How to Properly Ground Your Portable Generator (3 Steps)

It’s vitally important that your portable generator is properly grounded to avoid a costly accident. While some generators are already grounded, many are not. So how do you ground a portable generator?

To ground your portable generator, locate the grounding bolt on the generator and loosen it slightly with a wrench. Next, strip the end of the copper grounding wire one to two inches, wrap it around the grounding bolt using pliers, and tighten the nut. Soldering the wire to the bolt ensures it remains firmly in place.

I’ll now take you through what equipment you need and the necessary steps to ensure your generator is grounded and safe to use.

Tools and equipment to ground a portable generator

If you have a portable generator that you need to ground, then you will need to wire the transfer switch to a grounding rod. In order to do this, you will need the following:

  • Copper grounding rod. This is a copper rod that is designed to be placed into the ground so that any electrical current that comes from the generator is safely dispersed. Generally, you will need a rod that is approximately four feet long, but a longer one can sometimes be easier to place into the ground. My recommendation is to buy this grounding rodOpens in a new tab. on Amazon.
  • Copper grounding wire. This is a wire that is used to connect the copper rod to the grounding bolt on the generator. The further away your grounding rod is from the generator, the more wire you will need. It’s best to have plenty of wire, which is why I recommend this copper wireOpens in a new tab. to make it easier to attach it to the rod.
  • Wrench, pliers, and wire strippers. You will need these tools to strip the copper wire and to connect it to the rod and the grounding bolt on the generator. If you don’t have a pair of wire strippers, I highly recommend this wire stripperOpens in a new tab. available on Amazon.
  • Hammer. You will need a hammer or a mallet (or something else solid and heavy) to hit the copper rod into the ground. If the ground is particularly hard, you might also need a shovel.

How to ground a portable generator

Follow the steps below to ground your portable generator:

1. Hammer in the grounding rod

The first thing you need to do is hammer the copper grounding rod into the ground. It should be around 8 feet deep, which is the standard depth for home installations.

It needs to be that depth to make sure that no one on the surface is electrocuted from the electricity that is discharged by the rod. If you have a rocky or particularly hard surface, then you can hammer it in at an angle of around 45 degrees.

2. Connect the wire to the grounding rod

Next, you need to use wire strippers to remove between six and twelve inches of insulation from the end of the wire. You then need to attach this to the top of the rod by wrapping it tightly around using the pliers.

3. Connect the generator to the rod

Now, you need to connect the generator to the copper rod with the other end of the wire. You must always make sure that the generator is switched off before attempting to do this.

You will need to find the generator’s grounding bolt and loosen the nut. Remove one or two inches of insulation from the copper wire and use the pliers to wrap it around the bolt before fastening the nut again so that the wire is held firm.

How does electrical grounding work?

It’s important to have a good understanding of how electrical grounding works. Whenever electricity is traveling through wire, it is always looking for a way to disperse energy, and it does this by returning to the ground.

Usually, in standard electrical systems, it will flow through live wires to neutral ones. However, electricity always takes the easiest path, the one where there is the least resistance.

If a generator isn’t properly grounded, it can easily travel somewhere it shouldn’t. If this happens, several things can occur such as a fire or electrocution, all of which are highly dangerous.

By grounding the generator, you are providing an alternative path for the electricity to follow. It is called grounding because the alternative path goes into the ground so that the electricity can be dispersed safely.

Do you always have to ground your generator?

Most modern generators have been designed in such a way that the frame acts as a grounding rod, but some generators do still need to be grounded.

Grounding the generator properly is vital for ensuring the safety of anyone who touches it. It also provides peace of mind so you needn’t have to worry about what would happen if there was an electrical failure in the generator.

So long as you have the correct tools, it isn’t a difficult job to do and doesn’t need to take you long. Always put yours and the safety of others first.

How to know whether your generator needs grounding

To minimize risk, all portable generators should be grounded. Occasionally, depending on the design of the generator, you might need to do something different to ground it.

Most modern generators have been designed so that their metal frame acts as the alternative, least resistance path. Most parts of these generators (the engine and fuel tank) are all attached to the frame so that if any of its electricity has come outside of its wiring, then it will be properly grounded.

The quickest and easiest way to check whether your generator needs grounding is to look at the manual, which should clearly state whether it needs grounding or not.

However, if you do not have a manual for it, then you can look at the generator’s construction to see if it needs to be grounded. Take a look at the transfer switch: if there is an option to transfer the current to a neutral ground conductor, then your generator needs grounding and you should attach a grounding rod.

An ungrounded generator is a health and safety risk

It can be risky to have a generator that is not properly grounded. As the frame surrounding a portable generator is usually made from metal, it can conduct electricity. This means that there could be a current flowing through the frame, which could seriously harm anyone who touches it. The result of touching it could be anything from a small shock to serious electrocution and death.

Sometimes, a stray current could go through the engine or into the fuel tank, in which case the fuel could set on fire and the generator would be destroyed. Not only that but there is the chance of anything nearby being damaged by the fire as well.

By grounding the generator, you are ensuring that any stray currents are safely dispersed in the ground and that anyone who touches the generator is safe from the risk of an electric shock.

Thanks for reading and make sure to always consult a professional if you’re unsure.

Joshua Milton

I want to share everything I know about home improvement in order to help you. Whether you're a home enthusiast or an industry professional, I have the information that you need.

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