April 2014

Q: "What is the life expectancy of an 8 ft. galvanized ground rod? Mine was installed 1978 and I live here in the North Texas area, near Dallas.

 

                                                      W. A. "Al" Werning                                                         

Answer:

 

The life of any type of ground rod electrode is very difficult to predict due to the number of variables involved. Factors affecting ground rod life include soil pH, soil resistance, moisture and temperature. (See the answer below to the September 2013 question for more information on this topic.)

Galvanized rods are commonly used in your area of Texas with quite favorable results, as is also the case here in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Galvanized ground rods can last 40 years or more, depending on conditions, but time takes a toll on everything. Any ground rod that has been in service for more than 35 years (like yours) has probably suffered some corrosion loss.

It would be a good idea to inspect your grounding system to assure that the grounding conductor remains securely connected to the ground rod. Corrosion can lead to loose connections.

A resistivity meter or ohmmeter may also be used to audit the ground rod's electrical resistance to be sure it meets code requirements. As corrosion degrades a ground rod, the resistance increases which has an adverse affect on the its ability to provide safe grounding.

If resistance is greater than 25 ohms for a single ground rod, the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires a second ground rod electrode, a minimum of eight feet in length, which must be installed not less than six feet (6') away from the first. Many electricians today routinely use two ground rods at each installation for safety and to be sure of meeting the code.

If in doubt about whether your grounding system is still doing its job, have an electrician check it out. Consider installing a second ground rod, or two new ground rods, to bring your system up to the latest edition of the NEC adopted in your jurisdiction. Good grounding is essential for home, property and personal safety.

Hope this helps you out. Thank you for your question.

 

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March 2014

Q: "Are your ground rods 'Buy American Act' compliant and can I get a letter to that effect?

                                                              Steve Hurley
                                                              Tri-State Lighting

                                                                                       

Answer:

Steve, Yes they are and yes you can! Galvan issues certificate letters specifically for and with American-Made Galvan electrical products. Galvan Industries ground rods are manufactured in Harrisburg, N.C. substantially from articles, material or supplies mined, produced or manufactured in the United States as defined in the Buy American Requirement under section 1605 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, and the Buy America Act, United States Codes 23 USC 313 and Code of Federal Regulations 23 CFR 635.410.

Galvan does not issue certificates without a product purchase, however, to prevent the certificates being used with competitive items not made in the USA. Distributors and contractors should be sure that their certification letters match the products provided so that money allocated for American-Made products actually goes to American-Made products.

Thank you for your question and for supporting American industry.

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February 2014

Q: "Your literature states that your copper coated ground rods are UL 467. What is the UL 44DF that's stamped on the rod?

                                                                                       

Answer:

Galvan's copper-coated ground rods are indeed certified to UL467, which identifies criteria important to production of ground rods with this coating type in the electrical market.

Ground rods, like other electrical products, must be submitted to a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) and pass rigorous product testing with an acceptable level of performance to become listed or certified. Once a ground rod has achieved certification, the listing agency (eg UL, CSA, ETL, etc) provides the manufacturer with a reference number which must be permanently marked on the rod.

The 44DF is the reference number specifically for Galvan.

In other words, UL467 documents criteria that must be complied with during the testing process, while the 44DF is the ‘reference number’ for Galvan's certification.

That is why, when you examine our 5/8 x 8 UL copper coated ground rod, you will see the following stamped on the rod: GAL 6258 UL LISTED 44DF. This identifies Galvan as the supplier, our part number, the UL logo followed by the word "listed", and the Galvan reference number, 44DF.

Thank you for your question. We hope this clears up any confusion.

 

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January 2014

Q: "Can poor grounding effect the condition of the copper piping in the domestic water system in a building? It is a six year old building having pinholes in the piping.

                                                                                       

Answer:

The answer to your question is not a simple one. There are a lot of factors that could be causing the pinhole leaks. The pipe itself could simply be defective. High-velocity or turbulent water inside the pipe could lead to this kind of problem. Excessively high temperatures may be a factor in hot water lines, or the damage could be the result of chemicals in soil or gravel that come in contact with the outside of the pipe. Excessive use of acidic flux during installation can also cause chemical corrosion. Chemicals such as calcium in the water itself can also cause pitting and pinhole leaks. In chemical corrosion, the interaction of the chemicals produces a slight electric currant. Adding more electric current through poor grounding may accelerate corrosion in some situations.

