How to Ground a Generator When Camping?

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Last updatedLast updated: January 22, 2021
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Do you enjoy camping? Many people do. There are so many benefits that come from this favorite pastime of millions of people around the world. One of the best things about camping is how it helps us be one with Mother Nature and unplug from our busy lives and schedules. However, to get the best of this wonderful experience, it is important to know how to ground a generator when camping.

A generator comes in pretty handy during your camping experience as it is sometimes the only way that you can enjoy electricity while far away from the rest of civilization. Therefore, it is important to take precautions that will improve your experience using the generator and make it safe for you and all your appliances.

Learning about how to ground a generator is an easy process that you can complete in a short time as long as you have the requirements for set up. In this post, we will discuss how you can ground your generator and other important tips that will help you to get the best from the generator.

What is grounding and why should you ground a generator?

How to Ground a Generator When Camping?Before we delve any deeper into this topic, we have to understand the fundamentals, and the first important thing to know is the importance of grounding the generator and what grounding a generator means.

What is grounding? Grounding a generator refers to the process of connecting the generator’s electrical circuit to the ground. Grounding is a process that is carried out, not only on generators but on other things like buildings.

For generators, the metal frame of the generator is the electrical circuit, and a grounding rod is the reference ground. For grounding the generator, you have to connect a copper wire from the frame of the machine to the grounding rod.

Why is it essential to ground the generator?

Well, it is important because a failure to ground a specified generator can lead to bad things happening. If your generator is one that needs to be grounded and you fail to do so correctly, it can become a fire hazard. If not done well, a short-circuiting can happen which will ignite the fuel in the generator.

Apart from the risk of causing a fire, a failure to ground the generator might also result in a fatal electric shock. Recall that the frame of the generator is the electric circuit. Therefore if the frame were held while the generator was running, it would electrocute the one touching the generator.

Do all generators have to be grounded?

How to Ground a Generator When Camping?When you are going camping, especially in a camping area, you will likely need to get a portable generator. Therefore, it is only smart to wonder if you will need to ground your generator. If you are using a portable generator, the fastest and surest way to know whether you need to ground it is to check what the manufacturer recommends in the user manual.

Unfortunately, though, not all portable generators might have the user manual available. You might have left it at home while packing for your trip. If you are in this category, this section will help you to determine whether to ground the generator. Here are some of the tips that will guide you in determining whether to ground the machine:

  • If the generator is a separately derived system, then it will require a grounding rod.
  • If it is not a separately derived system, then you do not have to bother about grounding the generator.

What does the term ‘separately derived’ mean?

Well, to know whether your generator is separately derived, check out the transfer switch on the generator. If the model is separately derived, it will come with a switch that is transferable. Therefore, it will require a grounding rod.

Conversely, if the system has a transfer switch that isn’t transferable, it wouldn’t require a grounding rod.

From our research, we observed that most of the portable generators found on the market come with their parts, like the tank, engine, and housing combined with the frame. Therefore, they don’t require grounding.

A large number of modern generators on the market do not require to be grounded. However, several older models need grounding if they are to be used safely.

Tools required for grounding

Now that you have identified whether your generator needs to be grounded and the importance of grounding, it is time to learn how to ground the generator.

To do so, as we pointed out in the introduction, you need to have the necessary tools and equipment. If you have decided to do so yourself, this section will provide a list and discussion of the most important tools.

If DIY isn’t your strong point, then you can hire the services of a professional, though at extra cost. If you do not have all the tools that we have listed below, do not fret. You can always get them at the local hardware store.

Copper grounding wire

How to Ground a Generator When Camping?This is one of the most important things that you need. It is vital to have a good length of copper wire that will let you make the connection between the frame of the generator and the grounding rod. When making a purchase, we recommend that you look for heavy-duty insulated copper wires.

Hammer

Since you need to drive the grounding rod into the ground, you will need a tool that will let your drive it in. Well, what better tool for this than a tool dedicated to driving nails into the wood – a hammer. This is what you will use to drive in the rod. If you do not have a hammer, you can use a mallet, sledgehammer, or similar tool. When using this tool, you should be careful that you don’t damage the coating of the rod. If the rod is chipped or damaged in some other way, it can cause a poor connection.

Copper grounding rod

The next thing you should get is the copper grounding rod. It is arguably the most important equipment or tool required for the successful grounding of the generator. To that end, ensure that the rod you purchase is of the highest quality and is at least 4 feet long.

Wire strippers

Wire strippers are another important piece of equipment to have. These are essential because they are used to strip the ends of the copper wire for proper connection to the electric circuit and the rod. If you do not have these available, you could substitute them with a knife.

Pliers

Twisting the copper wire around the rod can be done with your hands; however, you can do it even better by using a pair of coppers to tightly fix the wire around the rod.

Socket wrench set

Up next is the wrench set for the socket. This tool is important as it is what will help you to loosen the bolts on the generator so that you can improve the connection.

