Difference between Generator and Inverter

The interruption in the supply of electricity has increased drastically over the years due to increased demand and it influenced the electricity industry. To overcome the problem of irregularities in the electricity supply, two of the most common technologies viz. generator and inverter of electric power supply are used. The generator and inverter both are the power backup devices used in case of electricity failure to produce electric supply without any disruption.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between the generator and inverter on the basis of various parameters such as voltage, starting time, installation, maintenance, size and cost, etc. But before going into the differences between generator and inverter, it is fruitful to get basic information about the generator and inverter.

What is a Generator?

An electrical machine which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy is known as generator or electric generator. The electric generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction, i.e. when a conductor is moved in a magnetic field, an EMF is induced in it. The electric generators produce electricity from many different sources of mechanical energy such as internal combustion engines, steam turbines, gas turbines, water turbines, etc.

The electric generator is one of the most useful electrical machine used for generating electricity during a power shutdown. However, its maintenance is a big problem because it uses coal, oils, natural gases, etc. as the source of power. But, the generator has one main advantage that it can be operated for longer period of time.

What is an Inverter?

A power electronic device which converts direct current (DC) stored in the batteries into alternating current (AC) is known inverter. The inverter have an extra electronic circuit for controlling the battery charging and load management to enable the use of standard electrical appliances.

Basically, an inverter acts like a power adaptor to power the low power domestic and commercial electrical appliances through the conventional electric wiring based on a battery powered system. The inverters are used to run most of the modern domestic and commercial electrical appliances like lamps, fans, refrigerator, water purifier and other low power devices. The inverters can be operated in stand-alone mode as well as in connected mode to the main power grid.

Difference between Generator and Inverter

The following table highlights the major differences between a generator and an inverter.

DefinitionA generator is an electrical machine which converts mechanical energy obtained from any external source into electrical energy.An inverter is an electronic device which converts direct current (DC) stored in a battery into alternating current (AC).
Source of powerIn a generator, the internal combustion engine is the main source of mechanical energy which operates on diesel or natural gas.The source of power for an inverter is battery, which charges with electricity itself.
VoltageGenerator directly produces desired voltage such as 220 volts at desired frequency (50 Hz).The inverter coverts 12 V or 24 V DC power into 220 volts AC power.
Starting processA generator requires efforts to start in case of power failure.An inverter starts automatically on the power failure.
Starting timeIt takes a considerable time to start a generator in case of power failure.In case of power failure, the inverter restores the power supply immediately and takes no time to start.
CapacityGenerators are heavy electrical machine which are capable of withstanding heavy loads and they are available in high capacities.Inverters are available in low capacity.
SuitabilityThe generators are suitable in the places with longer power cuts, as they can produce power for longer periods.The inverters are suitable for domestic and small scale commercial uses with less power surges.
Storage of fuelGenerators require fuel storage unit.In case of inverters, there is no need of storage of fuel.
MaintenanceThe engine-driven generators use diesel which requires periodic maintenance such as change of distilled water, change of lubricant oil, etc.The inverters are semiconductor based static devices, thus they require almost no maintenance.
Size and weightThe generators are larger in size and thus heavy in weight.The inverters have compact size and they are light in weight.
Need of spaceGenerators require much space for installation due to large size.Inverters require less space for installation due to compact size.
Maximum power outputThe generators are available in maximum power output rating from 500 watts to 50 kW or more.Inverters are available in max. power output rating from 1000 W to 4000 W.
Noise & PollutionGenerators make noise and also produce smoke which cause pollution in the environment.The inverters do not cause noise and pollution.
CostFor the same rating, the cost of generator is less as compared to inverter.The inverters are relatively more costly than generators of same rating.


Generators and inverters are the two most common technologies used for maintaining the continuity of electric power supply in case of main grid power failure. However, there are various differences between them which are highlighted in the above table. A key difference between a generator and an inverter is that the generators are complex, heavy, and large-sized machines with large capacities that convert mechanical energy from external source into electricity. In contrast, inverters are small-sized, low-power electronic devices that draw DC power from a battery and convert it into AC supply.