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Portable Generator Grounding when used as Backup Power for Home Panel

Portable Generator Grounding when used as Backup Power for Home Panel

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  #1  
Old 12-04-16, 09:34 PM
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Portable Generator Grounding when used as Backup Power for Home Panel

Does a portable generator need to be grounded when connected to a home main panel for emergency power? The generator neutral IS bonded to the generator chassis. The main panel also has ground and neutral bonded. I didn't think neutral and ground were suppose to meet more than once.

Please see the diagram below for details. I'm sure I'll get lots of information about transfer switches, interlocks, etc, but the focus of this question is:

Does the generator need to be grounded?

Does the bond need to be removed?

Thank you,
OCMarty
 
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  #2  
Old 12-05-16, 11:07 AM
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It is an area where there is not a clear right or wrong per code. My opinion is that you do not need to do any additional grounding or bonding when using a portable generator and a transfer panel. The service entrance of the house should already provide adequately for both. I also do not believe you should remove the G-N bond in the generator.

A situation where you will run into a problem is if your generator has built-in GFCI protection, in which case a panel bond will cause it to trip. You would either need to modify the generator to disable/bypass the GFCI protection when used with the transfer panel, or install a transfer panel that can also switch the neutral.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 01:04 PM
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Neutral and Ground cannot be bonded in subpanels, but in the portable generator they come that way from factory and it's okay.

My personal recommendation is that if you are going to have the portable generator placed on a specific place without having to move it when needed to use it, them install a cooper 8' Ground rod near the generator and use a #6 or #8 ground wire from the rod clamp to the Ground Lug at the generator, the lug if located at the Alternator motor side of most portable generator. That way you reduce the risk of getting shock if something goes wrong with the generator, most instructions from factory will recommend to properly ground the generator. However, this is not practical if you are going to be moving the generator from place to place.

I recently purchased a PowerStroke 5,000Watts portable generator, I have it in a specific location inside a for tool storage only shed, built of concrete walls with a custom wooden enclosure I built for it with proper ventilation, electric fan cooling, and a proper grounding rod for the gen. The generator 30Amps generator cords is connected to a remote 30Amps inlet box 30 feet away from the generator, and from the inlet box goes to a manual GE Double Throw Transfer Switch I installed near the main panel. So I just have to install/remove the generator cord, turn the transfer switch, etc. and never need to move my portable generator when needed.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 01:23 PM
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To throw in some confusion my understanding is there is no need for an additional earth ground at the generator, but if the generator has a bonded neutral it should be removed. I thought by not removing the neutral bond at the generator is what causes a problem with generators that have build-in GFCI when hooked up to the house system. The other solution is to use a transfer switch with neutral switching if not removing the neutral bond at the generator. I don't think you need to disable the GFCI at the generator. Sometimes what I think I know ends up not being correct.

To add: I use a portable generator on my house and have a plug made up to re-bond the neutral at the generator when I use the generator as stand-alone.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 03:02 PM
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I'll also throw in a supplement to my previous post that I don't recommend any modifications to the generator because 1) it will probably void your warranty; and 2) if you do someday decide to use this portable generator on a jobsite/campsite it will be unsafe with the bond removed or the GFCI disabled. It's far too easy to forget the generator was modified after it's been sitting in the shed for a year, or you trade up and sell the old one at a yard sale and leave the new owner with an unsafe portable unit. As Jos said it's a different situation for a generator that is fixed in place.
 
  #6  
Old 12-05-16, 04:24 PM
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Every portable generator panel I've installed has had a four wire Male plug for the generator female four wire receptacle. Similar to THIS
 
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Old 12-05-16, 04:39 PM
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My Honda generator does not have a GFI breaker. It has a standard breaker. It has a neutral to ground bond which I've left intact. I connect to my house with four wires to a manual transfer switch but the neutrals are not switched. I feel this is a perfect set up for a generator.