With all of these tools in hand, you will find it easier to ground the generator.

Grounding rod kit

Sometimes it might come handy to acquire all of the tools mentioned above as a whole kit, usually they come with the1 drive stud, 3 couplers, 3 3-foot copper rods and the 6 feet of copper wire. But in this case also always remember the matter of the price, because it can turn out that buying a kit will turn out to be more expensive than buying the solitary units.

Steps to follow for grounding the generator

Now that we have all the necessary tools on hand, we can now show you a systematic way of grounding the generator.

This section shows you the simplest way to ground the generator effectively.

Step 1 – Sink the copper rod to the ground

How to Ground a Generator When Camping?Before you begin any connections, the first thing to do is to drive the copper rod into the ground. You will do this using the hammer or the mallet. Ensure that you have a good length of the rod in the ground.

If the soil is soft, you should be able to do this in a short time. However, there are cases where the ground is hard and you might have to break rocks or other hard soil. If you cannot break these up effectively, it would be better to move the generator or rod to another surface that promises softer access.

If the general area is hard, you can soften the ground by pouring some water on the soil and waiting till the soil is softer.

One tip on driving the rod into the hard ground is to angle the rod as you sink it into the ground.

A rule of thumb when sinking the rod is that the deeper you can drive into the earth, the better the grounding.

Step 2 –Strip the copper wire

How to Ground a Generator When Camping?After you have successfully set up the rod, you should stripe the copper wire on both ends. This is where the knife or the wire strippers come in handy.

Do not strip the whole wire since you will still require the unstriped part. Over-striping the wire might be dangerous.

Step 3 – Wrap the wire to the rod and generator

After the stripping, attach the wire to the rod. With the aid of pliers, wrap the end of the wire to the rod and wrap the other end on the frame of the generator.

With the wrench, loosen the grounding bolt and wrap the wire tightly around the grounding bolt before you tighten it.

Grounding Generator Directly To a Trailer

Use 6 gauge automotive white wire to hook up the negative pole of the battery to the trailer chassis, and the positive pole together with the converter charger have to get connected to the starter motor and the charger connections. Usually all the instructions needed can be found in the manual, but it always a good idea to be consulted by a professional electrician, especially if you are in a situation when you need to connect the outer panel of the generator to the circuit breaker panel inside the trailer.

Other sources of power

While portable generators are so convenient, you can still some other sources to get electricity for your camping. In this section, we highlight some of these alternatives.

Solar

Solar power has become increasingly popular today. There are now solar panels on the market that will work to power your RV. While they are initially more expensive to acquire and buy, you will not have to refuel the panels. They are also very quiet and will work as long as there is sunlight to power them.

If you are a frequent camper, you will find these to be very handy and cheap in the long run.

Lithium battery power

Another source of power that people use is rechargeable lithium polymer batteries. These offer an excellent source of power. The downside is that you have to charge them before you head out camping. If they run out of power, you will need a generator or some other source of electricity to charge them.

If you don’t need to power plenty of appliances and only need something to charge your phone or tablets, then you will find these portable batteries to be handy.

Regular batteries

These are typical batteries. They are best for small devices and for lighting up the RV. They might not be able to power other appliances in the RV or camp. You can pair these with a portable generator for better performance. Reviews have revealed that the 56200i from WEN is a budget model that offers excellent performance due to the lightweight build and the ability to use it in parallel.

Car battery

When times are desperate, you could always use the car battery as an alternative source of power. These often come with a 12V connector and will not power powerful appliances.

Safety tips

Grounding is pretty straightforward, but there are dangers. Here are some tips that can help you to remain safe.

  • Make sure that everything is dry – the most important precaution is obviously to make sure that you place your genertor on a dry surface, and better secure it puting a shelter over it to prevent rain or moisture to cause any trouble, and work with it having dry hands only.
  • Observe how much power you are using – if you tend to use more than 10000W/hour you should always ground your generator in order not to hazard with the RV electric system.
  • Secure low resistance for your grounding and bonding circuits – the 0.2 ohm or even lesser resistance will be ideal for it.
  • Putthe wire in the opposite direction from your camping ground.
  • Wear gloves – as you strip the wire, you might injure yourself if not careful. The gloves will keep your fingers safe.
  • Hammer carefully – prevent hitting your hand with the hammer by ensuring your hand holds the rod in the middle.

Final Thoughts

If you are a frequent camper, you should look to invest in a portable generator or excellent generators for tailgating. According to reviews, the best portable generator for camping is the P2200 from Briggs & Stratton, due to its smooth power and the ability to use it with sensitive devices that you might use during camping. Several options on the market are powered with different fuels. No matter the one you buy, determine whether it requires grounding or not.

We have shown you how to ground a generator when camping in this article. We hope that it helps you to correctly ground your generator on your next camping trip.

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