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How to Ground a Portable Generator?

how to ground a generator

Grounding a generator. Image source: ecmag.com

So you’ve bought a portable generator recently?

Make sure you ground the machine before you start! That is if it is necessary because many portable generators do not require grounding after all.

For starters, to ground a piece of electrical equipment simply means to connect it to the ground making it safe to operate. Some people use the term “earth” to refer to the same activity.

Is Grounding Necessary for All Portable Generators?

Safety is an essential matter when it comes to portable generators. Without understanding and taking the necessary safety precautions, you or someone around you could easily get injured. Additionally, your equipment could be prone to uncommon current flow leading to a power outage or even damage.

Back to your question—the answer is either “Yes” or “No”, depending on the model of the generator. As said earlier, not all portable generators need grounding to be completely safe.

A lot of modern generators are configured in a way that eliminates the need for grounding. These generators fall under the category of  “non-separately derived systems”. Grounding is only necessary for generators in the “separately derived systems” category.

For starters, a separately derived system is simply a wiring system without direct electrical connection to conductors originating from another system. A non-separately derived system is the opposite of that.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out if your generator needs some grounding. If you do not have those instructions on hand, then the simplest way to determine whether the grounding is necessary is to look at the transfer switch. If the switch is designed in a way that it can be transferred to the neutral ground conductor, the generator will need to be grounded and vice versa.

Basic Tools Required for the Job

To be able to ground your portable generator effectively, you will require the following tools:

1. Copper Rod

A copper ground rod is the most important tool you will require for the process of grounding a generator. Get a copper rod that is no shorter than 4 feet. That will serve as your main grounding material.

2. Hammer

How will I sink my copper ground rod into a hard surface? A hammer is what you will need to drive your copper ground rod into the ground fast and easily. You could also use a mallet for that purpose if you like.

3. Copper Wire

Your generator will need to be connected to the grounding rod in order for it to be successfully grounded. How do I connect it to the rod? Is it by using any ample wire at my disposal? The answer is a big NO! Look only for quality copper grounding wire.

4. Wire Strippers

You will need to remove the covering for your grounding wire at both ends before tying one end around the rod and attaching the other end to your generator. In that case, a wire stripper will help you strip your copper wire fast and easily. Do not use your delicate teeth or nails to do the same. Otherwise, using a covered wire will not make a difference.

5. Pliers

One important grounding step will be to wind the copper wire tightly around the grounding rod to enhance the connection. Here is where you will need a quality set of pliers to do the job.

6. A Wrench

A good wrench can be profoundly useful in attaching the copper wire to the generator by helping loosen a bolt on the generator for efficient connection.

How to Ground a Portable Generator

With these tools at your disposal, it is time to get started. Here are the steps To Ground your portable generator properly:

1. Install the Copper Rod in the Ground

Sink the copper Ground rod at least 8 feet into the ground, using the hammer. For your information, sinking your rod deeper ensures better earthing. Sometimes you might find that the surface is too hard to sink your grounding rod smoothly. In that case, you can pour water and wait until the ground is soft. What if the surface is rocking and pouring water on it does not help? In that case, sink the rod at a special angle. You can choose an angle that does not exceed 45°.

2. Strip the Copper Wire at Both Ends

Using your wire stripper, strip both ends of your copper wire prior to the next step. Be careful not to overstrip the wire, leaving the most part of it bare.

3. Wrap One End of the Wire around the Copper Rod

Once you have sunk the rod at least 8 feet into the ground, it is time to wrap one end of the copper wire tightly around it, using the pliers.

4. Attach the Other End of the Wire to the Generator

Finally, connect the other stripped end of your copper wire to the generator to ground it. Loosen the grounding bolt a bit, using the wrench and wrap the wire around it tightly before retightening the bolt to conclude the process.


If you bought a portable generator recently, be sure to find out whether it requires grounding or not. To do so, simply check the manufacturer’s instructions or the manner in which the switch is designed. If you determine that grounding is necessary for your generator, follow the steps above to earth it. If you need help or have a question, feel free to contact me!