An electrical ground rod is designed to conduct stray electricity away from people and sensitive equipment. A basic electrical principal is that all electrical current seeks the path of least resistance to the earth, or ground. By running ground wires to a large, conductive rod driven deep in the soil, you provide a path to the ground that the unwanted voltage will "prefer," rather than traveling through equipment chassis or somebody's body. Ground rods aren't hard to make, but it's important to select the right materials in order to meet electrical codes.
Things You'll Need
- Galvanized or copper-clad steel rod, 5/8-inch diameter, 8 feet long
- Bench grinder
- Safety gloves
- Safety goggles
- 5/8-inch ground-rod clamp
Select which end of the rod you will drive into the ground.
Put on safety goggles. Grind a sharpened point on the downward end of the rod, using a bench grinder. Hold the end of the rod at about a 30-degree angle to the grinding wheel and press it firmly against the wheel, rotating it toward the wheel to develop the point. Because both galvanized and copper-clad rods are primarily made of steel, there will be little difference in how long it takes to grind this point. Work slowly and be careful not to press the rod so firmly into the wheel that it stops or slows significantly.
Install one or more ground-rod clamps on the top end of the rod. The clamp holds the end of the grounding cable or strap from the house or the structure you're grounding and helps to maintain a good electrical connection. You will need to install a separate clamp for every ground line you want to attach to the rod. Unscrew the retaining bolts to open the clamp, slip it over the rod and tighten the bolts.
Dig a hole about 4 feet deep with a post-hole digger or shovel. Soften the soil by pouring water into the bottom of the hole. This will make it easier to drive the rod and reduce the chance of damaging it.
Drop the rod point-first into the hole. Use a sledgehammer to drive the rod down so only an inch or two is above ground level, then fill in the hole. The rod should be driven near where the ground wire or strap exits the house or structure, but away from other electrical devices or other underground metal structures, such as gas lines.
Tips & Warnings
- Consider investing in a special driving collar for the rod; this will prevent the rod from mushrooming, or flattening out, under the weight of the hammer.
- Copper-clad steel rod makes for a more durable grounding rod, but it is more expensive than galvanized rod.
- Household electrical grounding can be complicated my many factors, such as the nature of the circuits being grounded, the type and moisture content of the soil, etc. If you're unsure of what your doing, have a licensed electrician do this work.
- If your household wiring is already grounded on copper water pipes, do not install an additional grounding rod. A lightning strike directed into this rod can couple into the pipes and damage equipment in the house.
- Photo Credit Lightning image by Justin Pirtle from Fotolia.com
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