It is possible that poor grounding could be an aggravating factor to pinhole leaks caused by corrosion, and improved grounding may help keep the problem from growing faster, but it is unlikely to solve it. This does not mean that proper grounding isn't important. If you know that your building has grounding issues, they should be dealt with to prevent hazards to personnel safety and equipment protection. Any benefit to your plumbing should be considered a bonus.

Thank you for your question.

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December 2013

Q: "We need a ground rod clamp put on our second rod. Do we need to cut the wire to install this second clamp?

                                                                                       

Answer:

The grounding electrode conductor (GEC) should not be cut. It must remain unspliced and properly connected to your first ground rod. The second ground rod can be connected to the first with a separate 6 AWG bonding jumper secured with an approved clamp on each rod. Both the clamps and the jumper must be installed below grade, so the clamps must be approved for direct burial. This information is based on NEC code. Be sure to check with your local inspector's office to verify that your installation complies with the codes in your area. Thank you for your question!

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November 2013

Q: "We had inspections on our home prior to sale. The ground rod apparently is not there. There is a metal clamp with a copper wire extended down from clamp in the dirt about six inches deep but no rod. The clamp, 2 pc. is tightened down all the way to suggest there never was a rod. The house was built in 1994. If a rod is required, how deep in regards to proper ground connection?

                                                                                       

Answer:

A grounding system certainly is needed and soon! This is a major safety issue. Given that your home is almost 20 years old, it is possible that a ground rod was installed and was destroyed by corrosion, but it is unlikely that it would disappear without a trace. As you noted, it may have never been there at all. Either way, you have been lucky not to have suffered serious injuries or property loss.

Our suggestion would be to contact the chief electrical inspector in your jurisdiction and ask him or her to recommend a certified electrician familiar with grounding in your area to assure compliance to the National Electrical Code (NEC) and any local requirements.

To comply with NEC 2011, the latest edition, all ground rods must be at least eight feet (8') long. Diameter of the rod must be 5/8 (.625) inches, unless listed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory such as UL. Listed ground rods must be at least 1/2" in diameter. The NEC also requires that the rods be driven below grade, so the answer to your question about depth is eight feet… and a little more.

Finally, when resistance to ground is more than 25 ohms for a single ground rod, NEC 2011 requires a second ground rod electrode, which must be installed not less than six feet (6') away from the first. Since not everyone has the necessary equipment or expertise to measure ground rod resistance, many electricians routinely use two ground rods in each installation for safety and to be sure of meeting the code.

NEC 2011 represents the code requirements of most jurisdictions today, but some areas have different or additional code requirements. That's why we recommend starting with a call the chief inspector in your town or county.

Good luck! We hope this answer helps.

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October 2013

Q: "I am a Realtor and we just did a Home Inspection on a home and the ground wire is buried under an asphalt drive way. I wonder if there is any way short of digging the drive way up to see if the ground wire is connected?

                                                              Dan Goad

                                                                                       

Answer:

There is no need to dig up the drive, Dan. A certified electrician should be able to determine continuity with the appropriate equipment. A ground resistance clamp meter will measure the resistance of the grounding system in Ohms without having to access the buried electrode. It will also allow the electrician to verify the quality of the grounding connections.

According to the National Electrical Code (NEC) resistance must be 25 Ohms or less in the grounding system, or a second ground rod must be added. You can put the second rod in a more accessible location. Just adding a second rod, whether or not you do the testing, will make the home safer and bring the grounding up to NEC standards.

Symptoms of grounding problems include lights that dim or flicker. They may dim even more when an appliance is turned on. An oven that won't get hot enough could be another sign of grounding problems. Another common and potentially dangerous symptom is getting a shock when touching a light switch or a water faucet.

If you've noticed any of these symptoms or if you have any doubts, the simplest and safest solution may be to disconnect from the electrode under the drive and have your electrician install two new ground rod electrodes that meet the Federal, State and/or local electrical requirements. Again, just put them in a location that is easier to access and any future grounding questions will be more easily answered.

