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Sizing of power cables for circuit breaker controlled feeders

(part 1)

Low voltage switchboard with circuit breakers (incomers, feeders)

The following three criteria apply for the sizing of cables for circuit breaker controlled feeders:
I. Short circuit current withstand capacity
This criteria is applied to determine the minimum cross section area of the cable, so that cable can withstand the
short circuit current.
Failure to check the conductor size for short-circuit heating could result in permanent damage to the cable
insulation and could also result into fire. In addition to the thermal stresses, the cable may also be subjected to
significant mechanical stresses.
II. Continuous current carrying capacity
This criteria is applied so that cross section of the cable can carry the required load current continuously at the
designed ambient temperature and laying condition.
III. Starting and running voltage drops in cable
This criteria is applied to make sure that the cross sectional area of the cable is sufficient to keep the voltage drop
(due to impedance of cable conductor) within the specified limit so that the equipment which is being supplied

power through that cable gets at least the minimum required voltage at its power supply input terminal during
starting and running condition both.

1. Criteria-1 Short circuit capacity

The maximum temperature reached under short circuit depends on both the magnitude and duration of the short
circuit current. The quantity I2t represents the energy input by a fault that acts to heat up the cable conductor. This
can be related to conductor size by the formula:

A = Minimum required cross section area in mm2

t = Operating time of disconnecting device in seconds
Isc = RMS Short Circuit current Value in Ampere
C = Constant equal to 0.0297 for copper & 0.0125 for aluminum
T2 = Final temp. C (max. short circuit temperature)
T1 = Initial temp. C (max. cable operating temperature normal conditions)
T0 = 234.5 C for copper and 228.1 C for aluminum
Equation-1 can be simplified to obtain the expression for minimum conductor size as given below in equation-2:

Now K can be defined as a Constant whose value depends upon the conductor material, its insulation and
boundary conditions of initial and final temperature because during short circuit conditions, the temperature of the
conductor rises rapidly. The short circuit capacity is limited by the maximum temperature capability of the
insulation. The value of K hence is as given in Table 2.
Boundary conditions of initial and final temperature for different insulation is as given under in Table 1 below.

Table 1
Insulation material

Final temperature T2

Initial temperature T 1


160 C

70 C

Butyl Rubber

220 C

85 C


250 C

90 C

Table 2





Butyl Rubber



Butyl Rubber


(K) 1 Second Current

Rating in Amp/mm2







(K) 3 Second Current

Rating in Amp/mm2







In the final equation-2 we have determined the value of constant K. Now the value of t is to be determined. The
fault current (ISC) in the above equation varies with time. However, calculating the exact value of the fault current
and sizing the power cable based on that can be complicated. To simplify the process the cable can be sized
based on the interrupting capability of the circuit breakers/fuses that protect them.
This approach assumes that the available fault current is the maximum capability of the breaker/fuse and also
accounts for the cable impedances in reducing the fault levels.
The fault clearing time (tc) of the breakers/fuses per ANSI/IEEE C37.010, C37.013, and UL 489 are:
For medium voltage system (4.16 kV) breakers, use 5-8 cycles
For starters with current limiting fuses, use cycle
For low voltage breakers with intermediate/short time delay, use 10 cycles
For low voltage breakers with instantaneous trips, use 1 cycle
Alternatively let us consider that feeder is for any large motor which is being fed from LV 415V or 400V switchgear
having a circuit breaker with separate multifunction motor protection relay (For this calculation it is assumed to be
SIEMENS made 7SJ61).
The instantaneous protection feature of this relay will be turned ON as and when any fault occurs. However, the
selected cable shall have the capacity to withstand the maximum fault current for a finite duration (that is fault
clearing time of the circuit breaker).
The minimum faults withstand duration necessary (for the instantaneous setting) for cable is calculated as under:
Si. No.


