Portable generators top the list of convenient pieces of equipment you might want to bring on your next camping expedition to make it more convenient. Thanks to them, you can easily access a supply of electricity for your RV or electronic gadgets whenever you want, wherever you are.
Who wouldn’t want that, right?
What a generator is and how it works
To describe it briefly, a generator uses mechanical energy from an engine to move electrical charges in the generators’ wiring. The flow of these charges is the electricity that the generator outputs.
It has hot and neutral conductors or wires similar to the main power supply you have at home. These two wires form a circuit through which the electrical current flows with the appliances you are powering.
To make it easier to understand, the hot wire conducts the current to the appliance. The neutral that wire that returns the current back to its source is the generator.
The third wire in the system that is not part of the electrical circuit is the ground wire. Under normal operating conditions, it doesn’t carry electricity. Instead, it is a safety mechanism to deal with faults. Say, for example, when a live wire touches a metal appliance casing, energizing it.
It gives the fault current a low resistance path back to the source instead of passing through the metal casing, preventing electric shocks.
Why use a portable generator for camping
If you’re an outdoorsy type, you should invest in a portable generator for regular camping. Why? Because it can produce durable power sources for you when you are on a camping trip.
This is extremely useful, don’t you think? And you can get quick and instant access to electricity, too!
You might ask yourself: do I need to ground my generator when camping? Read on to know the purpose of grounding and what can happen if you don’t ground your generator.
What is grounding?
Let’s get through the technical stuff first, shall we?
Grounding an electrical system such as a generator requires connecting its neutral conductor to a reference ground. The reference ground refers to a copper wire and a metal rod or the generator’s frame. A grounding wire gives an appliance or electrical device a safe way to discharge excess electricity.
The National Electrical Code and Recreational Vehicle Industry Association requires all RV electrical systems made to have their ground and neutral wires float or be unbonded. This is to make sure the safety ground wire never carries any load current and so that there is only one ground to neutral bonding point.
A well-grounded generator will simply add another layer of safety when you’re out on your camping excursion. This can depend on the surface and terrain you are camping on. Not only that, but you are also handling RV life reasonably well.
As they say, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So it pays to ground your generator correctly.
What happens when you don’t ground your generator?
If you are camping with a generator, your equipment should be safe to use. You risk damaging your electrical equipment when you don’t ground your generator.
This is because wiring or sensitive circuitry can be affected since there’s no protection from voltage spikes. Hence, it might pose a hazard and cause electrocution.
If you don’t ground your generator, chances are you could ruin not only the generator itself but the appliances and equipment connected to it as well.
Not grounding your generator while camping can cause your electrical equipment to overheat. The generator itself may overheat because of power surges, thus posing a risk of causing fires.
Proper grounding protects you, your family, and your possessions from being damaged by the unpredictable surges of electricity that could travel through the different connections.
If you ground your generator correctly, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. You just sit back, relax, and enjoy your camping trip in safety.
Do I need to ground my generator?
Not all generators need grounding. Generators with a separately derived system will need grounding, while those models which do not have a separately derived system do not require grounding.
Some portable generators mounted on a metal frame with their fuel tank, housing, and engine do not need grounding. To know whether your generator needs to be grounded or not, always check the user’s manual that comes with buying it.
What if you no longer have access to a user manual?
You can figure this out by examining your unit. Just look for the system’s generator transfer switch. Generators that require grounding will have a transfer switch to go to a neutral ground conductor.
To prevent an accident from happening, you need to ground your generator. If you use a larger portable generator, then you should always ground it to be safe.
Why you need to ground your generator
There are significant reasons why you need to ground a generator when camping.
Grounding your generator protects it from excessive electrical overloads. It also helps stabilize the voltage level during operation. By adding a ground connector, you ensure the safe operation of your unit. The ground is the path of least resistance, making it a safe route.
Grounding inhibits damage from happening to the generator and minimizes the risk of electrocution and even death.
How to ground a generator when camping
Set up the Copper Ground Rod
The first thing to do is to push the copper ground rod into the ground at least 8 feet for proper ground, using tools such as a hammer, mallet, or sledgehammer. Use a bit of water to soften the ground if it proves to be too tough to do so.
Remember to try burying the rod at an angle that will not exceed 45 degrees if you are installing in rocky terrain.
Strip and Connect Copper Wire to Copper Rod
The next step on how to ground a generator when camping is to take the grounding rod 4 feet down correctly. Afterward, it is time to move on to connecting the copper wire.
Next, strip the copper wire properly using the wire stripper and wrap it tightly around the copper ground rod using the pliers.
Grounding the Generator
So you have already set up the copper ground rod. You’re done with stripping and connecting the copper wire to the copper rod. What are you going to do next?
Once you have completed stripping and connecting the copper wire to the grounding rod, it’s now time to connect it to the generator. To do this, just strip the other side of the copper wire carefully to get it ready for connecting. Remember that you should turn off your generator while doing this.
You should locate a grounding bolt on your generator and loosen it just enough to wrap the stripped wire around it. Simply wrap the stripped wire around the grounding bolt with the pliers and tighten it down for a tight and secure connection.
How to ground a generator when camping is not rocket science, after all— or is it?