Thanks for your question. We hope this helps!

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September 2013

Q: "What is the life expectancy of a copper clad ground rod in areas of hard rock condition near the ocean. Since the rods are having to be driven through what we call cap rock, the copper may be getting scraped as it is driven down.

                                                              Terence Richardson,
                                                         Key West

                                                                                       

Answer:

Ground rod life is difficult to predict regardless of the coating type. Copper coated, zinc-coated (hot-dip galvanized) or solid 304 stainless steel ground rod electrodes will all generally last 40 years or more depending on soil conditions. History supports this fact. The RUS has depended on hot-dip galvanized rods since the early 1930s. Many investor-owned utilities have used copper-coated rods and industrial facilities have used stainless steel rods for decades. All three have performed well over long periods of time.

If your job is to choose the ground rod that will provide the longest service in your location, here are some observations.

Hot-dip galvanizing provides a harder coating than copper plating and the electromotive series of metals indicates that, if the coating is damaged (by driving through cap rock, for example) the zinc coating will "sacrifice" to the steel, protecting it from corrosion.

However, chloride salts are particularly damaging to zinc coatings, and as a result, galvanized rods are not usually considered a good choice for use in coastal areas.

Given that your location has both rocky and salty conditions, your "common sense" choice may be 304 stainless steel.

Other factors affecting ground rod life include:
•soil resistance (<2000 ohm-cm increases corrosion)
•soil pH (<4 = acidic/corrosive)
•moisture and drainage (wetter = more corrosive)
•temperature (hotter = more corrosive)
•dissimilar metals buried nearby
•soil bacteria
•sulfates in the soil

A complete soil analysis is expensive and often not very practical since soil conditions can vary widely, even within a close area. You may be able to check soil resistance and pH fairly easily, though. If either of those fall on the corrosive side, add that plus higher temperatures plus cap rock plus salt into the equation and 304 stainless steel rods seem like an even better choice. They are more expensive but early ground rod failure has costs, too.

Thank you for your question. I hope this helps.

 

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August 2013

Q: "I live in a home built in approximately 1954. There was a metal pipe sticking out of the ground on the side of the house with a long piece of copper wire attached to it. The pipe was rusted out at the bottom and the wire was falling into a bush under the window. One day while mowing the lawn, the wire got tangled in the mower and was cut into several pieces. Could this be how the house was grounded? I am a widow who knows nothing about this sort of thing. I'm having trouble with my television and the cable people (several have come out) all say my house needs to be grounded. Is this something I can do myself? And, if so, can you supply instructions that are easy to follow for an old lady? HELP, please?

                                                                                       

Answer:

Yes and no. Yes, the wire that got tangled in your mower could have been your ground wire. But no, this is not something you'll want to tackle yourself. You'll need a qualified electrical contractor to bring the grounding in your home back up to code. You'll be safer and your TV reception should improve, too.

A qualified electrical contractor can inspect your electrical system grounding to be sure it is connected, and complies with the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) approved by your state. They will also be sure that any other local jurisdiction code requirements beyond the NEC are met.

As an example, the NEC mandates that your grounding system be verified to have a 25 ohm resistance maximum, unless two ground rods are installed. Each state approves the NEC publication at different times and not all reference the 'latest' publication which is 2011. This is why you need a qualified electrical contractor or equivalent. You could contact the local Electrical Inspector in your vicinity who might refer you to a few contractors that would do a complete evaluation and update the integrity of your current electrical grounding installation.

Like most things, grounding components don't last forever. Even if the wire that got caught in the mower WASN'T the grounding conductor (and it probably was) there is a good chance your electrical grounding has been compromised naturally by corrosion over the years. The electrician would be able to help you assure your safety and compliance with the local codes.

Hope this helps you out. Be safe, not sorry!

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July 2013

Q: "Doing some troubleshooting at a residence with grounding problems, we found a copper coated rod that was almost completely hollow in places. The steel core had corroded out but some of the copper coating was still there. What caused this?

                                                                                       

Answer:

It's called "tunneling," and it is caused by a corrosive environment in the area of the installed rod, probably influenced by damage to the copper coating during installation. How does damage to the outside coating of the rod lead to corrosion of the core, you ask?

