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Last Updated on October 20, 2020 by Scott
Portable generators are used for a variety of tasks, including back up home power supplies, powering tools at a job site, and many more.
Certain scenarios (like camping) may require you to ground your portable generator. You’ll need the right tools and know-how to get it done safely.
In this article, we will review what grounding is, how to tell if you need to ground your generator, the tools you will need, and the process of grounding your generator when camping or in everyday use.
Table of Contents
What Is Grounding?
Grounding refers to connecting an electrical circuit to a reference ground.In the case of a generator, the frame of the generator acts as the electrical circuit, and a properly installed grounding rod acts as the reference ground.
Connecting a copper wire from your generator’s frame to the grounding rod grounds the generator for safe operation.
Did you know?
A short circuit in an ungrounded generator can cause a fire.
Do I Need to Ground My Portable Generator?
The easiest way to find out whether you need to ground your generator is to check your generator’s user manual.
If the user manual is not available, you can still make a few checks to ensure proper safety.
- If your generator is a separately derived system, you will need to use a grounding rod.
- If it is not a separately derived system, your generator will not need to be grounded.
To recognize a separately derived system, simply check the generator’s transfer switch. An unseparated derived system features a transfer switch that cannot be transferred to the neutral ground conductor, meaning it will not need a connection to a grounding rod.
Most portable generators have their fuel tank, engine, and housing bonded to the frame, meaning they will not have to be grounded.
Tools Needed to Ground a Portable Generator
If you have to ground your generator, make sure you are equipped with the correct tools for the job.
While most of these tools can be found on most job sites, you may not have them ready at home.
Use this quick checklist to stay prepared for when you need to use your portable generator:
- A Set Of Wire Strippers In order to properly connect your copper wire to the copper rod and generator, you will need to strip the copper wire. A good set of wire strippers can help make this process cleaner, safer, and easier. In a pinch, a knife or other sharp object will work.
- SELF-ADJUSTING: Strip wire from 10 to 24 AWG with our self-adjusting mechanism. Jaw Width: 2 inches
- Solid Copper Grounding Wire Having an ample amount of copper wire will ensure that you can connect the wire to the generator and the copper ground rod with a little extra to spare, just in case.
- Includes: 25 feet of Solid Copper - Green Jacket THHN / Building Wire / Grounding Wire
- 4 Foot Copper Ground Rod The star of the show and most important piece is the copper ground rod. Having the proper copper grounding rod makes all of the difference in this procedure for adequate grounding. You will need to ensure that the copper ground rod is at least 4 foot in length. You will also need to check to see how far it will need to be driven into the ground.
- Use when grounding off-air antennas and satellite dishes. This copper coated steel ground rod is 3/8" O.D. and four (4') long. A ground wire binding clamp is included. Use it in conjunction with other grounding supplies to protect against lightning strikes and power surges.
- Hammer/Mallet/Sledge Hammer
To drive the copper rod into the ground for proper grounding, you are going to need something to hammer it in. A quality hammer, mallet, or sledge hammer should do the job. Just be sure not to damage the copper rod’s coating as this could cause a poor connection.
To wind the copper wire tightly around the grounding rod, a good set of pliers will definitely help out and make the connection better.
When attaching the copper wire to the generator, a wrench will be used to loosen a bolt on the generator for proper connection.
- Water – In the case of hard ground, having water to soften the ground can be very helpful and save time.
- Screwdriver – A Phillips head screwdriver can help in removing a grounding bolt that has been rounded off or does not feature a hex head.
- Shovel – If you must drive the copper rod into rocky terrain, use a shovel to bury the rod instead.
How Do I Ground My Portable Generator?
1. Install the Copper Ground Rod
Using a hammer, mallet, or sledge hammer, drive the copper ground rod into the ground at least 8 feet for a proper ground.
If the ground proves to be too tough, use water to soften it up.
If installing in rocky terrain, try burying the rod at an angle that will not exceed 45 degrees.
2. Strip and Connect Copper Wire to Copper Rod
After properly staking the grounding rod 4ft down, it is time to move onto connecting the copper wire.
Using the wire stripper, properly strip the copper wire and wrap it tightly around the copper ground rod using the pliers.
3. Grounding the Generator
Once you have completed stripping and connecting the copper wire to the grounding rod, it’s time to connect it to the generator.
Carefully strip the other side of the copper wire to prepare it for connecting.
Locate a grounding bolt on your generator and loosen it just enough to wrap the stripped wire around it.
Wrap the stripped wire around the bolt and tighten it down for a tight and secure connection.
Grounding your generator (as necessary) is a very important part of setting up and using your portable generator properly.
This reduces the chances of malfunction and keeps you and your appliances (including your generator) safe.
Even if your generator does not require grounding, knowing how to properly ground a generator can help keep others safe.
I want to hear from those who have grounded a portable generator before! Did you have any troubles grounding your generator?
Would grounding a generator sway your purchasing decision on a future generator?
Scott Krager purchased generatorgrid.com in the summer of 2020 and quickly began to buy every generator under the sun! He currently has over a dozen generators and the number is growing quickly. He lives in Portland, OR near his family and friends.
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