A portable generator is a handy equipment that comes quite in handy while camping, RVing, or tailgating. It does also allow you to enjoy off-grid life. However, using a generator does come with some safety measures. Of course, the last thing you need is your vocation cut short because of an injury or electrocution. Right? That’s why it’s crucial to ground a portable generator.
The good news is, not all generators require grounding, especially the modern portable generators. However, if you’re operating a model that needs grounding, you must understand how to do it properly. And this post will take you through all the crucial points you need to know how to ground a portable generator.
What is Grounding a Portable Generator?
Let me take you to the electrical class for a bit. Electrical grounding refers to connecting an electrical device circuit to a reference point. If I put it in layman’s term, grounding connects an electrical circuit to the earth; it’s also known as earthing. Grounding an electrical system reduces the voltage between the electric-conducting parts and the earth. In this case, it’s connecting the generator case to the earth using a highly conductive metal, a grounding rod with copper wire.
Is It a Must You Ground a Portable Generator?
Whether your portable generator needs to be grounded depending on the type of generator system your generator model uses. There is a separately derived system and an independently derived system. The owner’s manual has more info on this. If your generator uses a separately derived system, grounding is unnecessary; however, if it uses an independently derived system, you’ve to use a ground rod to ground it.
Most of the modern portable generators do not need grounding. But if you’re using an older model, you might want to read more. The best way to know if your generator needs grounding or not is to consult your generator manual or contact customer support.
If these two options are not available, you can perform the following checks:
If your powered appliances are connected directly to the generator’s receptacles, you can proceed without grounding so long as all the generator’s equipment is bound to its metal frame. That includes the engine, fuel tank, generator housing, and more.
If these conditions are met, your portable generator doesn’t need grounding. Why? The generator metal framing is used as the grounding rod. But if your generator uses a plastic casing or if the equipment is not about a metal body, you must ground the generator. If the generator is hooked up directly into your home, you must ground it.
For more on this and other grounding requirements, visit OSHA’s guide on the portable generator’s grounding requirements.
What Risks Are Involved If a Portable Generator Isn’t Grounded?
With most portable generators frame made from metal, they can conduct electricity and stay, or fault currents can flow through the metal frame. The currents can be hazardous if you touch the frame as you’ll be completing the circuit with the earth. The risks vary from mild to severe electrical shocks. And in the worst case, you get electrocuted.
When there is a fault current, it may pass via the fuel tank or engine, and when it comes in contact with the fuel, it may catch fire and result in your investment burning down. And as you can imagine, it can explode, causing more damages to the nearby objects.
How Do You Ground a Portable Generator?
At this point, the reason for grounding your portable generator is crystal clear. Right? Now let’s see how you can safely ground a portable generator and make it safe for anyone working around it. I’ve put together some pointers that will help you out with this process. Follow along!
Things you will need:
Here I’ve covered some of the items you need to get the job done; it’s a checklist of the things you need to complete the whole set up and some optional items.
#a) Copper Grounding Wire
It would be best if you put together a lot of copper wire. Having a lengthy copper wire gives you an upper hand and eliminates problems when connecting the cable to your generator. Besides this, having an extra wire allows you to have spacing freedom when grounding the copper rod.
#b) Copper Ground Rod
Another item you need to gather is a copper ground rod, at least 4-foot long. You must ensure you buy the right copper grounding rod. By doing so, you’re guaranteeing yourself a long lasting grounding procedure. It’s also crucial to ensure you have enough slack and you understand how deep you need to plant the rod into the ground.
#c) Wire Strippers
You will need the right set of wire strippers to strip the copper wired for easy connection. What’s more, the best products give you the chance to do the stripping easily and safely. Of course, you can also use a sharp object like a knife or any other substitute, but you might injure yourself. The best way to do it is to use wire strippers.
#d) Hammer, Sledgehammer, or Mallet
You do also need a strong hammer to plant the copper ground rod into the earth properly. A good hammer, mallet, or sledgehammer can do the trick. Get something that can handle multiple hammering and something you can lift easily.
It would be best if you had pliers for winding the copper wire around your ground rod well. It would be best to give it a reliable connection that won’t get loose in the middle of the operation. A pair of pliers will ensure the connection is rightly made and reliable.
A good wrench is necessary to connect the copper wire to your generator. You will need it the wrench to loosen the bolts, ideal for creating a secure connection.
Additional tools will offer an extra hand in ensuring you have a seamless grounding process. Here are the additional tools you can get.
Sometimes, you might be grounding the rod in the stern, dried ground. Water will help you soften the ground and save you time and energy. Water is instrumental in helping this kind of job done quickly, depending on the type of soil.
Working with a generator can, at times, involve screwing and unscrewing nuts here and there. A screwdriver will help you with this kind of job. A decent screwdriver will help you take out any earthing screws.
You also need a small, decent shovel if you need to place the generator in the level ground or you’re trying to plant the copper rod in steep terrain. It’s also instrumental if you want to bury the ground rod.
Steps to follow:
Now you know what you need to get the job done. What’s remaining now on how to ground a portable generator are the steps you need to follow for a seamless grounding. Here are the simple DIY steps you need to follow to ensure you get your generator grounded right and properly.
Step 1: Picking an ideal spot to ground
Before anything else, the first thing is to find an ideal spot to plant the rod. You need a place that won’t obstruct any traffic. You can also pick a spot with soft ground, a place that you can plant the rod easily. Also, ensure the area doesn’t have any underground electric wires or water system that you could hit as you plant it.
Step 2: Planting the copper grounding rod
The first step is to grab the hammer and the 4-foot ground rod. Place the rod sharp end to the ground and hammer it down to the ground. If the ground is too hard for it to get in, you can use a cup of water or two to loosen the ground. Try spreading the water to allow it to soak and test it. If nothing changed, add some more water.
Another thing, ensure you plant the whole thing, not forgetting to leave yourself a place to tie the copper wire. If you’re working on terrain, you will need the shovel to bury the rod in a way its angle doesn’t exceed 45-degrees. That way, it’s easier to keep the ideal ground, and you won’t have to be concerned about moving the ground rod later.
While driving the rod down, do it carefully not to ruin the copper rod coating. If it happens, you might end up with a non-working connecting.
Step 3: Stripping the copper wires
Copper grounding wires come with rubber insulation covering them. The rubber needs to be stripped off on the ends to allow connections. That’s why the wire strippers come in. It would be best if you had the tool to remove an inch of the insulation. Do you know how to use the tool? If you don’t, refer to the owner’s manual.
Step 4: Connecting copper wire
Please take one of the stripped ends and tie it to the copper ground rod using pliers. Give it two or three rounds to make sure the connection is tight. If you’re camping, you might want to give it a tighter connection as some small animals might loosen the connection.
Step 5: Grounding your generator
After connecting one end to the grounding rod:
- Take the other stripped end and use it to ground the generator.
- Look for the grounding bolt or screw labeled on the generator power panel and unfasten it. You can use the wrench or a screwdriver if it’s small.
- Once you’re done, take the stripped end and tie it to the screw.
- Use the pliers to tighter the copper wire and fasten the screw or bolt again.
That’s is how to ground a portable generator. As you can see, it’s a simple process that will ensure you’re safe while using the generator. As always, safety comes first when you’re dealing with electricity. Understanding how to ground a portable generator takes your safety measure a level higher, especially if you’re planning to hook up your generator to your home through the transfer panel. Of course, you can avoid all this hassle by getting a generator that doesn’t require grounding; most modern portable generators do not.
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