Portable Generator Grounding Methods

Portable generators provide power to appliances and tools when you require supplementary electricity. Whether it is a power outage, medical emergency, or weeklong camping trip, owning a portable generator is one of the best ways to ensure comfort and security. A portable generator offers much more flexibility to the appliances that can be attached to it, unlike a standby generator.

Even though portable generators are quite safe, certain safety considerations need to be kept in mind. One of the critical aspects of using a portable generator is to ensure it is grounded, if necessary.

What do You Mean by Grounding?

Grounding is the process of connecting the electrical circuit to the ground. When electricity flows through a set of wires, it will dissipate energy back to the ground. In an electrical system, electricity flows through the hot wires into neutral wires. If there is a problem in the electrical circuit, electricity will be forced to flow through a route of least resistance.

When you consider generators that are not grounded, it will cause the electricity to flow into places where it is not supposed to go – causing electrocution, fire, and other dangerous situations. Grounding your generator provides a path for the electricity to flow as a backup. With respect to generators, its frame working like an electrical circuit, and the grounding rod will work as reference ground. Grounding the generator using copper wire and connecting it to the rod under the ground makes the generator safe for use.

Do I Really Need to Ground My Generator?

When it comes to portable generators, you should ensure they are safe to use. Not taking proper precautions can lead to accidents. Besides, the equipment and appliances attached to the generator could be prone to unbalance current flow, leading to serious damages.

Not all portable generators need to be grounded. Most modern generators are configured to eliminate the need for grounding. These are called ‘non-separately derived systems’ and have a direct electrical connection to conductors originating from some other system. Here, the engine, fuel tank, and housing are bonded to the frame. It is the ‘separately derived systems’ generator category that needs to be grounded as there is no direct connection to the conductors from other systems.

The best way to determine if your portable generator needs to be grounded is to check its manual for the manufacturer’s instructions on grounding the generator. The need to ground the generator will depend on the model of your generator.  If you do not have the manual on hand, check the transfer switch on the generator. If it is designed in such a way that it allows the electricity to be transferred to a neutral ground conductor, then it needs to be grounded.

What Will Happen if I Do Not Ground my Portable Generator?

Potentially a lot of bad things! Even though grounding may require a little bit of your time and effort, it is a simple process that can save you from a lot of pain – physically, mentally, and financially. You or any of your family members may run the risk of being electrocuted and lead to serious injuries. Another risk is damage to your appliances and electrical equipment, and you will have to replace them with new ones.

Surges and voltage spikes are quite common when turning your appliances on or off. If your generator is not grounded, the appliances won’t have protection from these spikes causing the wires to overheat. This can cause damage to your appliances and, in many cases, cause them to catch fire. Even your portable generator can catch fire. Thus, if your portable generator needs to be grounded, you should get it done.

Tools You’ll Need to Ground Portable Generator

Many people think grounding their generators is a complicated process and should be done by professionals. But, it is quite a simple process, and most of the time, people have everything they need at home for the job. If not, all the tools can be easily bought from your local home improvement store or can be bought online.

tools needed to ground a portable generator

 

If you wish to ground your portable generator, there are some tools you’ll need to get the job done safely and correctly. Here is a checklist of all the tools you need for the job –

  • Copper Grounding Wire – You’ll require good copper wires to connect the copper rod with the generator. You should ensure you have enough copper wire for the connection and do not fall short. Some extra wire length will ensure you have the space you need to ground the rod.
  • A Set of Wire Strippers – A set of strippers is necessary to connect the copper wire to the copper rod and then to your generator. You will have to strip the copper wires to make them easier to connect to the rod. A good wire stripper will make the entire process much easier, cleaner, and safer. If a stripper is not available, you can use a knife as well, but strippers are much safer, especially if you are not a pro.
  • Copper Ground Rod – You will have to invest in a good quality copper ground rod to ensure you can ground your portable generator correctly. Choose a copper grounding rod that is at least four feet long for it to work as your primary grounding material.
  • Hammer, Sledgehammer, or Mallet – You will need to get a hammer to push the copper rod into the earth properly. Even a mallet or a sledgehammer should be enough. When pushing the copper rod down, ensure the copper coating of the rod is not damaged in any way. It will only make the connection not strong enough.
  • Pliers – You’ll have the wind the stripped copper wire around the copper rod before you push it down the ground. A quality set of pliers will help wrap the rod with the wire to ensure a good connection.
  • Wrench – A high-quality wrench is needed to attach one end of the copper wire to your portable generator. It is used for creating secure connections and helps in loosening the bolts.

Optional Tools Needed

Apart from the tools mentioned above, you might also need few other tools during the process and should be kept handy. These tools are –

  • Shovel – If you want to get the copper rod pushed into a stony terrain, you need to use a shovel to make space for it on the ground.
  • Screwdriver – If there are grounding bolts that need to be taken off, you’ll need a good quality screwdriver to get the job done quickly.
  • Water – If the ground is hard, you can use water to make it soft, allowing you to push the copper rod into the ground easily.

Once you have all the tools ready, you need to know the steps needed to ground the portable generator at your desired location correctly.

Step to Follow to Ground Your Portable Generator

Here is the process of grounding your portable generator –

how to ground your portable generator

Hammer Down the Copper Rod into the Ground

The first step is to hammer down the copper rod into the ground. Ensure that the copper rod is at least four feet below the ground for the best connection. If the surface is quite rocky and feels harsh, use some water to soften the area. Pour water into the ground and allow it to be soaked up. Once it feels soft, push the copper rod down.

Strip the Copper Wire and Connect it

The next step is to strip the copper wire off its insulation to about 6-12 inches on one end using the wire stripper. Then, wrap this end to the top of your grounding rod several times and use the pliers to ensure that the wires are tightly wound around the rod.

Ground the Portable Generator

After you have connected the copper wire to the grounding copper rod, you will have to ground the generator. Take the other side of the wire and strip down its insulator so that it can be connected to the generator. Then, find a grounding bolt on the generator and unfasten it using a screwdriver. It should be loosened enough for you to put the other end of the stripped copper wire around the bolt. Next, take the stripped wire and circle it around the bolt several times. Then, tighten the bolt back down. Once it’s done, you’ll have a stable connection.

Conclusion

Safety is critical when dealing with electrical equipment. If you have purchased a portable generator recently, find out if it needs to be grounded. If grounding is necessary, use the steps given above to earth it before you start using it. It is the best way to ensure that you and everyone else are safe when dealing with the machine. It is also the first line of defense to protecting your appliances. If you plan to use your portable generators at construction sites or camping grounds where it needs to be moved around a lot, it is best to opt for a portable generator that does not need grounding.