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Working Principle of Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) and Residual Current Device (RCD)

Sc hne id e r Ele c tric RCBO

Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB)

An Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) is a device used to directly detect currents leaking to earth f rom an installation and cut the power and mainly used in T T earthing systems. There are two types of ELCBs: 1. Voltage Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (voltage-ELCB) 2. Current Earth Leakage Current Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (Current-ELCB). Voltage-ELCBs were f irst introduced about sixty years ago and Current-ELCB was f irst introduced about f orty years ago. For many years, the voltage operated ELCB and the dif f erential current operated ELCB were both ref erred to as ELCBs because it was a simpler name to remember. But the use of a common name f or two dif f erent devices gave rise to considerable conf usion in the electrical industry. If the wrong type was used on an installation, the level of protection given could be substantially less than that intended. To ignore this conf usion, IEC decided to apply the term Residual Current Device (RCD) to dif f erential

current operated ELCBs. Residual current ref ers to any current over and above the load current. Top

Voltage Base ELCB

Voltage-ELCB is a voltage operated circuit breaker. T he device will f unction when the Current passes through the ELCB. Voltage-ELCB contains relay Coil which it being connected to the metallic load body at one end and it is connected to ground wire at the other end. . If the voltage of the Equipment body is rise (by touching phase to metal part or f ailure of insulation of equipment ) which could cause the dif f erence between earth and load body voltage, the danger of electric shock will occur. T his voltage dif f erence will produce an electric current f rom the load metallic body passes the relay loop and to earth. When voltage on the equipment metallic body rose to the danger level which exceed to 50Volt, the f lowing current through relay loop could move the relay contact by disconnecting the supply current to avoid f rom any danger electric shock. . T he ELCB detects f ault currents f rom live to the earth (ground) wire within the installation it protects. If suf f icient voltage appears across the ELCBs sense coil, it will switch of f the power, and remain of f until manually reset. A voltage-sensing ELCB does not sense f ault currents f rom live to any other earthed body. T hese ELCBs monitored the voltage on the earth wire, and disconnected the supply if the earth wire voltage was over 50 volts. . T hese devices are no longer used due to its drawbacks like if the f ault is between live and a circuit earth, they will disconnect the supply. However, if the f ault is between live and some other earth (such as a person or a metal water pipe), they will NOT disconnect, as the voltage on the circuit earth will not change. Even if the f ault is between live and a circuit earth, parallel earth paths created via gas or water pipes can result in the ELCB being bypassed. Most of the f ault current will f low via the gas or water pipes, since a single earth stake will inevitably have a much higher impedance than hundreds of meters of metal service pipes buried in the ground. T he way to identify an ELCB is by looking for green or green and yellow earth wires entering the device. T hey rely on voltage returning to the trip via the earth wire during a f ault and af f ord only limited protection to the installation and no personal protection at all. You should use plug in 30mA RCDs f or any appliances and extension leads that may be used outside as a minimum.

Advant ages
ELCBs have one advantage over RCDs: they are less sensitive to f ault conditions, and theref ore have f ewer nuisance trips. . While voltage and current on the earth line is usually f ault current f rom a live wire, this is not always the case, thus there are situations in which an ELCB can nuisance trip. .

When an installation has two connections to earth, a nearby high current lightning strike will cause a voltage gradient in the soil, presenting the ELCB sense coil with enough voltage to cause it to trip. . If the installations earth rod is placed close to the earth rod of a neighboring building, a high earth leakage current in the other building can raise the local ground potential and cause a voltage dif f erence across the two earths, again tripping the ELCB. . If there is an accumulated or burden of currents caused by items with lowered insulation resistance due to older equipment, or with heating elements, or rain conditions can cause the insulation resistance to lower due to moisture tracking. If there is a some mA which is equal to ELCB rating than ELCB may give nuisance Tripping. . If either of the earth wires become disconnected f rom the ELCB, it will no longer trip or the installation will of ten no longer be properly earthed. . Some ELCBs do not respond to rectif ied f ault current. T his issue is common f or ELCBs and RCDs, but ELCBs are on average much older than RCB so an old ELCB is more likely to have some uncommon f ault current wavef orm that it will not respond to. . Voltage-operated ELCB are the requirement f or a second connection, and the possibility that any additional connection to earth on the protected system can disable the detector. . Nuisance tripping especially during thunderstorms.

Disadvant ages
T hey do not detect f aults that dont pass current through the CPC to the earth rod. T hey do not allow a single building system to be easily split into multiple sections with independent f ault protection, because earthing systems are usually use common earth Rod. T hey may be tripped by external voltages f rom something connected to the earthing system such as metal pipes, a T N-S earth or a T N-C-S combined neutral and earth. As electrically leaky appliances such as some water heaters, washing machines and cookers may cause the ELCB to trip. ELCBs introduce additional resistance and an additional point of f ailure into the earthing system. Can we assume whether Our Electrical System is protected against Earth Protection or not by only Pressing ELCB Test Switch? Checking the health of the ELCB is simple and you can do it easily by pressing T EST Push Button Switch of ELCB. T he test push-button will test whether the ELCB unit is working properly or not. Can we assume that If ELCB is Trip af ter Pressing T EST Switch of ELCB than your system is protected against earth protection? T hen you are wrong. . T he test f acility provided on the home ELCB will only conf irm the health of the ELCB unit, but that test does not conf irm that the ELCB will trip when an electric shock hazard does occur. It is a really sad f act that all the while this misunderstanding has lef t many homes totally unprotected f rom the risk of electric shocks. . T his brings us or alarming us to think over second basic requirement f or earth protection. T he second requirement f or the proper operation of a home shock protection system is electrical

grounding. . We can assume that the ELCB is the brain for the shock protection , and the grounding as the backbone. T heref ore, without a f unctional grounding (Proper Earthing of Electrical System) there is totally no protection against electrical shocks in your house even if You have installed ELCB and its T EST switch show proper result. Looking af ter the ELCB alone is not enough. T he electrical Earthing system must also be in good working order f or the shock protection system to work. In addition to routine inspections that should be done by the qualif ied electrician, this grounding should pref erably be inspected regularly at shorter intervals by the homeowner and need to pour Water in Earthing Pit at Regular interval of Time to minimize Earth Resistance. Top

