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Power Cable systems

KZ 3144

A cable is defined as a single conductor or an assembly of

conductors covered by solid electrical insulation.

Cable specification generally starts with the conductor and

progress radically through the insulation and covering.

The following is a typical list of specifications:
Number of conductors in cable

Conductor size and material

Insulation type
Shielding system

Outer finishes (sheath)


Alternatively cables are specified by its ampacity, voltage,

frequency and other important system data

Cable construction
The two conductor materials in common use are copper and

Copper is used for conductors of insulated cables primarily

for its desirable electrical and mechanical properties.

The use of aluminum is based mainly on its favorable
conductivity to weight ratio, availability and stable low cost.

Copper vs Aluminum
Copper has a higher conductivity than aluminum.
It is more ductile (can be drawn out).
Copper has relatively high tensile strength (the greatest stress a
substance can bear along its length without tearing apart).
It can also be easily soldered.

However, copper is more expensive and heavier than aluminum.

Copper vs Aluminum
Compared to copper, aluminum has worse conductivity per unit
volume, but better conductivity per unit weight. In many cases, weight
is more important than volume making aluminum the 'best' conductor
material for certain applications. For example, it is commonly used for
large-scale power distribution conductors such as overhead power
Although aluminum has only about 60 percent of the conductivity of
copper, its lightness makes long spans possible.
Its relatively large diameter for a given conductivity reduces corona.

Cable construction
Classes of conductors
Conductors are classified as solid or standard. A solid conductor

is a single conductor of solid circular section.

A standard conductor is composed of a group of small
conductors in common contacts.
A standard conductor is used where the solid conductor is too
large and not flexible enough to be handled readily.

Cable construction
Conductor size
Conductor sizes are ordinarily expresses by two different

numbering methods: the AWG and the circular mil.

The AWG conductor sizes are numbered from 30 to 1, then
continuing with 0, 00, 000, 0000.
Conductors larger than 4/0 AWG are designated in circular
A circular mil is defined as the area of a circle having a diameter
of 1/1000 of an inch.

In general, current-carrying conductors must not be

allowed to come in contact with one another, their

supporting hardware, or personnel working near

To accomplish this, conductors are coated or

wrapped with various materials, commonly known

as insulating materials.

Two fundamental properties of insulating are

insulation resistance and dielectric strength

Cable construction: Insulation

Insulation resistance is the resistance to current leakage through the insulation
materials. Insulation resistance can be measured with a megger without
damaging the insulation. Information so obtained is a useful guide in appraising
the general condition of insulation. Clean, dry insulation having cracks or other
faults may show a high value of insulation resistance but would not be suitable
for use.
Dielectric strength is the ability of an insulator to withstand potential
difference. It is usually expressed in terms of the voltage at which the insulation
fails because of the electrostatic stress. Maximum dielectric strength values can
be measured only by raising the voltage of a TEST SAMPLE until the insulation
breaks down

Cable construction-: insulation

Insulations can be classified as solid, taped or special purpose

insulations. The following is a list of insulations commonly

Thermosetting compounds (solid dielectric)
Thermoplastic compounds (solid dielectric)

Paper laminated tapes

Varnished cloth laminated tapes
Mineral inorganic insulation (solid dielectric granular)

Cable construction-: insulation

Insulations in general use for voltages above 2 KV:
Thermosetting compounds (solid dielectric)
Cross linked polyethylene (XLP or XLPE)
Ethylene propylene rubber (EPR)
Styrene butadiene rubber (SBR)
Silicon rubber, oil base rubber
Thermoplastic compounds (solid dielectric)
Polyethylene (natural)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Paper laminated tapes

Varnished cloth laminated tapes

Cable construction-: Shielding

Insulation shielding is required for all non matallic, sheathed,

single (> 2KV) and all metallic sheathed cables (> 5KV) :

Shielding confines the electric field of the cable to the insulation

surrounding the conductor by means of conducting or semi

conducting layer.

There are many purposes of shielding

Confine the electric field within the cable
Equalize the voltage stress within the insulation
Protect cable from induced potentials
Limit electromagnetic and electrostatic interference
Reduce shock hazard

Cable construction-: Outer finishes

Cable outer coverings are used to protect the underlying cable

components from the environmental and installation conditions

associated with intended service.

The choice of cable outer finishes for a particular application is

based on

Mechnical considerations.

Combinations of metallic and non metallic finishes are usually

required to provide the total protection needed for the installation

and operation.

Cable Rating and Selection Criteria

The selection of power cables involves the consideration of

various electrical and environmental conditions including:

Quantity of power distributed
Degree of exposure to adverse mechanical and thermal stresses.