Time in ms

Source/Back up

Relay sensing/pickup time


SIEMENS 7SJ61 technical data

Tolerance/Delay time


SIEMENS 7SJ61 technical data

Breaker operating time


L&T make C-Power breaker have typical opening

time of 40 ms and closing time of 60ms)

Relay overshoot


Safety Margin


GEC handbook Network Protection & automation




Therefore the cable selected for a circuit breaker controlled motor feeder in 415V or 400V switchgear shall be
suitable to withstand the maximum rated fault current of 50kA for at least 120msec. However taking allowance of
40 Mili seconds in the opening time of circuit breaker due to aging, frequent number of operation, increase in
contact resistance of circuit breaker and finally to cover the variation due from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Hence the cable selected for a circuit breaker controlled motor feeder in 415V or 400V switchgear shall be suitable
to withstand the maximum rated fault current of 50kA for at least (120+40) 160msec. Many consultants
recommend for use operating time of disconnecting device as 200msec also. Value of t more than 160 seconds
is a conservative design.
A = (Isc x t)/K = (50000 x 0.16)/94 = 212.766mm 2
Next standard cable size: = 240 mm2

Although it may appear that selection of minimum cross sectional area of cable conductor as 240 mm 2 is only just
large enough for the duty, the actual fault current in the motor circuit is generally less than the switchboard fault
withstand rating of 50kA, hence the selection of cable of cross sectional area 240 mm2 in practice offers sufficient
design margin.
The minimum cross sectional area of cable required for 415V or 400V switchgear motor feeder from fault
withstand point of view shall be 240mm2.
We have considered for circuit breaker controlled motor feeder and analyzed the duration of short circuit/fault
withstanding time in seconds for the same. Exactly the Same holds true for Circuit breaker controlled (Please see
the below figure) outgoing transformer feeder.
However operating time of disconnecting device is slightly different for circuit breaker controlled incomer and tie
feeders. Duration of fault withstanding/operating time of disconnecting device for incomer and tie feeder is 1 and
0.5 second respectively. This is because of additional presence of inverse definite minimum time delay protection
relays along with instantaneous protection. The inverse definite time delay protection has time settings greater
than 0.5 for incomer feeders and about 0.5 for tie feeders.
For all different type of feeders the operating time of disconnecting device is indicated in figure below:

Typical value of t (fault clearing time). All the connecting cables has to be sized for short circuit duration (t) indicated in the
diagram above

The final cable size shall be selected considering the other two criteria that is continuous current carrying capacity
& voltage drop criteria which would be continued in part-2 and part-3.

About Author //
Asif Eqbal
Asif Eqbal - Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical & Electronics engineering, from
Manipal University, (Karnataka), India in 2006. Presently involved in the design of EHV
outdoor substation and coal fired thermal power plants for more than seven years.
Motto of joining EEP as a contributor is to share my little engineering experience and
help the budding engineers in bridging the conspicuous gap between academics and
Industrial practice. If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it, so that
people who are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for
action; it is about creating timeless learning processes".

RSS Feed for Comments

Dec 06, 2014
Oct 24, 2014
Sep 05, 2014
If we are having 300 mm2 cable size from the formula
A= I SC x t / k for a LT Incomer then can we use two runs of 150 mm2 for the same incomer instead of
one run of 300 mm2 cable.
Can you please clear this point with electrical design aspect.(with consideration of short circuit level and
without short circuit level ) Explain the same for HT cable sizing.
Sep 03, 2014
dr sir pls help me in finding the cable size n breaker rating respetive of single phase n three
phse load. if it a induction motor syn motor n slip ring.considering ther starting current n efficiency
Jul 23, 2014
really a great job.
I do have many confusions with LV switch gear designing .
wish if some one could post on LV switch gear designing.

Mar 11, 2014
Dear sir
Got the answer for my long days queries. Fault clearing time is 0.16 sec. 0.25 sec is presence of relays.
Really superb sir
Thank you so much
Purposes and Examples of Safety Interlocking Devices | EEP
Feb 05, 2014
[] the switching device while it is carrying load or fault []
Nov 18, 2013
Thanks asif for such lovely information..
Sep 11, 2012
Mr. Asif some observation, the area is not in [mm2] it is [cmil]

Jul 05, 2012
Dear Asif Eqbal good job keep it up i just down loaded ur material after studying i will reply u
give ur mail

Asif Eqbal
Jul 05, 2012
suggestion & feedback is always welcome. My mail is

Jul 20, 2012
Mr.Asif excellent jobclear my doubt over the months. Keep it up. Hope u will
continue to impart the knowledge every time..
waiting for part2 and part3..
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