Let's start by reviewing the "electromotive series of metals" which defines the nobility of various metals. We know that corrosion proceeds from the anodic, or less noble metal to the cathodic, the more noble metal. Zinc will sacrifice to steel; steel will sacrifice to copper.

So what happens when the copper coating is damaged all the way to the rod's steel core? With a copper coated rod, the steel is more subject corrosion, as it will "sacrifice" to the copper coating. That's why the "less noble" zinc coating provided by hot-dip galvanizing is considered better suited for driving in rocky soil conditions. As noted, the zinc will sacrifice to the steel.

Another thing to consider is that there is no coating on the point or the drive end of a copper coated rod. The point and chamfer are added after the coating process is complete. In the right conditions, corrosion of the exposed bare steel core can begin at either end immediately after driving the rod, even if there is no damage to the coating. This is not an issue with zinc coated rods, however, because hot-dip galvanizing process occurs after the rod point has been added.

An even better choice for highly corrosive soils would be installing a stainless steel ground rod. It will cost more but it will be less susceptible to corrosion than either copper coated or galvanized rods.

Various soil parameters are key to proper rod selection. Comprehensive engineering analysis is best to minimize problems like "tunneling" and maximize equipment protection, system reliability and personnel safety.

Thank you for your question. We hope you find the answer helpful.

 

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June 2013

Q: "I recently bought a portable generator which requires a grounding rod (for safety). Advice?

                                                                                       

Answer:

Whether ‘portable’ or ‘permanent’, your generator should be properly grounded. Grounding is important for reliability of system operation, equipment protection and, of course, for safety. However, what constitutes proper grounding depends on how you are using it.

Here's what the NEC (National Electrical Code) says:

250.34 Generators-Portable and Vehicle-Mounted

(A) Portable Generators. The frame of a portable generator is not be required to be grounded to the earth if:
(1) The generator only supplies equipment or cord-and-plug-connected equipment through receptacles mounted on the generator, or both, and
(2) The metal parts of generator and the grounding terminals of the receptacles are bonded to the generator frame
.

In temporary construction applications meeting both conditions above, for example, the installation of ground rods on portable generators is not required and is actually discouraged because they introduce a potential shock hazard, an improved path for the current to return to its source in the event of a short circuit or equipment insulation failure.  

Portable generators that supply fixed wiring systems, though, must be grounded in accordance with 250.30 for separately derived systems if they supply a transfer switch that switches the neutral. A premises getting power from a generator is considered to be a separately derived system when the grounded (neutral) conductor in the transfer switch is switched.

It is wise to bond to the utility ground so that any voltage differential is minimized, since the utility ground remains the home ground even without power.  There should be a grounding lug on the generator which should be used to achieve this grounding connection.  The directions provided with the generator should have details how and where to bond.  Do not take the importance of this lightly, for even portable generators can produce more than enough power to cause permanent damage to equipment and/or injury to people.

For this type of application, it also would be a good idea to contact your local Chief Electrical Inspector to determine what the codes mandate in the jurisdiction where you are located.  Someone in the electrical department will be able to help you comply with the local codes in addition to the National Electrical Code (NEC).

You can read more on this topic from Mike Holt and John Grzywacz. Their online content contributed to our answer.

Links:
http://oshaprofessor.com/Portable%20Generators%20and%20OSHA%20Construction%20Standards%203-05.pdf
http://www.mikeholt.com/mojonewsarchive/GB-HTML/HTML/NECArticle250Sections250.20-250.34~20020124.htm

 

Hope this helps, and thank you for your question.

 

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We'll get back to you with an answer ASAP. And your question could be featured on this page or in our next e-newsletter!

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May 2013

 

Q: "Doesn't a copper coated ground rod provide a more effective path to ground than a galvanized rod?                                   

Answer:

Not necessarily! The coating on a galvanized ground rod electrode is zinc, and zinc is a very good conductor. In fact, most batteries use zinc in their design and production, particularly in the external electrical contacts for the positive and negative terminals. The most important factors in the effectiveness of a ground rod are the surface contact between the rod and the soil and the density of this soil-rod interface.

