Question

Do I Need To Ground My Portable Generator?

Portable generators are one of those things that you never really think about it until the time you need one. When hurricanes roll through or when a blizzard blankets your town and drops the power you need an alternative solution. When my wife was younger her and her family would have their power knocked out by a storm. While we have all experienced this before, what was unusual was they sometimes had to wait one or two weeks for it to be hooked up again. Depending on where you live or who lives with you, having your power out for two weeks isn’t just uncomfortable. It can be a matter of life and death.

While generators can give us this emergency power that we need it is often the case that users of these machines don’t know the first thing about them. This can result in injuries, electrocution, or worse. In an effort to educate those of you out there we here at ToughAssTools have taken the time to write this short article to answer some of your questions.

Grounding

When working with portable generators there are many risks. In this section we are going to focus on the electrocution risk of not grounding your generator. Grounding your generator allows excess electricity to be displaced and prevents users from accidentally shocking or electrocuting themselves. Depending on your system you may need a grounding rod. A grounding rod is a long copper rod that measures eight feet in length. It is usually recommended for it to be at or over five eights inches in diameter.

Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that all generators need grounding rods. That is not the case. There are considerations that have to be taken. Basically, it boils down to two main checks:

  1. How are you using your generator? If you plan to be plugging appliances directly into your generator using extension cords then you do NOT need to ground your unit as long as you meet the criteria from step two.
  2. Ok, the second check that you need to look over is that all components of the generator are bonded to the generator’s frame. This includes your fuel tank, your engine, the generator’s housing, and the power receptacles.

If your generator meets the above conditions then you are OK to move forward without using a grounding rod. This is because the generator’s frame replaces the grounding rod. (That is why we checked if every component was bonded to the frame.) So, if your errant electricity exists it will be grounded by your generator’s frame. If these conditions do NOT exist then a grounding rod will be required in order to safely run your generator and prevent injury.

Also, there is another exception that is very important. If your generator meets the above conditions BUT your system is plugged directly into your home’s circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch or if it’s connected directly to a building then you are required to have a grounding rod.

If you are unsure exactly if you need a grounding rod for your generator then I would highly recommend consulting with a trained electrician. Remember folks, it’s better to be safe then sorry. For more information on grounding your generator click here to be taken to OSHA’s guide on grounding your generators.

Conclusion

Well folks, I hope that this was able to answer your question and if it did not hopefully it at least pointed you in the right direction. For more information and best practices when using a generator you can check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. The guide goes over all of the Do’s and Don’ts of setting up and running your generator.

Also, because of the nature of this topic I have to put a legal disclaimer here stating that ToughAssTools is not liable nor responsible for any damage, injury, or other events due to this article. This article is advice. If you are unsure on what to do when using your generator Please Please Please consult a trained professional for a consultation.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

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