The selection of conductor size is based on the following criteria

Voltage rating

Load current criteria

Emergency overload criteria
Voltage drop limitations
Fault current criteria.

Cable Selection: Voltage rating

The selection of power cables insulation (voltage) rating is based

on the phase to phase voltage of the system, system type

(grounded or non grounded) and the time in which a ground fault
is cleared by the protective equipment.

Ungrounded cable system must have greater insulation thickness

than the cable used on a grounded system.

100% voltage rated cables are applicable to grounded system
(clearing time 1 min).

133% voltage rated cable are applicable to ungrounded system

(clearing time 1 hour)

Cable Selection: Load current criteria

The manufacturers ampacity recommendation should be used as

load current criteria.

Ampacity tables indicates the minimum size conductor required.

Conservative engineering practice, future load growth, voltage

drop, short circuit consideration may requires the use of larger


Other considerations to be honored in load current criteria are:

Skin and proximity effect
Ambient temperature
Surrounding medium

Cable Selection: Emergency overload

The nominal loading limits of insulated cables are determined

based on many years of practical experience. These limits account

for a rate of insulation deterioration that results in the useful life
of cable system.

The life of cable insulation may be and the average thermal

failure rate almost doubles for each 5 to 15 degree increase in

normal daily load temperature.
Maximum emergency overload temperatures for various types of
insulation can be found in practical guides.
Operation at these emergency overload temperatures should not

exceed 100 hours / year and such 100 hour period should not
exceed five during the life of the cable.

Cable Selection: Voltage drop

The supply conductor, if not of sufficient size, will cause

excessive voltage drop in the circuit, and the drop will be in

direct preposion to the circuit length.
Proper starting and running of motors, lighting equipment,

and other loads having heavy inrush current must be

It is recommended that the steady state voltage drop in

distribution feeders be no more than 5%.

Cable Selection: Fault current criteria

Under short circuit conditions the temperature of the conductor

rises rapidly then, due to the thermal characteristics of the

insulation,sheath, and surrounding materials, it cools off slowly
after the short circuit is cleared.

A transient temperature limit for each type of insulation for short

circuit duration not in excess of 10 sec has been established and

many times this criterion is used to determine mimimum
conductor size.

IPCEA standard defines the maximum conductor temperature

limits allowable under worst case fault condition.

This section will consider the following areas used in cable

Design current (Ib)

Rating of the protective device (In)

Reference methods
Correction factors

Application of correction factors

Voltage drop

Shock protection
Thermal constraints

To find the design current, you may need to use the

following equations:
Single phase supplies:
Uo=230 V

Three phase supplies:

Where PF is the power factor of the circuit concerned.

When you have worked out the design current (Ib), you

must next work out the current rating or setting (In) of the
protective device. The IEE wiring regulation says that
current rating (In) must be no less than the design current
(Ib) of the circuit.

The reason for this is that the protective device must be

able to pass enough current for the circuit to operate at

full load, but without the protective device operating and
disconnecting the circuit.

You need to decide at this stage in the cable selection

process which method of installation to use. This will make

sure that the correct cable column is chosen in the later
stages of cable selection.
This choice is also important when you calculate

correction factors for thermal insulation.


Ambient temperature

Grouping factors
Thermal insulation
BS 3036 fuse

Mineral insulated cable

This is the temperature of the surroundings of the cable.

When a cable carries current, it gives off heat.

Hotter the surroundings of the cable, the more difficult it is

for the cable to get rid of this heat.

If the surrounding temperature is low, then the heat given off
could be easily let out and the cable could carry more current.

If a number of cables are run together and touching each other,

they will all produce heat when they are carrying currentSeparation necessary

If each cable is separated by a clearance to the next surface of at

least one cable diameter:- 'spaced' - correction factor


Where the horizontal clearance to the next cable is more than

2Dia then no correction factor is needed.

It is important that you apply these correction factors to the

number of circuits or multicore cables that are grouped and not

the number of conductors.

Thermal insulation has the effect of wrapping a cable in a fur

coat on a hot summer's day. The heat produced when the cable
carries current cannot escape.
There are two ways;
thermal insulation on one side of the cable
totally enclosed in thermal insulation

BS 3036 fuses
always use a factor of 0.725 when calculating current

carrying capacity.
Mineral insulated cable
For bare cables (i.e. no PVC outer covering) exposed to

touch, the tabulated values should be multiplied by 0.9.

When the right correction factors have been applied, we then

know the effective current carrying capacity of the conductor

This value of current tabulated in Appendix 4 of BS 7671 is

given the symbol It which must be greater than Iz. Hence:

the voltage drop between the origin of the installation

(usually the supply terminals) and the socket outlet or the

terminals of the current using equipment should not
exceed 4% of the supply voltage.
Voltage drop formula