Do backup generators have to be grounded?

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The 2022-2023 winter season in Ohio has been far from ordinary. From that big blast of  snow we experienced around the holidays to a relatively warm January and February,  few of us have likely had to use our backup generator. However, for those who don’t  have one and may be on the fence about installing one at your home, we wanted to  touch base on a question we get asked: do backup generators have to be grounded? 

What are the two types of backup generators? 

Remember, backup generators are important to have year-round, not just in the winter  months. A relatively warm winter could lead to a more seasonally-active spring and  summer. Simply put, there’s no way to know for sure when you’ll need a backup  generator, and the weather we’ve had these past few months should not be a reason to  forgo installing one. 

However, once you’ve decided to move ahead with a backup generator, you’ll next  need to decide which type you want. Where you live can sometimes be a deciding  factor, so let’s unpack both types. 

The first kind of backup generator is what most of us think of: a small, portable unit  powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. It’s about the size of a small suitcase and designed  to be set up when needed — say, for example, if we lost power due to an ice storm or  if a springtime El Derecho takes the grid down for a few days. 

The second kind of backup generator is known as a whole-house generator. These are  probably more common in the country, as they need to tap into your existing heating  source. Those in the country usually have a propane tank, which is easier to splice into  than a buried natural gas line. This isn’t to say you can’t have a whole-house generator  in the city; rather, the process can be easier in the country. 

Is there an advantage to one type over the other? 

There are advantages to both types of backup generators. The smaller units are lower  cost. They can easily power critical appliances or health-related fixtures, such as sleep  apnea machines. 

Whole-house backup generators are meant to do exactly as you might expect: power  your entire home. While that’s a significant advantage, one downside to them is that if  you’re using them in the country, and the power is out for a while, you’ll burn through  your propane supply faster. 

So do backup generators have to be grounded?

The answer to this question is “it depends.” If your portable generator is simply using  extension cords to power your devices, no. However, if any kind of generator is tied to  your electrical panel, then you will need some kind of ground rod for it. 

The key to installing a backup generator for your home is doing it the right way. A  certified electrician, such as a member of our team, can help with this process. Send  us a message here and let us know that you’d like to learn more about our backup  generators. We’ll go over your needs and help you decide which type is right for you!

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