BUT..... most "generators" utilize a main GFI breaker which means you cannot leave the grounds and neutrals tied together at both ends. The breaker will trip instantly.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 04:41 PM
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Technically and correctly there must be no more than one neutral to ground bond. But practically it may be desirable to allow such bonding both in the panel and in the generator.

I suggest not digging into the generator to unbond neutral and ground in a manner not called for in its instructions. And I do not expect the homeowner to revamp the panel wiring to separate neutral and ground just to accommodate the generator. The reader or eavesdropper can take it from there.

Also I claim that no harm can come to leaving both neutral-ground bonds in place.

Should it not be practical to bypass a ground fault interrupter in the generator to prevent its tripping I would unhook the green wire in the generator feed somewhere between the generator and the panel. GFCI units already in the home branch circuits will provide full GFCI protection.

Don't forget that feeding the generator power to the panel using a side breaker (backfeeding) requires an interlock. However no interlocked system or transfer switch system currently on the market will solve the neutral to ground bonding problem mentioned here.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 04:41 PM
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Also, please be aware that the drawing in post #1 is a code violation because there is no interlock between the main breaker and the generator. It's possible for both power feeds, utility and generator, to be ON and feed the panel at the same time causing a highly dangerous situation.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 05:30 PM
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Here's a Honda service bulletin for removing the neutral ground bonding.
http://members.rennlist.org/warren/honda.pdf

This is what I did on my generator and attached a label identifying that the neutral ground bond has been removed. If using a portable generator connected to house the neutral ground bond should be removed even if the generator does not have GFCI protection.
 
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Old 12-05-16, 10:07 PM
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Note: I forgot to mention my portable generator does not have GFCI outlets.


Said that,,, I found a PDF that is available for public download by simply searching in google... the PDF Author is Mike Holt, it is a free to the public illustrated guide where he explains some aspects of the NEC requirements for Portable Generators regarding if they have to be Neutral-Ground bonded or not. According to this information it could be that pattenp is right, it seems that when a portable generator is used as a non-separately derived system in which the transfer switch used does NOT open the neutral then the Neutral is NOT permitted to be bonded to case in the generator. According to the information it is not permitted because the neutral will carry not only normal current but a possible fault ground current back to power source... however, it is unclear to me why the fault ground current will travel back to the power source instead of just going down through the grounding electrode rod installed at the main service panel and through the one installed for the portable generator as in my case???


Name:  Mike Holt Generators Grounding 1.jpg
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Name:  Mike Holt Generators Grounding 2.jpg
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Credit for the images goes to Mike Holt Enterprises, Inc., the image is from an open to the public illustrated guide available for public download.

Also, I looked for the NEC codes mentioned in the information, and what is to my understand is that the neutral bonded to ground to the cage of the generator is not permitted on a non separately system where the transfer switch does not open the neutral IF THE NEUTRAL CANNOT CARRY THE NORMAL NEUTRAL CURRENT PLUS THE FAULT GROUND CURRENT, but it seems to me that if the Neutral is PROPERLY SIZED TO CARRY the normal neutral current plus the FAULT GROUND CURRENT, it seems to be okay, am I right or not???


I need and will really appreciate further clarification regarding this issue.
 
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Last edited by Jos Electrician; 12-05-16 at 10:35 PM.
  #12  
Old 12-06-16, 08:26 AM
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Current seeks to return to where it came from. Not necessarily the earth or ground or soil or dirt.

But if there is a ground rod at or near the source (e.g. at the foot of a utility pole with a transformer on it) and also a properly bonded ground rod at a building panel, then some of the neutral current will go through the earth simply because that path is there. But earth (dirt, etc.) is not that great a conductor so only a small percentage of the total neutral current will take that path.

Should a fault occur to a grounded object where current takes that path, the fault current is deducted from the current that came from the source (to power light and appliances) and returns normally via the neutral. So we only have to size the neutrals and the breakers for the original sum total of the current. This sum will be close to zero on a 120/240 volt circuit or feed when both legs carry about the same load each and will be equal to the load on one leg if no current is being drawn on the other leg.

