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What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Generator?

What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Generator?

When thinking of getting a new generator, many of us forget to consider the essential nature of grounding. After all, there is so much more to think about as well. That being said, one of the most significant elements of safety is how well your generator is grounded.

In the situation that you don’t ground your generator correctly, there are considerable risks at play. You could damage the electrical wiring of your generator or the devices you connect to it. Aside from that, there is a noteworthy risk that overheating can occur, which can place you at the threat of a fire or explosion.

It must be clear by now that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not to ground your generator or not do it correctly. To help you understand how much of a threat this can cause, we will be discussing what grounding is and how not grounding your generator can be harmful. 

What Is Grounding A Generator?

To understand why grounding is necessary, you need to understand electrical currents and how they work. When we use currents in any kind of system, there is always a neutral wire connected to the ground. When electricity flows through a wire, the electrical currents seek to distribute energy by returning to the ground.

Suppose the electrical currents face disturbances and the electricity shifts to a path of lower resistance. In the case of a generator, this can be disastrous and extremely dangerous. However, grounding prevents such an outcome. With grounding, you can have a backup path. This leads directly to the ground, with a much lower risk of dispersing the electricity. 

The Risks Of Not Grounding

When you don’t ground your generator, you are leaving yourself at risk with no safety net in case of a spike in electrical voltage. The electricity that wants to dissipate cannot do so in a safe way, which puts you at severe risk. This means both you and the generator system can be highly vulnerable in the case that there is a power surge. 

One of the things that can happen is that the electrical wiring can overload. This can pose severe damage to all of the appliances that you have been able to connect to the generator. The biggest threat, in this case, is that overheating can happen in the electrical appliances, which can start a fire. Even the generator can overheat and catch on fire. 

Because of the fuel that is available in a generator, fire is particularly dangerous. This means even a tiny spark can multiply and grow much more extensively in a shorter time than it would take for you to notice. 

Related: Why is Your Generator Shaking? How to Fix It

Do All Generators Need Grounding?

One of the common misconceptions out there is that not all generators need grounding. While this is not exactly true, the fact is that some models already have mechanisms for grounding that you don’t need to set up, particularly portable generators. However, one way to see if this is the case is to check what kind of system your generator uses. 

If your generator says it has a Separately Derived System, that is a sure sign you need to ground it. Another way is to look at the transfer switch. If the transfer switch can move to a neutral conductor, that is another sign that you need to ground your generator. There are also other ways to check and see if the generator is in need of grounding. For example, if all of the components in your generator are bonded to the frame – such as the engine, fuel tank, etc.- you do not need to ground them with a separate rod, and instead simply ground the frame itself. 

In terms of modern portable generators, there are a lot of models out there that do not need grounding. You can always confirm this by reading the instruction manual you got with the generator. The manual can tell you whether any grounding is necessary or not. If even the manual is not clear, you can take the advice of an expert. 

How To Ground A Portable Generator

Now that you know all of this, it is time to see how grounding a generator even works. When it comes to portable generators, once you know that there is a need for grounding, you can follow these steps to ground your generator safely. 

To ground a generator, you need a few things. Here are some of the best tools needed to ground a portable generator:

  1. A grounding rodyou need a copper grounding rod that you can push into the ground. This makes it easier for the current to disperse in a safe way. You should always make sure that the grounding rod is around four feet long. 
  2. Grounding wire: Aside from the rod, you also need copper wire for grounding the bolt on the generator to the rod itself. The total length of the wire will depend on how far you want the rod to be from your generator, but it’s always best to be safe and get more than what you think you will need. 
  3. A wire stripper, pliers, wrench, or even a hammer and a mallet.

You can start to ground the portable generator using the following steps:

Position The Grounding Rod

The first thing you need to do is locate the spot where you want to place the grounding rod. Once you find a spot you like, you can hammer the rod into the ground. A four-foot rod is recommended for short-term generators, but you can use an 8-foot rod for long-term use. 

The longer the rod, the better the electrical discharge is from the grounding rod. This also makes it safe to walk around the grounding rod’s spot with no risk of residual; electricity. It would be best if you also hammered the rod into the ground at an angle of 45 degrees. 

Connect The Copper Wire

Now that the copper rod is in place, it is time to add the wire to connect the rod to your generator. You can use the wire stripper to cut one side of the copper wire to strip it out and expose it. Wrap this around the rod, and keep it with the pliers. 

Next, use the strippers to strip the other end of the wire to your generator, ensuring it is not on. On the grounding bolt of your generator, wrap the wire and tighten it with a plier to keep it in place. 


Grounding is one of the most critical parts of getting a new generator. With grounding, you can ensure that you keep safe while at the same time improving the life of your generator and appliances.