Portable generators have various uses in the modern world including powering tools in industries and workshops, providing back up power to homes, and many more. If you are new to portable generators, you should know that you might need to ground your generator at some point. For that, you not only need the right tools but also good knowledge of the process. In this article we will explain what grounding is, when do you need to ground your generator, tools needed, and of course the steps you need to follow. Let’s dive right in!
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How to Ground a Portable Generator?
It is basically the process of connecting an electrical circuit directly to a reference ground. In a portable generator, the generator’s frame is considered the electrical circuit, and a grounding rod installed in the generator serves as the reference ground. Connecting one side of copper wire to the frame of the generator and the other side to the grounding rod helps ground the generator in order to ensure safe operation.
When should you ground your Portable Generator?
To answer this question, you should first go through the user manual. If you have misplaced the manual or if you just don’t want to bore yourself with the details, you can simply check if the generator is a separately derived system or not. For this, you need to check the transfer switch. If it cannot be moved to the ground conductor, it is an unseparated derived system.
If your portable generator system is separately derived, you need to ground it. If it is unseparated derived, you don’t. It’s as simple as that. Nowadays a majority of portable generators have their housing, engine, and fuel tank bonded to the frame which means they don’t need to be grounded. However, it is still better to check the transfer switch.
Why is it important to ground your Portable Generator?
For understanding why it is important to ground your portable generator, you need to have knowledge of how your generator supplies electricity to appliances. For supplying electricity to appliances, a portable generator uses 3 wires:
- Live wire: This wire carries electricity to appliances and also the transfer switch. 50A generators usually have two live wires.
- Neutral wire: This wire provides a return path to the electricity from the appliances. It helps complete the power path.
- Ground wire: This wire carries no electricity and is connected directly to the generator’s frame.
In some cases, the insulation of the live wire may get damaged. If the live wire touches the generator’s frame in this case, short-circuiting will take place and electricity will start flowing through the frame. If someone touches the frame, they might get electrocuted. Now, if the generator is properly grounded, the ground wire will direct all stray current to the earth making the frame safe to touch.
If the generator is not grounded, the stray current may reach the fuel tank or engine which will result in an explosion or fire. This can be a serious hazard to the safety of the people around them.
Requirements for Grounding:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stipulated certain requirements that need to be fulfilled to prove that your generator is safe to use even without the grounding rod. These requirements are as follows.
- All of the appliances that are being powered must be directly connected to the receptacles that are mounted on the control panel of the portable generator.
- All the generator’s parts, including the generator housing, combustion engine, and fuel tank should be directly attached to the frame.
However, if you intend to power appliances by connecting the generator directly to the transfer switch, you must ground the generator.
List of Tools Required for Grounding a Generator:
Contrary to popular belief, it is not always necessary to hire a professional to ground your portable generator. You can easily do it yourself. You just need the following tools:
- You cannot ground your generator without it. This rod should at least have a length of 8 feet and a 5/8 inches diameter.
Solid copper grounding wire:
- This is needed to connect the generator frame to the grounding rod. The wire gauge can potentially vary in the range of 6 AWG to 14 AWG mainly depending on the length of the wire, the current, the voltage, and the circuit breaker.
Set of wire strippers:
- This helps you strip insulation from the copper wire to expose the conducting part for connection. Alternatively, you can also use a knife or any other sharp object.
- They help you in properly winding the copper wire tightly around the grounding rod.
- They are used for adjusting grounding screws on the frame.
- They are used to drive the grounding rod easily into the ground.
- If you’re working on rocky terrain, this will prove useful.
- This can be used to adjust bolts that either does not have a hex head or have been rounded off.
Soldering iron and Wire:
- This can be used to create a secure connection between the copper wire and the grounding rod.
Steps to ground a portable generator:
1. Install Grounding Rod:
Use a hammer, sledgehammer, or mallet to drive the grounding rod into the ground. It should be at least 8 feet in for proper grounding. If the ground is too hard, you can use water to soften it first. In the case of mountainous terrain, you can dig a hole and bury the grounding rod at a maximum 45 degrees angle. In this case, the hole you dig should be a minimum of 30 inches deep.
2. Connect a copper wire to grounding rod:
Using the wire strippers, remove a small part of insulation from both sides of the copper wire. Now use pliers to wrap one end of the copper wire around the grounding rod. You can also solder this connection if you want.
3. Grounding the generator:
Put a grounding bolt on a generator. It should be loose enough for you to wrap or solder the other end of the copper wire around it. Once you’ve connected the wire to the bolt, tighten it and secure it in place.
You have successfully grounded your portable generator.
Grounding a generator is a simple task but be very careful because you’re dealing with a high-power generator. Do the steps in order and secure everything in place. We hope this article proved to be useful to you. Good luck!