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CHAPTER 3

TYPES OF OVERHEAD INSULATORS

3.1. Introduction

An electrical insulator is a material whose internal electric charges do not flow
freely, and therefore make it impossible to conduct an electric current under the
influence of an electric field. This contrasts with the other
materials, semiconductors and conductors, which conduct electric current more easily.
The property that distinguishes an insulator is its resistivity; insulators have higher
resistivity than semiconductors or conductors.

A perfect insulator does not exist, because even insulators contain small
numbers of mobile charges (charge carriers) which can carry current. In addition, all
insulators become electrically conductive when a sufficiently large voltage is applied
that the electric field tears electrons away from the atoms. This is known as
the breakdown voltage of an insulator. Some materials such as glass, paper and Teflon,
which have high resistivity, are very good electrical insulators. A much larger class of
materials, even though they may have lower bulk resistivity, are still good enough to
prevent significant current from flowing at normally used voltages, and thus are
employed as insulation for electrical wiring and cables. Examples include rubber-
like polymers and most plastics.

Insulators are used in electrical equipment to support and separate
electrical conductors without allowing current through themselves. An insulating
material used in bulk to wrap electrical cables or other equipment is called insulation.
The term insulator is also used more specifically to refer to insulating supports used to
attach electric power distribution or transmission lines to utility poles and transmission
towers. They support the weight of the suspended wires without allowing the current to
flow through the tower to ground.

The principal dielectric used on overhead power lines is air at atmospheric
pressure. The air, surrounding the bare high voltage aluminum or steel-cored aluminum
(ACSR) conductors, is a good insulating material, provided that the electric stress is
kept below the ionization threshold. It is, however, necessary to attach the conductors

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two parts or three parts type. depending upon application voltage. In 11kV system we generally use one part type insulator where whole pin insulator is one piece of properly shaped porcelain or glass. but still popularly used in power network up to 33kV system. The task is particularly complex. As the leakage path of insulator is through its surface. electrical and environmental. The classification of power line insulators 3. Pin type insulator can be one part.at certain points onto the cross arms of the pylons. modern polymeric insulators are used.2. Porcelain Pin Type Insulator Pin Insulator is earliest developed overhead insulator. it is desirable to increase 16 . The problem of reliably suspending the conductors of high voltage transmission lines has therefore been with us since the turn of the century. bearing in mind the multiple extreme stresses present: mechanical. There are different sources of electrical stress that results in degradation of insulation material. Today.1. as well as the earlier materials.1 Figure 3. High voltage insulators have developed rapidly since early these porcelain insulators.  Partial Discharge  Electrical tree  Depolymerisation  Increased moisture A classification of the main types of insulators is shown schematically in Fig 3.

one. In this case we use multiple part pin insulator. Figure 3. These strings are used for suspension and tension insulators.3 17 .2. In higher voltage like 33kV and 66kV manufacturing of one part porcelain pin insulator becomes difficult. A number of units are connected together by steel caps and pins to form an insulator string. where a number of properly designed porcelain shells are fixed together by Portland cement to form one complete insulator unit. So there will be discontinuations of conducting path through the wet pin insulator surface. The conical shapes of the fittings ensure high mechanical strength under tensile stress. For 33kV two parts and for 66kV three parts pin insulator are generally used. two or more rain sheds or petticoats are provided on the insulator body. In addition to that rain shed or petticoats on an insulator serve another purpose. 12 tons.the vertical length of the insulator surface area for lengthening leakage path.3 Cap and pin insulator These are manufactured from porcelain or glass and are based on the same principles as pin-type insulators. that during raining the outer surface of the rain shed becomes wet but the inner surface remains dry and non- conductive. the thickness of the insulator become more and a quite thick single piece porcelain insulator cannot manufactured practically.e. In order to obtain lengthy leakage path. i. These rain sheds or petticoats are so designed. A typical cap and pin disc is shown in fig 3. Because in higher voltage. 11 kV Pin insulator 3. Typically an insulator string can handle loads of up to 120 kN. The caps and pins are fixed to the glass or porcelain disc with cement.

4. These insulators are Class A. A typical example of a post insulator is shown schematically in Fig 3. Cap and Pin Disc insulator Pin-type and cap and pin insulators are classified as Class B insulators. Post insulators are tall and mainly used in substations. Figure 3. 3. Post-type and line post insulators These insulators consist of a solid porcelain cylinder. the shortest distance between the metal electrodes through the porcelain or glass is less than 50 % of the shortest distance through the electrodes. They are used to support the high voltage conductor and are mounted on pedestals or on the power line across arms. the shortest distance through the porcelain exceeds 50% of the shortest distance through air between the electrodes. Typical schematic representation of Post type insulator 18 . They are therefore un-puncturable.3. The porcelain or glass can therefore be punctured by severe electrical stress.4 Figure 3. with metal-ware on each end.4. The mechanical integrity of the insulator remains intact. corrugated to increase the leakage length. A faulty disc is therefore clearly visible.

