How To Ground A Portable Generator - 12 Easy Steps

Do you know that a portable generator can be grounded with an ordinary piece of electrical wire? It’s true! Grounding your generator is an important safety precaution, and it’s not difficult to do.

Portable generators are a lifesaver when the power goes out, but they can be tricky to use if you’re not familiar with them. In this post, we’ll show you how to ground a portable generator for your safety and what are the portable generator grounding methods.

Moreover, we will also discuss grounding rod installation in depth. So stay safe and powered up during storms this season! So don’t wait – read on to learn how to ground your portable generator.

How to Ground a Portable Generator?

The simplest way to ground your portable generator is to connect the grounding terminal on the inlet box of the generator to a metal cold water pipe in your home. Generators can be dangerous when they’re running, but grounding them helps protect you and your family from electrocution by neutralizing stray currents.

How to Ground a Portable Generator

When generators are plugged into an outlet or extension cord, they typically don’t have a grounding wire. If you want to be extra careful, it is recommended that you add a grounding jumper wire from the generator to the ground terminal on your home’s service panel.

Just attach one end of an 8-gauge (or larger) insulated copper wire directly to the green ground screw on your home’s main service panel and attach the other end to the generator.

If there isn’t a ground wire on your generator, you can connect one from your portable generator straight to any cold water pipe in your home. This is called grounding via the “ground screw”. Grounding via the ground screw attaches to an unpainted part of structure metal, including a water pipe, gas line, or a metal cold-water supply pipe.

What is portable generator grounding methods?

Do you have a portable generator? If so, it is likely that you’ve read all about the proper way to ground it.

  • The generator can be plugged into an approved outlet that is connected to a grounding electrode system, such as copper grounding rods driven into the Earth.
  • The generator can be connected to a metal conduit that is also connected to a grounding electrode system.
  • If neither of the above methods is possible, another method of grounding using wires mesh or straps can be used; these should be attached directly to the frame of the generator and run down to an approved grounding electrode system.

Check More: Build a Portable Generator Enclosure

Does my Portable Generator Need to be Grounded?

No, generators do not need to be grounded. However, it is a good safety practice to ground them. A generator is a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. The most common type of generator is the rotary type, which uses an electric motor to rotate a series of electromagnets in a circular field.

Do Generators need to be Grounded

The rotating magnets create an alternating current (AC) in the surrounding wire. Generators are usually powered by gasoline or diesel engines but can also be powered by other fuels such as propane or natural gas. Some generators can also be connected to wind turbines or solar panels to produce electricity from renewable sources.

Tools Needed to Ground a Generator

The answer is simple! You need a grounding kit. This will include everything you might possibly think of to make sure that your generator can be grounded and stay safe while running at high speed, like an outlet tester or surge protector (for when there’s more than just electricity going through), as well as neat little saws with wire cutters, so they don’t get lost in all those cords everywhere…

A few handy tools anyone could ever ask for are as follow:

  • Grounding Rod (At least 8 feet long and ⅝-inch in diameter)
  • Solid Copper Grounding Wire (Gauge between 6 AWG and 14 AWG)
  • Pliers
  • A set of Wire Strippers
  • A hammer or mallet
  • Wrench

The distance between the Electrode and the Grounding Strap

Place the grounding strap electrode (3) at least one meter (1 m) away from the generator or other electrical equipment and its Earthing points.

Portable Generator Grounding System

  1. Make sure you have a good ground connection on the generator, typically green in color. In rare cases, it can be brown or wet in appearance. If there isn’t a ground wire on your generator, you can connect one from your portable generator straight to any cold water pipe in your home. This is called grounding via the “ground screw.” Grounding via the ground screw attaches to an unpainted part of structure metal, including a water pipe, gas line, or a metal cold-water supply pipe. To improve the connection and prevent corrosion, use sandpaper to rough up the area where you plan to connect your wire, and then add some metal-safe grease to the area.
  2. The biggest question is, where do I find ground? One option is to install a grounding rod in your yard next to the generator and run a wire from it to the generator. However, you can also connect an 8-foot length of #4 bare copper wire directly from the grounding lug on the generator to a cold water pipe or any bare metal part of your home. Not only will this ground the generator, but it will also protect you from being electrocuted if there is a problem with the generator and electricity is sent back into your power lines.
  3. Check all electrical boxes and outlets before use to make sure they are in proper working order.
  4. When starting the generator, keep everyone clear of the exhaust fumes that vent from the unit until it is shut down and all gas has burned away.
  5. Keep cords in good condition by checking for fraying insulation. Never use a cord if it looks damaged or worn in any way.
  6. The engine in a generator is designed to be used outdoors, so operating it inside your home will not only create a loud noise but will expose you and anyone else in the area to harmful carbon monoxide gas. Never use a portable generator indoors, even for short periods of time. For sleeping areas, install a properly sized carbon monoxide detector. In addition to being toxic, these gases can also create an explosive atmosphere.
  7. Never refuel the generator while it is running or when the engine is still hot from prior use.
  8. If you must operate the generator in any sort of enclosure such as a garage or porch, make sure that ventilation is ample and that there are no ignition sources present.
  9. NEVER use a generator as a permanent stand-alone power supply. Even when used correctly, it poses serious risks to anyone using or servicing them.
  10. Ensure all generators have been properly wired for your area’s voltage requirements before plugging them in.
  11. Always be present while the generator is in operation, especially during the first few hours of use when mechanical problems are more likely to occur. If you need to leave your home for any reason while a portable generator is running outside, shut off the fuel supply by moving the fuel line’s manual shutoff valve to the “off” position and unplug the generator from the power supply.
  12. Follow these simple rules, and you will be able to enjoy your new portable generator without fear of injury or damage to your home, appliances, or equipment.

