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My undertanding of earth and neutral in a domestic premises, is that earth is earthed at the premises and the neutral is earthed

at the sub-station. But should'nt there be open circuit between them ? I recently measured the resistance between earth and neutral in a lighting circuit and it was almost short circuit (a few ohms). Is this correct ? The resistance was measured using a DVM and with the power off.

There are different ways of earthing this explains them: so your situation looks pretty normal to me, allthough it doesnt tell you anything as (as you have discovered) you cant distinguish a correct set up from a neutral earth fault like this!

Re: Earth/Neutral resistance ?

Hello, My undertanding of earth and neutral in a domestic premises, is that earth is earthed at the premises and the neutral is earthed at the sub-station.
the transformer neutral is tied to real earth at the substation. depending on the particular install your domestic earth may be either seperately tied to real earth (TT), connected via a seperate route independent of the neutral (TN-S) or connected to the neutral (TN-C-S)

But should'nt there be open circuit between them ? if the mainswitch is off then they should be isolated from each other (and if they aren't you have a fault somewhere) otherwise no (individual MCBs don't normally isolate the neutral) on a TT you'd expect between about 20 ohms and 200 ohms depending on local soil conditions. On a TN-S you'd expect it to be fairly low (less than an ohm) and on a TN-C-S you'd expect it to be *really* low (less than a hundredth of an ohm if measured at the int)

Neutral to earth Resistance:

Max Zs on TT = 200 Ohm Max Ze on TN-S = 0.8 Ohm Max Ze on TN-C-S = 0.35 Ohm

Thanks guys for all the excellent advice. I only measured the resistance with the lighting CB off. I'll try it again this weekend with the main CB off, and ascertain which earthing system I have. The house is a 1920's build, and the Electricity board meters look pretty old, although the CU looks new.

The house is a 1920's build, and the Electricity board meters look pretty old, although the CU looks new.
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NEC recommendation on Neutral to earth connection

Danger of Open Service Neutral According to the NEC, metal parts of service equipment shall be grounded to the earth. The purpose of grounding the metal parts to the earth is to protect persons and property from fires by limiting voltage on the metal parts from lightning [250.4(A)(2)]. In addition, the grounded (neutral) service conductor shall be grounded to the earth at service equipment. For the purpose of limiting the voltage imposed by lightning, line surges, or unintentional contact with higher voltage lines. Grounding is intended to shunt potentially dangerous energy into the earth from the system [250.4(A)(1)]. Note: The grounding of the grounded (neutral) conductor to the earth also helps the electric utility clear high-voltage ground faults when they occur, but reducing the utility system ground resistance. Purpose of Neutral

Because electric utilities are not required to install an equipment grounding conductor to service equipment, a grounded (neutral) conductor shall be run from the electric utility transformer to each service disconnecting means and this conductor shall be bonded to the service disconnect enclosure [250.24]. The grounded (neutral) service conductor serves as the required effective ground-fault current path necessary to ensure that dangerous voltage from a ground fault will be quickly removed by opening of the circuit protection device [250.4(A)(3) and 250.4(A)(5)]. Hazard of Open Service Neutral If the grounded (neutral) service conductor is opened or not provided at all, objectionable neutral current will flow on metal parts of the electrical system and dangerous voltage will be present on the metal parts providing the potential for electric shock. This dangerous electrical shock condition is of particular concern in buildings that contain swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. In addition, when the grounded (neutral) conductor from the secondary of a transformer is open or not present, the operating voltage for the loads on one line will rise, while the operating voltage for the other line will drop. Another hazard exists from over or under line voltage, and that is a fire from excessive heat. Equipment Voltage Rating Manufactures typically rate equipment at 115V +-10-15%, which means that 115V rated equipment should have a continuous operating voltage between 100V and 135V. Because electrical equipment of the inductive type (motors, computers, electronic ballast, etc) can be damaged or destroyed from over voltage, and resistive loads will only be damaged from over voltage, we must be sure that the voltage remains stable within the equipment voltage rating. Voltage Distribution The voltage distribution on the circuits and the touch voltage on metal parts from an open service grounded (neutral) conductor are dependent on the impedance of the loads on Line 1, Line 2, and ground resistance as measured by a ground resistance meter. Note: A fascinating video or DVD ($20) demonstrating and explaining how to measure ground resistance is available. Call 1.954.720.1999. For example, the voltage distribution of a 3-wire, 120/240V service where Line 1 is 100A, Line 2 is 50A, and the ground resistance is varied will be: Ground Resistance 100 ohms 10 ohms 25 ohms 5 ohms 3 ohms 1 ohms Line 1 80 Volts 81 Volts 83 Volts 86 Volts 88 Volts 98 Volts Line 2 60 Volts 159 Volts 157 Volts 154 Volts 152 Volts 142 Volts Line 3 40 Volts 39 Volts 37 Volts 34 Volts 32 Volts 22 Volts

As we can see from the above table: the operating voltage for the loads on Line 1 is below the equipment rating, the operating voltage for the load on Line 2 are above the equipment rating, and the touch voltage is excessively high and dangerous. Download a free spreadsheet to determine the above values.

One last point, if the grounded (neutral) service conductor (which serves as the effective ground-fault current path) is opened or not provided at all (this happens when people think that a neutral is not required if there are no line-to-neutral loads), a ground fault cannot be cleared. The result is that metal parts of electrical equipment, as well as metal piping and structure steel will become and remain energized at line voltage. In this case 120V. Let me summarize by saying that the ground resistance must be as low as possible, but a low resistance ground does not reduce dangerous touch voltage to a safe level from a ground fault! Yes, a lower resistive ground will reduce touch voltage if the grounded (neutral) is opened, but not likely to a safe value. P.S. If the grounded (neutral) service conductor is open, neutral current will flow onto the metal parts of the electrical system. When this occurs in a wood frame construction building, neutral current seeking a return path to the power supply will travel into the moist wood members. After many years of this current flow, the wood will be converted into charcoal (wood with no moisture) and ultimately it can result in a fire. This condition is called pyroforic-carbonization.

Let's speak precisely. We have three words, concerning to the earthing issue: 1. The real mass of Earth: it is the reference point for voltages, all around the world. 2. Neutral or Null and electrical earth: the point, which the neutral point of Y side of the transformer is connected to. It has an electrical duty: it provides the return path for the current flowing from the phases. 3. Protective Earth (PE) or Ground: all of metal parts and packages of instruments and equipments should be connected to this point due to human safety measures. It's not an electricity carrying connection in normal situation. It acts in short circuit and induced voltages to the bodies of equipment. The Points 2 and 3 must be connected to point 1, via a low resistance, normally below 2 ohms. Connection of point 2 to 3, depends on the supply system (TT, TNC, TNS, ...). You can refer to IEC or NEC regulations for more information. The quality of connecting the points 2 and 3 to the point 1 is very important. It can be improved by digging a hole in the earth until you reach to the usually wet soil. Then you must pour salt, some coal powder, and leave your earth wire in it and fill the hole. If you couldn't reach to 2 ohms resistance, you can establish more than one earth hole and parallel them as a earthing mesh.