slimmer and are used as suspension insulators.5) are similar to post insulators but are lighter.No Pin Insulator Post Insulator 1 It is generally used It is suitable for lower up to 33KV system voltage and also for higher voltage 2 It is single stag It can be single stag as well as multiple stags 3 Conductor is fixed on Conductor is fixed on the top of the the top of the insulator insulator by binding with help of connector clamp 4 Two insulators Two or more insulators cannot be fixed can be fixed together together for higher one above other for voltage application higher voltage application 5 Metallic fixing Metallic fixing arrangement arrangement provided provided only on on both top and bottom bottom end of the ends of the insulator insulator Table 3.1. Comparison of pin and post insulators 3. Long rod insulators have the apparent advantage over cap and pin insulators in that metal fittings exist only at the ends of the insulators. Porcelain long rod insulators Long rod insulators (figure 3. 19 . S.5.

In severe environments the surface of the insulators become rough – a factor that may affect the reliability of the insulator. Cyclo-aliphatic epoxy resin insulator representation 3. In suspension insulator numbers of insulators are connected in series to form a string and the line conductor is carried by the bottom most insulator.5. it becomes uneconomical to use pin insulator because size. A schematic representation of a suspension insulator 20 .7. For overcoming these difficulties. beyond 33KV.7. Handling and replacing bigger size single unit insulator are quite difficult task. Figure 3. Long rod insulator 3.6) can be used to cast insulators similar to porcelain and line post insulators for distribution voltages.6. when incorrectly applied. weight of the insulator become more.6. Figure 3. Cyclo-aliphatic epoxy resin insulators Cyclo-aliphatic resin (figure 3. Figure 3. Each insulator of a suspension string is called disc insulator because of their disc like shape. suspension insulator was developed. Suspension Type Insulators In higher voltage.

3. Strain Insulator When suspension string is used to sustain extraordinary tensile load of conductor it is referred as string insulator. the line has to sustain a great tensile load of conductor or strain. Shackle insulator The shackle insulator or spool insulator is usually used in low voltage distribution network.8.9.9. Stay insulator For low voltage lines. Stay insulator 3. The use of such 21 . When there is a dead end or there is a sharp corner in transmission line. the stays are to be insulated from ground at a height. Figure 3. It can be used both in horizontal and vertical position. The insulator used in the stay wire is called as the stay insulator and is usually of porcelain and is so designed that in case of breakage of the insulator the guy-wire will not fall to the ground. Figure 3. Strain insulator 3.10.8. A strain insulator must have considerable mechanical strength as well as the necessary electrical insulating properties.

These units failed due to surface damage and puncture. Historical Development The first polymers used for electrical insulators were biphenyl and cycloaliphatic epoxy resins.11. new CE formations have resulted in improved electrical performance. CE insulators were tested at up to 400 kV service voltages as suspension / strain insulators and cross-arm in the United Kingdom. and for suspension insulators by Transmission Development Limited (TDL) of England. distribution class (CE) insulators were first sold commercially in the U. The conductor in the groove of shackle insulator is fixed with the help of soft binding wire.11. Shackle insulator 3. CE did not gain acceptance in the US for outdoor high voltage suspension 22 . including poor cold temperature performance and insufficient weight reduction.S. Figure 3. Cycloaliphatic epoxy’s (CE) were introduced in 1957. Introduced commercially in the mid-1940s.insulator has decreased recently after increasing the using of underground cable for distribution purpose. biphenyl epoxy resins were the first polymers used for electrical insulators. under the name GEPOL. Since then. Polymer insulators: 3. However. CE was used later in experimental 500 kV station breaker bushings and in 115 kV bushings in the 1970s. From the mid-1960s on. In the early 1960s. The TDL suspension insulators used slant sheds to provide natural washing of contamination. and are still used to make electrical insulators for indoor and outdoor applications.10. the first commercial CE insulators failed shortly after installation in outdoor environments. For various reasons. They are superior to biphenyl because of their greater resistance to carbon formation. The tapered hole of the spool insulator distributes the load more evenly and minimizes the possibility of breakage when heavily loaded.1.