Read More: How To Make a Generator Safe For Electronics

How to Drive a Grounding Rod into the Ground?

A ground rod must be driven into the Earth with enough force to ensure electrical contact and conductivity. 10 ft-lbs of torque is needed for most ground rods as a rule of thumb. Before you start pounding on your new rod, it’s important to clear the area around your grounding point so that there is no chance of accidental injury or damage to structures or equipment.

How To Ground A Portable Generator

Manual Post Pounder Method

The first step is to clear the area and mark the spot where you plan to place your ground rod. Then, make a small hole with a shovel and insert a scrap of wire (the exact length isn’t important – about three feet will do fine).

The wire acts as a guide for the tip of your rod, making it much easier to place your rod in the correct spot. Now that you’ve got a good idea of where your rod will be placed, it’s time to get started! The first step is driving the grounding rod into the ground. There are several methods for doing this – here, we’re using a manual post-pounder.

You may need to repeat the process a few times until you get your rod in as far as you can with the manual post-pounder. You’ll notice on our third strike that we hit some resistance – this is because about 18″ below the surface, there was a rock buried under the ground. Remember earlier when we placed that scrap of wire to act as a guide? Well, the wire was caught on that rock and stopped our post-pounder from penetrating.

A couple more hits with the manual post-pounder did it, and we were able to drive the grounding rod into the ground. You will want to continue pounding away until your rod is about 6″ below ground level (it’s always better to err on the side of caution). At this point, you are ready to attach your ground wire. We chose to use an 8-gauge copper wire (you could use 4 gauge), but you can even use an old extension cord if it’s made out of copper (check to be sure, though). Just make sure the plating hasn’t worn off!

Read This: How Long Can a Whole House Generator Run

Ground Rod required for Portable Generator

When using a portable generator, grounding is required. The National Electrical Code (NEC) mandates that all 120-volt circuits are protected with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), which will trip if there is an imbalance between the current flowing in the hot wire and the current returning in the neutral wire.

Grounding is also required if you are using an adapter that changes two-prong (ungrounded) plugs to three-prong (grounding) plugs. If your generator does not have a grounding wire attached, then buy a grounding rod at any hardware store and push it deep into the ground near where you will be placing the generator.

Ground rod required for portable generator

You can also attach the grounding wire directly to a metal part of your home (don’t use plastic). Grounding is one of those topics that someone with appropriate knowledge and expertise should only attempt.

What can be used as a Grounding Rod?

A grounding rod is a metal rod that is inserted into the Earth to create a path for electricity to travel from an electrical system to the ground. This helps protect people and equipment from accidental electric shocks.  There are a variety of materials that can be used as grounding rods, including copper, aluminum, and steel.

When choosing a grounding rod, the most important factor is its ability to conduct electricity. Softer metals, like copper, are better at conducting electricity than harder metals, like steel.

What Happens if you Don’t Ground a Generator?

The generator is not grounded, so if the power cord is accidentally touched by a gas pipe or another electrical device that conducts electricity, there will be no resistance. This means the excess current will travel through the body of whoever happens to be touching them and shock them severely. Grounding provides protection by conducting this excess current safely to the Earth.

If a fault occurs on a generator, grounding provides a safe path for this excess current to follow, so it doesn’t build up at one point in the electrical system and create a dangerous or even deadly situation for anyone that happens to be touching them.

Grounding rod installation depth

A grounding rod needs to be inserted into the Earth at least 8 feet and no more than 10 feet.

A minimum of 5 ft and a maximum of 7ft is usually recommended for residential applications.

How much does it cost to install a grounding rod?

The project planning guide from the National Electrical Code cites the average cost of installing a grounding rod as $702. This includes labor and material costs for digging, concrete, etc. The cost varies with location and whether the installer is using metal piping versus conventional rods.

How To Ground A Portable Generator – FAQs

Do you need to Earth a generator?
Generators should always be earthed through a grounding rod, and this provides safety to the user of the generator by conducting any excess currents to Earth
How deep do I have to dig the ground?
The depth should be no deeper than 10ft. However, it must go down at least 8 ft. If you are using a metal rod, it should be no more than 7 ft.
Does a standby generator need a ground rod?
Yes, all generators need a ground to be safe for use.
Can you ground a generator with a rebar?
Yes, a ground rod can be any metal that conducts electricity.
Can you ground a generator with an electrode?
No, this is not recommended as it may create some issues.


Our Verdict

It is essential to ground your portable generator in order to protect it from the natural electrical currents that exist on Earth. Grounding a generator will form an electric circuit and keep you safe, as well as provide protection for any sensitive electronics nearby.

If you have any further questions about how to wire up your portable generators, we’re here at Little Giant with all of the answers! Comment below if you need more information or want our help wiring up your own generator.

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