Portable generators are convenient to use around the house and at job sites. However, they produce high-voltage electricity, which can be dangerous if not managed right.
Grounding a generator is essential, but many people aren’t sure how to ground a generator. Read on to learn about the importance of grounding a generator and how to do it quickly and easily.
Why Grounding A Generator Important
Grounding is important because energy loves to travel. It constantly flows, and you need it to flow only where it should. The wires are set up for the power to flow through the “live” wires to the neutral wires.
If this flow gets interrupted, electricity will look for a path of least resistance to flow through. When there isn’t a ground for the electricity, it will often do damage by sparking a fire or causing electrocution.
Grounding is a path for the electricity to flow if something happens and cancels its regular route. It is a safer path for the electricity to flow so it doesn’t cause damage. Please also see our Generator Safety Tips article.
Does A Generator Need To Be Grounded?
Yes, your generator should be grounded! However, depending on your specific generator, you may not need to do anything special.
Most portable generators are manufactured with a metal frame. This provides a built-in ground for them. The generator frame is connected to every metal part of the generator, such as the engine and fuel tank, so electricity has a place to go if an interruption happens.
Does My Generator Need To Be Grounded?
The best way to know if your portable generator has a built-in ground is to check the owner’s manual. This should tell you exactly how to ground a portable generator. If you don’t have a manual, look for a grounding post on your generator.
If it contains a ground post, most likely you will need to connect it to a separate grounding rod. This is especially true when connecting portable generators to a house or other building and not plugging directly into power receptacles mounted on the generator.
How To Properly Ground A Generator
You ground your portable generator by connecting it to a grounding rod with copper grounding wire. This simple process can be done with tools you probably already have on hand.
What Do You Ground A Generator To?
Generators are grounded by connecting them to a copper grounding rod. Copper grounding rods are made to carry the electric current into the ground where it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything.
Typically, a ground rod for grounding generators will be at least four feet long. You want at least a four-foot copper grounding rod. You’ll need to use a longer one if you drive the rod in at an angle. Home units use eight-foot rods.
The longer rods ensure that the electricity goes into the ground and doesn’t hurt anyone standing around. You will need to drive the rod into the ground with a hammer or mallet to ensure it goes deep. Any electrical discharge from the grounding wire to the copper rod will be safely dispersed below the surface.
How Do I Connect The Grounding Rod?
You will connect the copper ground rod to the generator through a copper grounding wire. This copper wire is stripped and wrapped around a grounding bolt. Your generator should have a grounding bolt set up to make this easier.
On the generator, loosen the bolt to prepare it for the copper wire. Strip about two inches of insulation off the wire and wrap it tightly around the bolt. Once it is tight, you can tighten the screw back down.
You will want plenty of copper wire to run to your grounding rod. It doesn’t have to be close to your generator or house. Also, remember that all of this should be done with the generator off!
For the grounding rod, you want to strip about twelve inches of the wire and then wrap it around the rod. You want the connection to be tight with no loose wires. You will need wire strippers and pliers to do this properly.
How Do You Ground A Portable Generator Wired To Your House?
The safest way to use a generator to provide electric power to your house is through a transfer switch wired directly to your house. This protects your home and gives you the ability to power more appliances. A professional electrician should preferably install a transfer switch; if you don’t understand terms like “separately derived system,” “neutral ground conductor,” and “bonding,” don’t even think about doing it yourself.
Is Grounding A Generator Safer?
A transfer switch can be for your whole house or just part of your house, depending on how it is wired. The switch closes the circuit to outside power and only receives power from your generator.
Keeping the power within your house’s circuit can ensure that your necessary appliances and pumps stay powered. You must ensure the transfer switch is set up for your generator’s power capacity.
Why Not Just Use Extension Cords?
Extension cords can cause a back feed, which is when power from your generator flows back into the main grid. This can energize transmission lines and hurt the power company crew.
But this is only a concern if you use an extension cord to hook your generator to your house’s wiring. If you plug electrical appliances directly into the extension cord running from the portable generator, there’s no problem.
Do I Need A Transfer Switch?
You need a transfer switch if you use the generator to power your house’s service panel.
Transfer switches can either be manual or automatic. For manual, connect the switch before turning your generator on. Automatic ones will automatically switch on when the power goes out.
For an automatic switch, you will need a generator that automatically comes on when the power goes off. Again, you will want a professional electrician to install your switch if you do not have one in your house.
Power Safety And Convenience
Grounding a portable generator is pretty straightforward if you follow it step by step. This will give you the convenience of power when needed but also keep you, your loved ones, or your coworkers safe.
And, to keep your equipment safe, don’t forget to do regular generator maintenance.
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