Portable generators are generators that can be easily carried around and used for various tasks in homes, offices, outdoor job sites, etc.
Their portability means they are essential for outdoor activities like camping. Having a generator for your RV can contribute greatly to your overall comfort as it will make you feel as if you were home.
It helps you meet your electricity needs while at the campsite, and you can enjoy your camping experience safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to rely on power providers for your electricity, which in most cases, is very unreliable. While using your generator at the camp, you have to know how to ground it to prevent electrocution, which can take away all the fun from your camping trip.
But What Does Grounding A Generator Mean?
Grounding a generator involves connecting an electric circuit to the ground. The generators frame serves as the electrical circuit, while a grounding rod serves as a reference.
Most generators do not need to be grounded. Whenever you buy a new generator, check its manual to see if the generator needs to be grounded.
If your manual is not handy, you can still know if your generator has to be grounded by checking if the generator is a separately derived system. If it is, then you need a grounding rod. There is no need to ground your generator if it is not a separately derived system.
Grounding a generator will require that you have a few essential tools which you probably already have sitting in your garage. Just as is the case with any task, you will find it a lot easier to ground a generator if you have the right tools for the job you are about to do. There are specific items you will probably also need to buy. Here are the tools you will need to carry out the task of grounding:
A wrench would be useful to unfasten bolts on the generator and the copper wire to the generator.
A set of pliers would be needed to wrap the copper wire around the grounding rod. Endeavour to get a good set, as they would help to make the connection better.
A hammer would be useful to drive the grounding rod into the ground for proper connection. Do not hit the copper rod in a way that would damage its coating, because this can result in a bad connection.
Solid Copper Grounding Wire
It is important to buy more than enough copper wire so that you can connect the copper wire to your generator and also connect it to the copper ground.
Once that is done, there should be a little extra to spare just in case. In order to properly attach your copper wire to the copper rod and generator, you will have to strip the copper wire.
You would need a good set of copper wires for this, as it can make the process more efficient. Any sharp object at all should do the job
4 Foot Copper Ground Rod
The most important component has to be the copper ground rod. Having a good copper rod can make all the difference. You will have to measure the copper ground rod to ensure that it is at least 4 feet in length. You will also need to make sure that the rod is at least 4.5 feet into the ground.
Water – For cases where the ground is too hard, having water to soften the ground can come in handy.
Shovel – If the ground is hard, you can bury the rod using the shovel.
Screwdriver – A screwdriver is needed; in case you need to take out a grounding bolt that does not have a hex head or that has been rounded off.
How to Ground a Generator
Here are the steps to grounding a generator:
1. Mount The Copper Ground Rod
For a proper ground, drive the copper ground rod into the ground at 8.5 feet using a sledgehammer, mallet or hammer. Use water to soften the ground, if it proves to be too tough.
Bury the rod at an angle no more than 45 degrees, if you are installing the rod in rocky terrain.
2. Strip and Attach Copper Wire to Copper Rod
Once you have successfully mounted the grounding rod at 4 feet, you need to connect the copper wire to the rod.
Carefully strip the copper wire, using a wire stripper and wrap it securely around the copper ground rod using a plier.
3. Grounding The Generator
After successfully completing the previous steps, it is time to connect your grounding rod to the generator. Prepare the other side of the copper wire by stripping it.
Loosen the grounding bolt on your generator, just enough to wrap the stripped copper wire around it.
Wrap the stripped wire tightly around the bolt. Ensure that you have a firm and secure connection by tightening it down.
Do You Need to Ground a Generator?
Working with a portable generator typically poses a lot of risks. Not grounding your generator can come with a lot of risks one of which is possible electrocution.
Grounding your generator, on the other hand, ensures that the excess electricity is displaced and makes sure that users do not accidentally shock or electrocute themselves. The need to use a grounding rod would also generally depend on your system.
Some generators may require grounding rods after some considerations have been made and some may not require grounding rods at all. There are two main considerations to help you decide if the generator needs a grounding rod:
- First, consider how you are using your generator? If you are going to be using extension cords to plug appliances directly to your generator then there would be no need to ground your generator as long as you keep the next step in mind and follow it.
- The next step you need to take is to make sure that all the components of the generator are bonded to the frame of the generator. These components include the engine, the fuel tank, the power receptacles and the housing of the generator.
If your generator has met the above-mentioned criteria, it means that the frame of the generator (which has all the components bonded to it) replaces the grounding rod and as such, would not need a grounding rod.
This is because any excess electricity can be grounded by the frame of the generator if it has met the above conditions. If your generator, on the other hand, does not meet the above criteria, it may be necessary for you to use a grounding rod to protect yourself and your appliances from electrocution.
With all the above criteria put into consideration, there is still an exception. If your generator meets the above-mentioned criteria but you still have your system directly plugged into the circuit breaker of your house through a manual transfer switch or if it is directly connected to a building, getting and using a grounding rod would become a necessity. (See: Top Generator Accessories.)
In the event that you are unsure, the safest thing is to consult an expert to help you make the safest choice.
Frequently Asked Questions on Grounding a Generator
How do I know if my generator needs to be grounded?
The easiest way to find out is to check the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. A “separately derived” generator system would require a grounding rod. If the generator is not a separately derived system, providing a ground in connection would not be required. In the absence of the manufacturer’s instructions, you can check the transfer switch on the generator to determine if your generator needs grounding.
When is a generator neutral grounded?
When it is in the standard power mode, the grounded rod for the load would be connected to the grounding electrode conductor. While in standby mode, the grounded conductor, which is the neutral rod for the load is switched over to the generator source. This generator source is normally grounded as a separately derived system.
What are the advantages of neutral grounding?
The neutral grounding comes with a number of advantages that a lot of people want to know. Here are some of them:
- The healthy phases voltages do not exceed the ground voltages. By implication, these voltages stay almost constant.
- The high voltages that occur as a result of arcing grounds are gotten rid of.
- The protective relays can function as strong protection against earth faults. In the event that earth faults occur on any line, the protective relay will work to have the faulty line isolated.
- The extreme voltages that happen as a result of lightning are discharged to the earth.
- Neutral grounding ensures that both the equipment and personnel have a lot more safety (See generator safety tips).
- It also ensures improved reliability of service.
- It helps to greatly reduce the cost of operation and maintenance.
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