(If the fault is of a nature that much more total current flows compared with what is consumed by the lights and appliances then a breaker trips and this should occur before the neutral is overloaded.)

It is true that if, per chance neutral and ground are bonded in two places, the current will be about the same (half of the total each) on both of the paths between the bonding points (here, the panel and the generator respectively). This is because the resistance of each path is about the same.

But because the source (and therefore the final destination) of the current is the generator itself, leaving a hard to reach neutral bond unaltered in the generator results in no more danger touching the generator body with the generator powering a house panel containing a neutral-bond ground compared with powering tools and equipment out in a field far from buildings (generator bond needed) which danger IMHO is zilch.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 12-06-16 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 12-06-16, 08:43 AM
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AllanJ, that's understood.

Now what about this specific issue: When using a portable generator that is used as a NON-separately derived system with a transfer switch that DOES NOT OPEN THE NEUTRAL, it is permitted to keep the Neutral-Ground BONDED AT THE GENERATOR or not??? And more important why it is permitted or why is not???
 
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Old 12-06-16, 09:22 AM
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It's simple. switch the neutral or unbond the neutral at the generator. That's the rule, but it's almost universally suggested that no harm will come if you don't comply with a non GFCI generator. Do what you want, but understand what you are doing may not be kosher even though low risk.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 09:55 AM
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Exclamation

If I remove the Neutral-Ground bond at the generator, then can I keep the Grounding electrode rod installed at the generator's grounding lug, right???
 
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Old 12-06-16, 11:05 AM
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The grounding electrode can be kept or removed. Removing the neutral to ground bond has nothing to do with using or not using earth grounding at the generator. Grounding is provided by the equipment ground being connected to the house grounding system.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 11:15 AM
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Excellent, now I understand it all!

This is what I will do:

1) I will keep my grounding electrode rod at the generator.

2) I will remove the Neutral-Ground bond at the generator because my setup the generator is used as a non-separately derived system connected to the house in which the transfer switch I installed does not open the neutral.


Thanks for your replies.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:09 PM
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Your all wrong..

No ground rod at the generator.

No two bonds are allowed. Only one. either generator or panel.

There are floating neutral generators and bonded generators.

If a floating neutral generator then when you hook to the home with a transfer switch the panel becomes the bond.

( Note if you want to use this open neutral generator with say a camper Then you can make a edison plug where the ground and neutral are tied together and plug it into one of the generators outlet. Now the gen is bonded)

Generators that are bonded and tied to the home through a transfer switch you have a choice. Lift the bond at the gen or get a neutral switching transfer switch.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:12 PM
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Example of edison plug for floating neutral gens for RV use..

The RV Doctor: My Honda Generator Will Not Power My Coach

More to come
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:18 PM
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Read here about proper grounding..

http://www.oshaprofessor.com/Portabl...rds%203-05.pdf
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:29 PM
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And here also.. Should explain it all properly..

Remeber bonding and grounding are two different things..

Generator Grounding and Bonding Essentials | EC Mag

Grounding vs bonding

http://www.cablinginstall.com/articl...ifference.html
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:45 PM
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Your all wrong..

No ground rod at the generator.
Who's all wrong? Everything you said has been said except for your no ground rod at the generator. Yes it's not needed, but it doesn't make a bit difference to have a ground rod connected to the generator frame while the generator is connected to a house system. That doesn't create a second neutral bonding point.
 

Last edited by pattenp; 12-06-16 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 12-06-16, 04:47 PM
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Thanks for the attached information, I just read both of them.

Now this is what I understood:

It's clear that when a portable generator is connected to a house through a transfer switch that does not switch or open the neutral then the N-G bond at the generator needs to be removed.

However... once that N-G bond at the generator is removed, then if you connect a grounding electrode rod that rod is not bonded with the neutral at the generator anymore, so why it will be a problem? In other words, isn't that grounding rod at the generator acting just like a grounding rod at a detached building where is mandatory for subpanels and is not a problem as long as it is not bonded to the neutral. Why if isn't a problem in the subpanel it will be in the generator??? Noticed that I am stating with the N-G removed at the generator. Once you have the neutral floating in the generator, a grounding rod connected to the generator is bonded to the gen. frame but the neutral is no more bonded to the frame so now the neutral and grounding rod remains separate.