Current-operated ELCB (RCB)

Current-operated ELCBs are generally known as Residual-current devices (RCD). T hese also protect against earth leakage. Both circuit conductors (supply and return) are run through a sensing coil; any imbalance of the currents means the magnetic f ield does not perf ectly cancel. T he device detects the imbalance and trips the contact. . When the term ELCB is used it usually means a voltage-operated device. Similar devices that are current operated are called residual-current devices. However, some companies use the term ELCB to distinguish high sensitivity current operated 3 phase devices that trip in the milliamp range f rom traditional 3 phase ground f ault devices that operate at much higher currents. Typical RCB circuit :

T he supply coil, the neutral coil and the search coil all wound on a common transf ormer core. . On a healthy circuit the same current passes through the phase coil, the load and return back through the neutral coil. Both the phase and the neutral coils are wound in such a way that they will produce an opposing magnetic f lux. With the same current passing through both coils, their magnetic ef f ect will cancel out under a healthy circuit condition.

. In a situation when there is f ault or a leakage to earth in the load circuit, or anywhere between the load circuit and the output connection of the RCB circuit, the current returning through the neutral coil has been reduced. T hen the magnetic f lux inside the transf ormer core is not balanced anymore. T he total sum of the opposing magnetic f lux is no longer zero. T his net remaining f lux is what we call a residual f lux. . T he periodically changing residual f lux inside the transf ormer core crosses path with the winding of the search coil. T his action produces an electromotive f orce (e.m.f .) across the search coil. An electromotive f orce is actually an alternating voltage. T he induced voltage across the search coil produces a current inside the wiring of the trip circuit. It is this current that operates the trip coil of the circuit breaker. Since the trip current is driven by the residual magnetic f lux (the resulting f lux, the net ef f ect between both f luxes) between the phase and the neutral coils , it is called the residual current devise. . With a circuit breaker incorporated as part of the circuit, the assembled system is called residual current circuit breaker (RCCB) or residual current devise (RCD). T he incoming current has to pass through the circuit breaker f irst bef ore going to the phase coil. T he return neutral path passes through the second circuit breaker pole. During tripping when a f ault is detected, both the phase and neutral connection is isolated. . RCD sensitivity is expressed as the rated residual operating current, noted In . Pref erred values have been def ined by the IEC, thus making it possible to divide RCDs into three groups according to their In value. High sensitivity (HS ): 6- 10- 30 mA (f or direct-contact / lif e injury protection) Standard IEC 60755 (General requirements f or residual current operated protective devices) def ines three types of RCD depending on the characteristics of the f ault current. Type AC: RCD f or which tripping is ensured f or residual sinusoidal alternating currents Top

Sensit ivit y of RCB:

Medium sensitivity (MS ): 100- 300- 500- 1000 mA (f or f ire protection) Low sensitivity (LS ): 3- 10- 30 A (typically f or protection of machine)

Types of RCB:
Type A: RCD f or which tripping is ensured f or residual sinusoidal alternating currents f or residual pulsating direct currents For residual pulsating direct currents superimposed by a smooth direct current of 0.006 A, with or without phase-angle control, independent of the polarity. Type B: RCD f or which tripping is ensured as f or type A f or residual sinusoidal currents up to 1000 Hz f or residual sinusoidal currents superposed by a pure direct current

f or pulsating direct currents superposed by a pure direct current f or residual currents which may result f rom rectif ying circuits three pulse star connection or six pulse bridge connection two pulse bridge connection line-to-line with or without phase-angle monitoring, independently of the polarity T here are two groups of devices:

Break t ime of RCB:

1. G (general use) f or instantaneous RCDs (i.e. without a time delay) Minimum break time: immediate Maximum break time: 200 ms f or 1x In, 150 ms f or 2x In, and 40 ms f or 5x In 2. S (selective) or T (time delayed) f or RCDs with a short time delay (typically used in circuits containing surge suppressors) Minimum break time: 130 ms f or 1x In, 60 ms f or 2x In, and 50 ms f or 5x In Maximum break time: 500 ms f or 1x In, 200 ms f or 2x In, and 150 ms f or 5x In

jiguparmar - Jignesh Parmar has completed his B.E(Electrical) f rom Gujarat University. He is member of Institution of Engineers (MIE),India. Membership No:M-1473586.He has more than 12 years experience in Transmission -Distribution-Electrical Energy thef t detectionElectrical Maintenance-Electrical Projects (Planning-Designing-Technical Reviewcoordination -Execution). He is Presently associate with one of the leading business group as a Assistant Manager at Ahmedabad,India. He has published numbers of Technical Articles in "Electrical Mirror", "Electrical India", "Lighting India", "Industrial Electrix"(Australian Power Publications) Magazines. He is Freelancer Programmer of Advance Excel and design usef ul Excel base Electrical Programs as per IS, NEC, IEC,IEEE codes. He is Technical Blogger and Familiar with English, Hindi, Gujarati, French languages. He wants to Share his experience & Knowledge and help technical enthusiasts to f ind suitable solutions and updating themselves on various Engineering Topics. Become EEP's Contributor and introduce yourself to 70k+ of our readers all across the web.