Do I Need to Ground my Generator when Camping?

grounding portable generator when camping

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Using a generator is the most convenient way to power an RV when boondocking or dispersed camping. Be it rain or snow, with a click of a button you have running electricity to keep your RV powered.

However, running a generator comes with safety concerns if not set up properly. One such concern comes from not grounding the generator.

Now the question is, do I need to ground my generator when camping?

Whether you need to ground your generator or not mainly depends on how you’re using the unit. You won’t have to ground the generator if appliances are plugged directly into a neutral bonded generator. However, you need to ground the generator if you use the shore power plug to connect it to your RV.

In this post, we’ll talk about the risks involved with not grounding the generator. Then we’ll dive in-depth on the correct way to ground your generator safely.

However, before that, let me explain what is grounding.

What is Grounding or Earthing in Electricity?

An electrical earthing or grounding is a process by which current from a faulty circuit is sent to the earth via a ground wire. It is a safety mechanism in an electrical system that removes the excess current to keep you and your appliances, including your generator safe.

In simple terms, grounding or earthing electricity is the process of connecting an appliance to the ground to prevent damage. It helps restrict the flow of electricity from being in places it shouldn’t be in case of a short circuit by sending it to the earth. 

Moreover, it protects your appliances from the damage of voltage spikes by sending the extra electricity to the ground. It can also save your generator and the appliances connected to it from lightning strikes.

Failing to ground a generator properly will put both the generator and the appliances connected to it at risk. It may lead to minor electrical shocks to electrocution or, worse, set the generator or the appliances on fire.

When using a generator to power your RV, it is important to ground the unit and follow other safety procedures.

Do I need to Ground my Generator when Camping?

Grounding a generator is not necessary if you’ve plugged your appliances directly into a bonded neutral generator. However, you’ll need to ground your generator if you’re connecting your generator to your RV using the shore power plug.

You don’t always need to ground a portable generator to operate safely. The need for earthing a generator mainly depends on two different factors. You don’t need to ground your generator if both the factors agree.

  1. Powering your RV appliances by connecting them directly to the generator through an extension removes the need for a grounding rod 
  1. If you have a bonded neutral portable generator, where all the components of the generator are bonded to the frame, then you’ll not need an external ground as the generator frame acts as the ground

You can go ahead and power all your appliances safely if both the conditions above agree with your situation. Additionally, you can check your generator’s owner’s manual to find out more.

However, you’ll need to use a grounding rod whether you meet the conditions above or not if you’re connecting your generator to the circuit panel via your RV’s shore power cable.

Call for help if you’re still unsure if you need a grounding rod or not.

On the other hand, RVs with onboard generators don’t have to worry about grounding rods as they are grounded to the RV or trailer frame.

How to Ground a Generator when Camping?

To ground a portable generator, drive the copper grounding rod into the ground with a hammer. Next, connect the grounding rod to the generator grounding bolt using an appropriate size wire.

Most portable generators, including inverter generators, don’t need to be grounded as they are usually bonded to the frame of the generator. Moreover, generators mounted on a trailer don’t need a rod to ground them either.

However, you’ll need to ground your generator in case you don’t have a bonded neutral generator or you’re planning to connect your generator directly to your RVs power panel.

Tools to Ground a Generator Safely

You need a few tools to make sure you can ground your portable generator properly. The tools that you require include

A Copper Rod: This is the grounding rod used as an anchor point that is driven into the earth. A rod that is between 4-8 feet in length is used to ground a portable generator. Buy from Amazon.

A Copper Cable: A long copper cable that acts as the linkage between the generator and the grounding rod. Buy from Amazon.

A Hammer: You need a hammer or a mallet to drive the grounding rod into the ground. Buy from Amazon.

A Wire Stripper: You need to stripe the wire that will connect the grounding rod to the generator. Though you can stip the wire with a knife or blade, a wire stripper makes the process safe. Buy from Amazon.

A Pliers and Wrench: A pliers will make securing the cable to the rod and generator more convenient and secure. The wrench will help loosen the grounding bolt on the generator easily. You can also use pliers to loosen the bolt. Buy from Amazon.

Copper is used as a grounding rod because current takes the path that offers the least resistance. Thus other types of metal are not used as a grounding rod as they may have higher resistance.

On to Grounding a Portable Generator

Once all the tools are ready at your disposal, grounding or earthing your portable generator is a few simple steps away.

However, before you start, make sure the ground is not wet and soggy or dry as concrete. Trying to insert a grounding rod into a very hard ground may bend or damage the rod.

1. Hammer in the Grounding Rod

To insert the grounding rod, hold the rod straight and drive it deep into the ground using a hammer. You’ll need to make sure the grounding rod is at least 4-feet deep into the ground.

You’ll need a hammer because driving the rod 4-feet will be impossible with bare hands irrespective of how soft the ground is. However, make sure to pour some water on the ground if it is very hard, as trying to drive a rod into a hard ground can damage it.

2. Strip both Ends of the Wire

Now, using the wire stripper, remove the insulation on both ends of the cable exposing the copper wire inside. Remove at least 2-3 inches of insulation to ensure you have enough exposed copper to make a proper connection.

3. Connect the Wire

Take one end of the cable and wind it around the grounding rod while securing it tightly with pliers. Only wind the exposed end of the cable to the rod to ensure proper connectivity.

4. Connect the Wire to the Generator

Take the other end of the stripped cable and wind it onto the grounding bolt on the generator. Most generators have a nut on the grounding bold which needs to be loosened before tying the cable.

You can use pliers or an appropriate wrench to loosen and tighten the bolt.

At this point, you have made the proper connection and grounded your portable generator safely. Now you can power all your RV appliances without worrying about damaging any electronics or harming yourself.

Conclusion

Grounding a portable generator while camping is important to ensure the longevity of your appliances and prevent mishaps. Whether you need to ground your generator or not will mainly depend on how you plan on using it.

However, to ground your generator properly, drive a grounding rod into the earth and connect it to your generator using a cable. Never use a generator without taking care of safety first.