ANSI/IEEE Standard 80, page 255, 1986 provides a method for determining the effectiveness of a ground rod by calculating its resistance. The only factors in the formula, other than the soil resistivity, are the length and surface area of the rod, with length being the most significant determining factor. Simply put, the resistance of a ground rod in a given soil is inversely proportional to the rod's length. The ANSI/IEEE formula confirms that the only reason for considering the rod coating is for the corrosion resistance it provides.

Both copper and zinc coatings provide excellent corrosion protection for the steel rod core, but because zinc will sacrifice to protect steel in the event of damage to the coating, hot dip galvanized rods are often considered a better choice in rocky soil conditions.

Thank you for your question!

 

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April 2013

Q: "I have a ground clamp on my copper water pipe coming in through the earth in my basement. Is that acceptable as far as safety and city codes are concerned?

                                                                 –Shon Clemme                                   

Answer:

Shon, there are two parts to the answer to your question. First, water pipe grounding clamps are indeed designed to be safely used for grounding electrical service to pipe and copper tubing (as listed by UL, CSA, etc) for the sizes tested. Galvan's pipe clamps can be seen on the following link...


http://www.galvanelectrical.com/catalog/pipeClamps.asp.

The second part of the answer is about "acceptability". Your local electrical codes may or may not allow this use of water pipe grounding clamps in the intent of the original design for some reason.

I suggest you contact your local Chief Electrical Inspector to determine what is required in your specific jurisdiction area. The inspector making this call is the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and they have the final say in terms of local code compliance.

Hope this helps, and thank you for your question.

 

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March 2013

 

Q: "Article 250.52(A)(7) Plate Electrodes requires two sq. ft. of surface exposed to soil. So, having two sides, and not including the surface edge area, should the plate be 1' x 1' x 1/4" thick or something else? Also, your Web site refers to 24” minimum depth. Article 250.53(H) requires 30”. Why the difference?

                                            

Answer:

As the paragraph reads, yes, the size plate you describe would comply with the 2011 NEC. However, the size which has become the defacto industry standard is 1/4 x x10 x 16 inches, and hot-dip galvanized. You can use the following link for more information on the Galvan GP steel ground plate.

http://www.galvanelectrical.com/catalog/utility.asp

With regard to the depth of two feet, this complies with is the minimum standards followed by many utilities. Electrical utilities are the most common users of this device here in the USA and Canada, which is why our ground plate is in the ‘Utility’ section of our catalog. Utilities operate under a different code.

However, as you mention the NEC requires something different and this must be complied with if you are using a grounding plate in a local jurisdiction that has accepted that part of the code. Our catalog states 'for burial at least 24" below grade" with the understanding that the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) has the final determination of what is code compliant in these circumstances.

Thanks for your question! We hope this provides some clarification.

 

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February 2013

 

Q: "What is the material specification for the steel used in ground rods? Is there an industry standard?

                                            

Answer:

The ANSI-approved NEMA/GR-1 standard established in 2001 requires the steel used in the ground rod core to meet the specifications of ASTM-A370, and have a minimum tensile strength of 80,000 PSI with a minimum Rockwell B hardness of 80. The rod’s steel core is required to be 'cold drawn' to assure enhanced hardness, straightness and dimensional stability.


Galvan's US-Made listed ground rods meet all these requirements. The listing symbol and our mark on the rod are your assurance that this is the case. BUT, with unlisted, unmarked rods, you never know what – if any – standard was applied. The result may be an installation that does not meet code.

Complete information about industry specifications for ground rods, couplings and clamps can be downloaded from this Web site. Our specification document covers materials, production and use guidelines for the full line of Galvan copper-coated, stainless-steel and hot-dip galvanized ground rod electrodes and allied products.

It provides specifications on product characteristics including materials, lengths, finished diameters, coating thicknesses, threads and markings. It also refers to Underwriters Laboratories specification on adhesion, bending and surface evaluation; as well as straightness, color-code identification and packaging. Included are details on threaded and threadless couplings as well as compression and bolted clamps. Download it now.

Remember, it's not "just a ground rod". Industry specifications matter in terms of safety and usability.

