Grounding A Generator: Necessary? How & More

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Grounding a generator is typically necessary to use your machine safely and to keep your warranty.

According to the OSHA, the only exception is if your generator is frame-bonded and you only use the generator outlets or extension cords connected to these.

When in doubt about generator grounding, you want to check your user manual or talk to an electrician.

Especially when connecting a generator to your house.

Grounding a generator is necessary because it helps you reduce the risks of short circuits. These risks can be grave so you do want to pay attention to this usage aspect.

Does a generator need to be grounded?

Yes, a generator typically needs to be grounded according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The only exception is if the noncurrent-carrying metal parts are bonded to the generator frame and you just use extension cords or the outlets themselves.

That being said, many popular generators are actually neutral floating, not frame bonded.

Especially when connecting the generator to your house through a transfer switch.

In this case, it is possible that the grounding of your generator happens through the electric panel.

It is typically smart to get help from an electrician in home situations like this.

When it comes to portable generators, you want to check what the user manual or customer support says about grounding.

There are also sometimes specific local regulations around bonding that you need to follow

Do inverter generators need to be grounded?

Yes, an inverter generator needs to be grounded if it is a neutral floating model.

At the same time, there are inverter generators that are frame-bonded. You don’t need to ground these if you just use power through an extension cord or outlet.

When connecting an inverter generator to an RV, you do need to provide some grounding. This can be built into the RV too.

Do you need to ground my generator when camping?

Yes, you need to ground neutral floating generators when camping.

Since many popular portable generators are neutral floating, grounding will often be necessary.

That being said, there are also frame-bonded portable generators.

These do not need to be grounded if you only use extension cords or the generator outlets directly.

Why do generators need to be grounded?

Most generators need to be grounded to give excess electricity room to escape and because short-circuiting would otherwise involve much greater risks.

A smaller additional reason is that using a generator without grounding could void your warranty.

What happens if you don’t ground a generator?

Not grounding a generator increases your risk of the following dangers:

  • Electrocution
  • Damage to your generator or the devices you power
  • Overheating which can lead to fire
  • Explosions due to electricity reaching the fuel tank

Generators will not always short-circuit but with risks like these, you do want to follow the grounding guidelines.

How do you properly ground a generator?

To properly ground a generator you need to take the following steps:

  1. Read up on the grounding rules in your area
  2. Gather the grounding rod, grounding wire, and grounding tools
  3. Put the grounding rod into the ground
  4. Wind a copper wire around the grounding rod
  5. Attach the copper wire to the generator grounding bolt

These general generator grounding steps apply to brands like DuroMax, Honda, Champion, and more.

Step 1: Read up on the grounding rules in your area

Check the temporary and permanent generator grounding requirements and rules in your location to make sure you don’t do anything illegal.

In some areas, there are guidelines around where you can ground your generator, how deep your rod can go, and more.

Step 2: Gather the grounding rod, grounding wire, and grounding tools

Grounding a generator will often involve the following equipment and tools:

  • Generator grounding rod
  • Generator grounding wire
  • Copper grounding wire
  • Potentially wire strippers for the copper wire
  • A hammer
  • Pliers

In some cases, you may need a shovel, water, and/or wrench.

However, the equipment above is typically enough to ground a generator.

Step 3: Put the grounding rod into the ground

The NEC (National Electrical Code) specifies you need to put your grounding rod at least 8.1 feet (2.44 meters) in the ground.

Preferably vertically but potentially up to 45 degrees sideways if rock bottom prevents the ideal option.

You could also bury the grounding rod horizontally if it is at least 2.46 feet (0.75 meters) deep.

Two grounding rods should also be at least 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) apart.

Step 4: Wind a copper wire around the grounding rod

Strip the copper wire if this is not done yet and wind the wire around the grounding rod with a set of plies.

The message here is rather safe than sorry. Make sure the copper wire will stay around the grounding rod.

Step 5: Attach the copper wire to the generator grounding bolt

Wrap the other end of the copper wire around the generator ground bolt.

You may again need to strip the copper wire to be able to do this.

The generator ground bolt may also be hard to loosen or tighten. In these cases, a wrench can be helpful.

How do you ground a generator to a panel?

To ground a generator to a panel you either have to connect the ground bolt to the right grounding terminal on the panel or through a separate ground.

Your (or the electrician’s) choice will depend on how your panel is set up.

Keep in mind that you will also likely need a generator transfer switch to safely connect your machine to the electric panel.

How to ground a generator without a grounding rod

The main way to ground a generator without a grounding rod is by safely connecting it to the existing grounding system of your home.

Frame-bonded portable generators are grounded through their frame if you only use the specific outlets or extension cords running from these.

Asking for help from an electrician with connecting your generator to the home grounding system is typically recommended.

Additionally, all the other generator safety tips still apply too.

Can you ground a generator on concrete?

No, you can not ground a generator on concrete without access to the ground below or around the concrete.

The solution to this challenge will depend on details like whether or not you can drill a hole in the concrete.

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Author:

Mats is the founder and head editor of Generator Decision. With a combination of critical thinking, tireless research, and a healthy interest in electronics he helps people find the right generators and how to use these. At this point in the journey, Mats has done research on hundreds of portable generators.