Since generators can be susceptible to line voltage spikes, the best way to deal with them is to ground them before operating. This prevents any damage that could come from a spike or earth loop, which can wreak havoc on your generator.
A ground lug is an effective way to keep both your generator and yourself safe by grounding it at one spot while you operate it from another.
You may be thinking, “What do I care how to ground a generator while camping?” Well, sometimes you’re in the woods and there is no outlet. In this situation you will need to make one so that you can power your electric devices or run appliances.
We have step-by-step instructions on grounding a generator while camping! Check out what I’ve compiled on this topic below in my blog post for more information about how to do this before your next outing.
Let us tell you some basic things first:
What is Grounding?
Grounding is actually a practice of connecting a source of electricity or something that conducts electricity to another place without the source of electricity. Just like grounding an outlet, you connect it directly to the ground wire of your generator.
There are different methods and techniques for wiring this up but we will be going over how to do this with just two wires: one from the generator and one from the generator cord.
Why Grounding your generator is necessary?
When you generate power with your generator, it can produce electrical noise. These electrical disturbances are called “spikes” or “surges” which can travel back into your appliances and cause damage to their internal components; i.e.: burning out the motor of a fan or stopping the blades of a blender. Grounding your generator keeps this from happening.
There is another damaging effect called earth loop that can happen when you use a generator indoors. To better understand the earth loop imagine a pool of water with two metal rods.
One rod is in the water and one is on the platform above the water. If a charge builds, it will travel through the rod touching the platform and back down into the water.
When to Ground a Generator on a trailer?
This is a question that confuses many campers. You may be thinking, “How can I read this article and not know how to ground a generator?”
Well, with so many options out there for different camping setups you never know what campground you will be in. There could be an outlet but it may be blocked by something; i.e.: a tree branch.
You also may be in a situation where your generator is too loud or could cause noise complaints from the neighbors at your campground.
Sometimes it is best to ground the generator before you go on your trip as starting with no power sources available can lead to trouble when getting back home and running your appliances again.
Does Portable Generator Need grounding?
The short answer is no if it is a separately derived system.
A separately derived system is one that is isolated from the power grid. If you have a portable generator that is running off electricity coming from the campground’s power, then you do not need to ground it because it is automatically disconnected.
A generator is grounded if it has two different wires: one for the generator’s grounding wire and one for the cord of the appliance that needs power.
A generator without these wires would not be considered grounded because there is no way to transfer electricity from one place to another without having an appliance plugged in.
But yes it may be better to ground portable generators when you need to use them with heavy appliances. This prevents any damage that could occur from high line voltage or spikes.
You can also ground a generator while camping through the wheels of a trailer. You will want to run a ground wire from the generator’s frame to the static arm of your trailer, so that you can keep it in place while transporting it and then plug the other end into an outlet during campground use.
Different Methods of Generator Grounding
There are three different methods that can be used to ground a generator:
- Two wire electric cord grounded with a ground lug on the generator frame. This is by far the easiest method, but it still requires you to know how to wire an outlet. If you are not skilled in electrical wiring, you may want to get a licensed electrician to help detail this step for you. Once wired up, you will have a secure ground connection and less chances of a surge or spike damaging your generator or appliance.
- Adding an extension cord with two spade lugs (ground wires) on each end is another option in grounding your generator while camping. It is the same process as above, but you will need to arrange for one-time ground wire by making an extension cord with spade lugs on each end.
- Another option that is similar to 2 above but you only have one ground wire and one neutral wire to connect. This method adds a ground lug on the generator frame or an extension cord with a polarized plug to your generator. This will give you the same advantage as 2 above but without having to use an extension cord that has two spade lugs on each end.
The last method requires removing a cable from the outside of your generator and putting it between a distribution block and an outlet.
Now that we have understood what grounding is and why it is necessary, let me tell you how to set up your generator for camping needs!
Tools Required to Ground Generator while Camping
- Wire Strippers
- Wire Cutters
- Screw Driver
- Tape Measure
- Grounding Strap
How to Ground your Generator for Camping?
First, discharge the generator by touching one of your ground wires to the frame of your generator. This will discharge any electricity that is built up in the generator so that you don’t get shocked later.
Disconnect the power cord from the outlet on your generator and set it aside.
Next, you want to strip a half inch off of both wires on one end of your generator’s cord using a wire stripper and wire cutters. You are doing this because the cord that goes into your RV will be shorter than the cord that will go from the generator to the ground.
Now, you’ll wire both wires together with a screw driver. Start by stripping about a half inch of insulation off of each wire.
Then, twist them together and wrap electrical tape around them until they won’t slip loose. Make sure you tape each exposed wire so they won’t touch any metal parts that could short them out when operating your generator.
Now you must decide how you wish to wire the cord into your RV. The best option is through one of the plug holes on your power cord. If this is not an options for you, don’t worry!
You can still ground a generator while camping using another method; i.e.: the connection of a ground strap that is connected to the frame of your RV and then wrapped around the generator frame.
Once you’ve made your decision on how to ground your generator it’s time to tape everything together. Make sure that the wire connections are tight and that nothing is exposed. After, you put the whole assembly in a safe place until you are ready to use your generator.
Remember that you always need to ground a generator before you use it!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Do I need to ground my generator when camping?
Yes, because when you’re using it you are producing electricity that will eventually go somewhere. Would you like to see if that place is the campground you’ll be staying in for the night?
2. Are there any dangers I should know about?
Yes. The main danger is that if a cord gets plugged into the bottom of the generator, it could start a fire. Another possible hazard is that if your generator has exposed wiring connections, there could be a hazard because those connections might be too close to an outlet and get shorted out.
3. Does my Portable Generator Need a ground Rod?
No, portable generators do not need ground rods, but if you are going to be using them outside or if you want the best protection against electrical hazards, a ground rod may be necessary.
3. Can I plug my generator into an extension cord?
It depends on the size. You can plug it into an extension cord up to 25 feet long. However, it should be plugged onto a circuit without other outlets connected to it and taken outside as well.
4. How Deep I need to Place the Ground Rod for Generator?
That will depend on the depth of the pole that you are using and the length of your generator. A 12 inch high pole is usually enough, but if you are going to be using a generator that is 16 feet long, a 16 inch deep grounding rod might be necessary.
5. How many rods do I need?
You could use more than one ground rod if necessary. You could also connect them together with a wire or pipe as an alternative.
It is important to remember that generators are an essential part of camping, no matter how far the distance or how long you stay outside. The more secure your electrical system is, the safer you will be. I hope the tips and tricks of grounding generators while camping above will help you make sure they work correctly.
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