Also, what I understood is that adding a grounding electrode rod may represent a dangerous situation in portable generators when is going to be used as a separately derived system to power, power tools... mine is never used that way.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 04:59 PM
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However... once that N-G bond at the generator is removed, then if you connect a grounding electrode rod that rod is not bonded with the neutral at the generator anymore, so why it will be a problem? In other words, isn't that grounding rod at the generator acting just like a grounding rod at a detached building where is mandatory for subpanels and is not a problem as long as it is not bonded to the neutral. Why if isn't a problem in the subpanel it will be in the generator??? Noticed that I am stating with the N-G removed at the generator. Once you have the neutral floating in the generator, a grounding rod connected to the generator is bonded to the gen. frame but the neutral is no more bonded to the frame so now the neutral and grounding rod remains separate.
Jos, what you are saying is correct. The ground rod at the gen becomes no more than an auxiliary grounding electrode. The only requirement is that rod needs to have a bond with the equipment ground.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 06:10 PM
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t's clear that when a portable generator is connected to a house through a transfer switch that does not switch or open the neutral then the N-G bond at the generator needs to be removed.
Correct

However... once that N-G bond at the generator is removed, then if you connect a grounding electrode rod that rod is not bonded with the neutral at the generator anymore, so why it will be a problem?
Because the ground rod potentially introduces an electrocution hazard..

Read the first section here..


http://www.oshaprofessor.com/Portabl...rds%203-05.pdf
 
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Old 12-06-16, 06:13 PM
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Who's all wrong? Everything you said has been said except for your no ground rod at the generator. Yes it's not needed, but it doesn't make a bit difference to have a ground rod connected to the generator frame while the generator is connected to a house system. That doesn't create a second neutral bonding point.
Has nothing to do with bonding.. You are making a path to ground to return to you , the source, there is a short or insulation failure.

Read section 1 ...

Electric will follow path of least resistance..


http://www.oshaprofessor.com/Portabl...rds%203-05.pdf
 
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Old 12-06-16, 09:13 PM
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Question

lawrosa, I read first section of that document again...

... problem that I have with that section is that is stating that a grounding rod can become an electrocution hazard but ONLY for portable generators that are used as a SEPARATELY DERIVED SYSTEM, to power Power tools, etc. the risk is that you can get electrocuted when you are using the power tools, a separately derived system will also have the N-G bonded.

However, my portable generator is NOT used as a separately derived system to power Power tools directly from the generator. I had always be using it to power the house though the 240V 30Amps outlet ONLY, therefore the grounding rod will not become a electrocution hazard because in my setup the N-G bond will be removed, the grounding rod will be isolated from the neutral at all times, and I will never be using a power tool in my system, so how exactly can I be electrocuted if not even touching the generator when is operating??? I turn it on, move the plastic choke lever from Start to Run after a few seconds, then I only touch a plastic switch in my generator that I need to keep pressing until the engine stops, I never move, touch, or handle my generator when is turned on. How a grounding rod can introduces an electrocution hazard in this scenario?

Question: Why the Manufacturer's instructions of my portable generator recommends people to contact an electrician to properly ground the generator and there is an actual grounding lug right over the alternator motor side of my generator that indicates there is where the grounding needs to be connected, why is that there, if it will never be used???

I think is there for a reason, for proper grounding of NON-SEPARATELY DERIVED SYSTEMS, AGAIN THINK OF MY GENERATOR AS A SUBPANEL IN A DETACHED BUILDING, IT NEEDS THE GROUNDING ROD.

However, We are already clear that a SEPARATELY DERIVED SYSTEM doesn't need it and in those cases yes it will become a potentially electrocution hazard if use on generators used to power Power tools or to be used when in the jobsite.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 09:25 PM
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That OSHA paper is for job site use where you are running power tools. I don't see the same shock issue when using the gen to power a home.
 
