and quietness. However, users gripe that if the generator ever needs a repair, service centers are few and far between, and Yamaha's customer support is not always helpful. Overall, it earns a 4.2 star score there based on more than 400 reviews.

If you're not prepared to spend $900 or more to power your sensitive devices, consider the WEN 56200i (Est. $485). This generator has the same power output as the pricier Honda and Yamaha models, and users say it's quiet and easy to start. However, it's also heavier than these competitors and has a much shorter run time – just 6 hours at 25 percent load. Its two-year warranty is also shorter. Finally, while reviews from users posting at Amazon, Home Depot and elsewhere are generally positive, the Wen generator gets more complaints about reliability than either the Honda or the Yamaha. Still, at roughly half the price, you might be prepared to take that risk.

If you're looking for a bigger inverter generator that can power your whole house, electronics and all, your best bet is the Honda EU7000iS (Est. $3,900). This is the top performer out of all portable generators at Consumer Reports, and it earns near-perfect scores in user reviews. Owners say it's extremely quiet, fuel-efficient, and easy to use, and its 5,500 watts of continuous power are enough to run a whole houseful of appliances. Their main complaint is that it's extremely expensive for a portable generator – but most owners say it's worth it.

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