Grounding a Generator: A How-To Manual

Portable generators are a great tool to have around the house. This is true especially if you live in an area where the weather is known to knock your electricity out. They are also widely used on job sites and other industrial uses. Portable generators run a gas-powered engine that generates electrical power. But grounding a portable generator is a whole other story!

grounding a portable generatorEach comes with power outlets that allow you to plug in extension cords, appliances, and power tools into it. A typical portable generator has a metal frame with an internal combustion engine, alternator, starter, fuel tank and outlets. The amount of power a generator can produce is rated by watts. Running watts are the continuous watts produced to keep the items plugged into your generator running. Starting watts Portable generators differ from standby generators because a portable generator is not permanently installed – they are easily transported and are not automatically started.

Whenever you get a portable generator, it is important to go over the safety manual to ensure you are operating your machine safely and properly. You may also be required to ground your portable generator depending on what type of scenario you are using your generator for. In order to do so, you will need to know how to go about grounding a portable generator and what tools are required.

Not all generators need to be grounded but you can check your manual to see if yours needs to be grounded. In this article we will review what grounding is, how to determine if your generator needs to be grounded, the tools required to do so, and the step by step process of grounding your portable generator.

What is Grounding and Why is it Important?

The term grounding refers to making a connection between an electrical circuit to a reference ground. For your portable generator, the electrical circuit is the frame of the generator and the reference ground is a properly installed grounding rod.

Grounding your generator is imperative for safe operation. Electric current takes the path of least resistance to the ground and if the generator is not grounded, the path of least resistance could be through personnel operating the generator which would put their safety it an extreme risk. Generator systems must have proper grounding of their electrical components to minimize a disruption in current flow resulting in power outage, damage to the equipment, or injuries to the operator.

Does Your Generator Need to be Grounded?

grounding a portable generatorYour generator’s manual will tell you if your portable generator needs to be grounded. If you do not have your manual, you can check online for grounding specifications for your generator model. This is as important as generator maintenance as far as user knowledge is concerned.

Is your generator a separately derived system? If so, you will be required to use a grounding rod to ground your system. Alternatively, if your generator is not a separately derived system then you won’t need to deal with grounding a portable generator.

You can determine if your generator is a separately derived system by checking the transfer switch. If your transfer switch cannot be transferred to the neutral ground conductor then your generator is not a separately derived system. In other words, if your transfer switch cannot be transferred to the neutral ground conductor then you will not need a connection to a grounding rod.

What Tools are Required for Grounding a Portable Generator?

In order to ground your generator, you will need the correct tools to get the job done. Below is a checklist of potential tools you could need to ground your generator.

Solid Copper Grounding Wire

This is going to be the copper wire you will use to connect your generator to the copper ground rod. You will want to have plenty of copper wire available so make sure you have enough to spare.

4 Foot Copper Ground Rod

The grounding rod is the most important tool you will need to ground your generator because you absolutely could not ground it without the grounding rod. It is important that the copper grounding rod is at least 4 foot in length.

Set of Wire Strippers

You will need a set of wire strippers in order to connect your copper wire to the copper rod and generator. The copper wire will need to be stripped before you can make the connection. If you don’t have a set of wire strippers available, you can use scissors or a knife as well.

Hammer, Wrench and Pliers

A hammer or mallet is necessary to drive the copper rod down into the ground for proper grounding. You may need a wrench to loosen bolts when attaching the copper wire to the generator. Also, pliers are used to wind the copper wire tightly around the grounding rod.

Steps for Grounding a Portable Generator

Step One

Step One in grounding your generator is to install the copper ground rod. You will do this by using a hammer or mallet to drive the copper ground rod into the ground. As mentioned before, electric current takes the path of least resistance to the ground so installing the copper ground rod properly is extremely important.

Step Two

After you have driven the copper ground rod into the ground, you will need to strip and connect the copper wire to the copper rod. Use the wire stripper to strip the copper wire. If you don’t have wire strippers, you can also use scissors or a knife to strip the wire. After the wire is stripped, use the pliers to tightly wrap the copper wire around the copper ground rod.

Step Three

grounding a portable generatorOnce the copper wire has been stripped and wrapped tightly around the grounding rod, you are finally ready to ground the generator. The other side of the copper wire needs to be stripped carefully before connecting. Use the wrench to loosen the grounding bolt on your generator before wrapping the wire around it. Use the pliers to wrap the stripped wire around the bolt tightly and ensure you have a secure connection. Now your generator has been grounded.

Wrapping Up

Grounding your generator is sometimes a necessary step to ensure proper and safely use your generator. Not every portable generator needs to be grounded. It is important to read your manual to see if yours requires grounding. If you generator does require grounding, ensure you know the procedures. This will reduce the risk of improper current flow. It will also negate issues like power outages, equipment damage, and the risk of injury to the operator.

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