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Do I need a traditional generator or an inverter generator?

This handy guide explains what you need to know before you hire a generator


What is a generator?

In layman's terms, generators convert mechanical or chemical energy into electrical energy to supply power to a range of equipment and devices.

Generators can be used to provide back-up power during power outages to homes, businesses and power facilities. They are also widely used during the construction of new developments, as well as in the resources, agricultural and civil infrastructure sectors, to provide power when there’s no access to electricity from the grid.

How do generators work?

Designed to run on petrol or diesel, both traditional generators and inverter generators use internal combustion to create energy that’s then converted into an electrical current. Two key differences between traditional generators and inverter generators include how the current is produced, and the quality of this current.

  • Traditional generators, also known as conventional generators or standard generators, use a mechanical alternator to produce alternating current (or AC power) that’s ready to use.

Traditional generators range from medium-size trailer mounted units to large containerised generators

Traditional generators range from medium-size trailer mounted units to large containerised generators

  • Inverter generators also use an alternator to produce AC power, but this current is converted into direct current (or DC power), before a microprocessor inverts it back into cleaner AC power. This three-phase process produces much higher quality, more consistent and reliable AC power – similar to the power you might otherwise get from the grid.

Inverter generators are generally small and portable.

Inverter generators are generally small and portable


Which is the right type of generator for me?

Generators come in all shapes and sizes, to tackle different power generation jobs. Choosing the right size and type of power supply will depend largely on where you are working, and what type of work you are performing.

Some generators have a bigger power output; some are more mobile than others; some generator power is more consistent; and some generators are loud, where others are much quieter. Here are five considerations to help you find the right generator to meet your needs.

1. Mobility

Depending on how and where you need to access power, you can hire a portable generator, a skid mounted generator or a trailer mounted generator – or alternatively, buy a permanently installed stationary generator.

Portable inverter generators are generally the smallest and most lightweight, making them easier to move around. Conventional portable generators, meanwhile, are often much larger and bulkier than portable inverter generators, and more cumbersome to move around.

Large skid-mounted portable generators are permanently mounted in a frame, or secured onto rails or a metal pallet – making them easier and more secure to transport.

2. Quality of power

If you’re powering telecommunications devices or other sensitive technology, an inverter generator is a safer choice. Many new electrical devices are sensitive to the quality of power they use. Using conventional generators to power electronic devices can cause malfunctions or damage to occur. Inverter generators provide a more constant and high quality power supply.

3. Amount of power or wattage

The runtime, amount of power required and size of equipment you need to power to will influence the wattage you need in a generator. Conventional generators often have larger fuel tanks – which means a larger capacity and runtime – so they can create more power than in invertor generator. Coates' generator and power distribution fleet ranges from smaller 650watt portable units right through to 1400kVA multi Megawatt Power Stations. Talk to us about sourcing the right amount of electrical power for your next project.

4. Fuel efficiency

Fuel consumption impacts your operating costs. Fuel efficiency can vary between different types of generators. Microprocessors allow the throttle on inverter generators to fluctuate depending on demand, which means they can run at variable engine speeds. This allows inverter generators to throttle back, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing noise when the demand for power is light.

Although conventional generators can’t fluctuate their throttle, they come into their own and operate most efficiently when a constant and very high power supply is required. They adjust the fuel and air input to suit the load and keep the speed constant.

5. Noise level

Conventional generators can be fitted with an acoustic cabinet (i.e. a soundproof case) to reduce noise during operation. This can be particularly useful for working in confined spaces, overnight, and near noise-sensitive areas such as residential areas, heritage sites, hospitals, aged care facilities, government buildings and livestock farms. However, the casing on portable silenced generators does make them bulkier to handle, reducing mobility.

With Australia’s largest fleet of generators and electrical power distribution equipment, it doesn’t matter how much power you need, where you need it or what you need it for – Coates can help to get you all fired up.

Talk to us about your power generation and distribution needs today, or find your local branch.

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