Why Won’t My Surge Protector Work With My Generator?
If you have a hard-wired surge protector in your RV or want to be extra careful and use your RV surge protector, you are going to run into some issues when you plug it into your RV generator. While it can be done, most good surge protectors will come up with a warning when you plug it into most generators or inverter generators. You normally get a warning for open ground or reverse polarity and the surge protector will not allow electricity to pass. That’s because many generators (especially the newer inverter generators) have what’s called an open or floating neutral.
A floating neutral is when the neutral is not connected to the frame of the generator or the earth’s ground. The floating neutral acts as a safety feature to stop the potential for electric shock and is ok for RV generators. If you want to use a generator with a surge protector whether it’s a hard-wired or portable one you are going to need to fix the floating neutral. You can do this by using a neutral ground bonding plug.
What Is A Neutral Ground Bonding Plug?
A neutral ground bonding plug more commonly called a “generator plug” or “grounding plug” is a simple way to tie or ground the neutral and get your surge protector working. Note that this is not always necessary for all kinds of generators. Generators over 5000 watts will usually already be neutral ground bonded and work with surge protectors. You can test for an open ground by using a receptacle tester like the Sperry Instruments GFCI Outlet Tester (click to view on Amazon.)
To use this receptacle tester first start up your generator and get it running. Once running plug the tester into one of the standard 15 amp (Edison) outlets. Use the diagram on the tester so you know what the lights mean. On this specific one, a single yellow light illuminated on the far right will mean you have an open neutral. A single yellow light in the center will mean an open ground, either of those should warnings should be fixed with the neutral ground bonding plug. If both yellow lights are illuminated your generator is neutral ground bonded and you shouldn’t need a generator plug to use it with your surge protector.
If you do need a generator plug to tie the floating neutral you can get on like the Southwire Company Generator Neutral Plug (click to view on Amazon.) Southwire is a fantastic company that makes some of the best surge protectors on the market today. Their products are always of high quality and this plug does the trick every time. Just plug this into an open outlet (Edison plug outlet) on your generator and the surge protector should stop detecting an open ground or floating neutral and start working.
How To Make A Generator Neutral Plug (Ground Bonding Plug)
If you are in a situation and you don’t have access to a generator neutral plug you can also make one yourself with just a few items you can find at any hardware store. Note that this is a DIY project and should only be done if you are comfortable with electric wiring. It isn’t hard but if you don’t do it right it will be bad.
To make your own generator neutral plug all you need is a standard male three-prong Edison plug like this one (click to view on Amazon). Even smaller less heavy-duty plugs will work. The next thing you need is bare copper wire that is 12-14 gauge like this (click to view on Amazon.) This is going to be the kind of wire you see used as grounding wire used in electrical outlets.
Next, you open up the plug and use a small piece of the copper wire to connect the neutral prong (White Wire/Silver Screw) to the ground prong (Green Wire/Green Screw). Whatever you do, Do Not Wire The Hot Leg Prong To The Ground. It has to be the neutral connected to the ground. If you do not feel comfortable doing this you are better off buying a generator plug that is already wired.
Once you have put the plug back together just plug it into an open 15 amp or “Edison” outlet on your generator and your surge protector should start letting electricity through.
Final Thoughts On Using A Generator Neutral Plug
This is a simple trick that is used by many people to solve the open neutral problem with their generators. This is normally something people with surge protectors that are hardwired into their electrical systems need to worry about. Most people don’t use a surge protector with their generators. That doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s just that most people don’t feel the need to.
You should read the manual that came with your surge protector before plugging it into a generator. Some companies have information about what kinds of generators can or cannot be used with its surge protector. Sometimes plugging a surge protector into a certain brand or style of the generator can void the warranty. Make sure you know your surge protector and it’s restrictions before plugging it into a generator, even one with a neutral plug or bonded neutral.
Have any more questions about generators and RV surge protectors? Leave a comment below.