 

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December 2012

 

Q: " Two questions:

1. For use with a small electric fence, around an individual young fruit
tree, would a 4 foot grounding rod be good enough? The need is more for
fence effectiveness than safety.

2. With the above mentioned use, if the electric fence and ground rod were
moved from one tree to another, how quickly would the copper coating wear
off...if at all?

                                            

Answer:

As a manufacturer, Galvan does not get actively involved in the design of any electrical system. We do provide the specified ground rod electrodes and allied connectors for applications such as your DC fencing project. As far as rod length is concerned, the most common ground rod electrodes we sell for non-code applications such as yours are 1/2" x 5' or 5/8" x 6' hot-dip galvanized ground rod. Certainly copper-coated rods are also specified in certain areas, but by far the 5/8" x 6' galvanized rod is #1 in terms of units sold nationally.

Whether a 4-foot rod would suffice would depend upon local soil conditions, etc. and the specifications established by the manufacturer of the charger you are using for proper performance. In our business, we see few 4-foot rods being sold today, whereas 20 years ago they were very common.

Your second question has to do with the copper coating's ability to withstand surface degradation. As you know copper is a soft material which is electro-plated onto the steel core of the ground rod. The rod will experience some loss of copper during initial installation and with each removal and re-installation. You could expect less coating loss from a galvanized rod. Hot-dip galvanized (zinc) coatings are soft only at the surface where you have nearly pure zinc. Beneath the surface, closer to the steel core, the zinc alloy is actually more resistant to loss than the steel. Unlike copper electro-plating, which is a chemical process, hot dip galvanizing creates a metallurgical bond.

Having said all that, our experience is that very few rods of any kind are pulled up from the ground and reused. It's a good thought, but it's hard to do, and after a few minutes it may not seem worth the effort for the cost involved.

Keep in mind that the purpose for either kind of coating is to protect the core of the rod from corrosion, maintaining a safe path to ground. I suspect you would be safe with either rod coating in a temporary DC fencing application.

Good luck with your project, and hope this was of some benefit to you in your decision.

 

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November 2012

 

Q: "Which are better, threaded or threadless ground rods and couplings, and why?”

                              

Answer:

This is generally a personal preference. Historically, "sectional" rods driven to multiple depths have been made with threads at both ends and joined together using a threaded coupling. It is traditionally how things have been done and many in the industry hold to that tradition.

Within the past 20 years, however, threadless couplings have become more popular for a number of reasons.

During the driving process, a threaded coupling actually will loosen, much like when you can't get a rusty nut off of an old piece of equipment and you hit the nut head with a hammer. However, with a threadless or compression coupling the connections become more secure with driving. Threadless couplings also assure a longer-lasting connection, less subject to corrosion and increasing resistance to ground due to compromised continuity from one rod section to the next.

I'd say "advantage, threadless", but both types work well. Galvan produces both threaded and threadless ground rods and couplings.

 

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October 2012

 

Q: "For a battery operated pool lift installation, instructions refer to grounding to the surrounding grid system. Would copper rod grounding be permissible?”

                                               John "JD" Dixon
                                          San Diego, CA

Answer:

John, we suspect the grid they are referring to is the structural rebar surrounding the pool. Probably the only place a ground rod will be required by code is at the pump motor breaker.

The way to be sure about that contact your local Chief Electrical Inspector. Local codes often differ from the NEC based upon unique situations in a specific geographical area.

That would also address any potential future problems with code acceptance once your install is in place. It would act as a pre-approval in a sense!

We hope this helps, and thanks for your question.

 

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We'll get back to you with an answer ASAP. And your question could be featured on this page or in our next e-newsletter!

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September 2012

Q: "Why not always use a larger diameter ground rod? Wouldn't the bigger rod provide a better
path to ground?”

Answer:

Using a larger diameter rod usually adds more to your cost than to the rod's effectiveness. Ground rod resistance effectiveness is influenced more by electrode length than diameter. That is why the NEC and UL require ground rods to be at least 8 feet long. It is important that the soil be properly compacted and make good contact with the full length of the rod. This generally improves over time. Longer rods that meet code also allow customers in northern states to assure that installations are below the frost line, giving confidence that the grounding system is providing a good path to ground, year round.

 

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