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Old 12-06-16, 09:27 PM
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https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hur..._generator.pdf

From OSHA official Fact Sheet link is above:

''If the portable generator is providing electric power to a structure by connection via a transfer switch to a structure (home, office, shop, trailer, or similar) it must be connected to a grounding electrode system, such as a driven ground rod. The transfer switch must be approved for the use and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions by a qualified electrician.''

That's my case.
 
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Old 12-07-16, 07:14 AM
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Jos, I think if you are keeping the gen connected to the house for extended periods then the attachment to a ground rod is good, but for a few hours of connection in an emergency situation I don't think not having the gen connected to a ground bar is a big deal. The grounding electrode system is primarily for lighting strikes. I don't mess with a ground rod when using my gen on the house because it's usually only for a few hours. That's just my thinking. Glad you found the correct information for that type of use.
 
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Old 12-07-16, 08:43 AM
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Before you put grounding rods some distance apart, you should review what happens with nearby lightning strikes. A little research into some of Mike Holt's articles on generator grounding would be in order. I'm not an electrician or an expert on the subject, so I suggest you view a qualified source.
 
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Old 12-07-16, 10:41 AM
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lawrosa

Electric will follow path of least resistance..
Are you sure about that?

If you make several holes of different sizes in the bottom of a pail will water only run from the largest hole?

Electricity follows ALL paths back to the source. The current flow is inversely proportional to the resistance.
 
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Old 12-07-16, 11:43 AM
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The whole point here is that there are not clear rules to follow with PORTABLE generators. NEC wouldn't even really have jurisdiction given that a portable generator is not part of the premises and could easily be swapped with a different unit at any time after the original installation was permitted. NEC is clear about how the transfer panel(s) or how permanent generators are installed, but there is gray around portable units for good reason. Especially as we see from the referenced OSHA document, when the portable unit may be used to power a house in an emergency and in a stand-alone situation on a job site where there are conflicting safety requirements.

It's an area where the installer should look at the requirements for similar installations and make some reasoned decisions about that particular site.
 
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Old 12-08-16, 12:01 AM
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Thanks for all the very detailed and informative discussion. If you are not using a transfer switch that switches neutral, seems like the best setup would be this:

Unbonded neutral to ground at the generator
4-conductor twist lock to the transfer switch - hot, hot, neutral, ground
NO ground at the generator

You just have to be careful with this setup for portable use from what you all have said. My Honda EU2000i inverter generator has no neutral-ground bond. I wonder how this one is safe when used portable to run tools directly connected to it?
 
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Old 12-08-16, 12:38 AM
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ocmarty, Correct!


For your Honda inverter generator that is not N-G bonded, just use one of these:

Name:  img1390ih.jpg
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NOTE: That open plug is for illustrative purposes only, plug terminals (screws) should not be exposed but covered for the end product that will be plugged in the generator. DO NOT USE IT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSES THAN FOR N-G BONDING IN INVERTER GENERATORS THAT DO NOT HAVE N-G BONDING FROM FACTORY. ONLY BOND NEUTRAL TO GROUND, NEVER BOND THE HOT SCREW. AND ONLY USE #14 OR #12AWG WIRE, NEVER WITH LESS AMPACITY THAN THAT TO BOND N-G AT THE PLUG.

Just plug one of those in one of the outlets at your inverter generator and that will provide the N-G bond to the entire unit.


Here you can find helpful information regarding this situation:

Portable Inverter Generator Neutral Ground Bonding Plug Honda Yamaha



Thanks.
 

Last edited by Jos Electrician; 12-08-16 at 12:46 AM. Reason: Adding additional notes.
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Old 12-08-16, 12:45 AM
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Thanks Jos Electrician. Easy fix, better than opening up the generator! Yes, I will be sure to install the cover on the Edison Plug before plugging it in
 
 

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