Polymeric outdoor insulators for transmission lines were developed as early as 1964 in Germany. These improved units have tracking free sheds. In the 1960s an insulator having porcelain sheds supported by an epoxy resin fiberglass rod was developed. Structure of Polymer Insulation The first polymeric outdoor insulators can be traced back to 1959 and they were made of epoxy. Italy. and slip-free end fitting. better corona resistance. The sixties and seventies experienced an increase in the production of polymer insulators. The modes of failure were due to ultraviolet degradation. However. they failed when applied to outdoor contaminated conditions.S. manufactures introduced the first generation of commercial polymeric transmission line insulators. CE is widely used in indoor and even semi-enclosed power systems.2. tracking and erosion. These insulators had the same fundamental design features as the contemporary designs as illustrated in Figure 3. which led to the second generation of composite transmission line insulators.11. It was not widely used because of further developments in lighter-weight polymeric insulating materials.insulators. Utilities initially installed these insulators in short sections of lines and at trouble spots. But today. while the rubber housing provided protection from the environmental conditions and contaminations 23 . In Germany. A large number of utilities started to experiment with the first generation composite insulators manufactured before the mid-1980s. units for field-testing were provided in 1967. In the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a consequence of reported failures some manufacturers stopped producing high voltage units and others started an intensive research effort.11. France. and by other manufacturers in England. A fiber glass rod was used as the core material to give the necessary support. and the U.1. The early experience was disappointing. 3. mostly for experimentation and data gathering.

which has a great effect in resisting the contamination conditions and aging processes encountered by the insulator during its service time. 24 .1. 3. The hydrophobic properties of polymer insulators have been widely investigated to understand the surface condition of insulators. The hydrophobic behavior of polymer insulators arises due to the low surface energy on its surface.11.3. The reinforcing fibers used in FRP are glass (E or ECR) and epoxy resin.11. The core of the insulator is made from fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) to distribute the tensile load providing mechanical support to the insulator. dry-band arcing and flashover. The sheath of the insulator is made from silicone rubber which provides electrical insulation and weather resistance. end-fitting.Structure of composite insulators Typically a composite insulator comprises a core material. Shows the leakage current development in both ceramic and polymer insulators. The silicone rubber is particularly famous for its excellent hydrophobic properties. have higher surface energy allowing the formation of water films on its surface [4]. Figure 3.2. forming individual droplets rather than a film [3]. Figure 3. The weather resistance is essential to protect the insulator’s core from environmental conditions. Hydrophobic Properties of Polymer Insulation One of the greatest advantages of polymeric insulators over ceramic insulators is its ability to resist the formation of continuous water films above its surface. This surface property is known as hydrophobicity. and is defined as the ability of the insulator to repel water on its surface. suppressing leakage currents (LC). Hydrophilic materials. like ceramic insulators. and a rubber insulating housing.11.

11. Figure.11. The hydrophobic behavior of silicone rubber suppressed the leakage current formation for much longer time.Relation between contact angle and Hydrophobicity The hydrophobicity of silicone rubber is lost due to chemical reactions on the surface.2 Leakage current Development in porcelain and rubber insulators As depicted in Figure. Figure 3. The hydrophobicity is commonly evaluated by measuring the static contact angle between the water droplet and the surface.3. For instance corona discharges result in oxidation reactions. surface 25 . Swedish transmission research institute.3.3. Other methods like dynamic contact angle.11. the leakage current development in porcelain is very fast compared to silicone rubber. The contact angle for hydrophobic surfaces is higher compared to hydrophobic surfaces as shown in Figure 3. sliding angle and water soaking can also be used to quantify hydrophobicity. Other reasons for the loss of hydrophobicity include. which lead to the decrease in hydrophobic properties.

however. which can cause brittle fraction of the core. Aging Process in Polymer Insulators Unlike porcelain and glass insulators. The most significant process for the hydrophobicity recovery is the migration of the low molecular chain fluids from the bulk of the material to the surface of the silicone rubber. The causes of failure in polymer insulators are largely mechanical in nature. after the removal of the electric or environmental stresses. As a result of housing damage. Figure 4 shows the field enhancement. around the triplet point. 3. the polymeric insulators can recover the hydrophobic properties again. the air. When the surface of insulator is contaminated with water droplets. the flashover events in composite insulators are much less frequent. UV radiations and temperature. Although the energy associated with the partial discharges are very weak. This field enhancement causes the development of small partial discharges known as corona. The aging process starts with the loss of hydrophobicity which leads to the development of leakage currents and eventually to dry-band arcing which causes a deterioration to the insulator material. the electric field gets enhanced at the triplet point between. 26 .11.pollution. due to the presence of a single water droplet on the surface of silicone rubber insulator. The main cause for initiating the aging process in polymer insulators is the development of corona discharges. their high frequency occurrence can lead to a temporary loss of hydrophobicity. which attack the surface of insulator leading to chemical changes. The excellent water repellency property of silicone rubber suppresses the formation of leakage current. The process of loss and recovery of hydrophobicity occurs several times during the life time of silicone rubber insulators. which in turn reduces the possibility of flashover. However. the fiber glass core gets exposed to the outdoor conditions.4. water molecule and the insulator surface.

There are three aging periods. the insulator’s surface hydrophobicity is still preserved. which changes the voltage distribution and causes greater discharges. early aging.4. The leakage current normally follows a pattern as shown in the Figure Figure. and hence the heat dissipation in some regions is much higher than other regions.11.3. to bridge the dry bands. water droplets start to be converted into continuous filaments.11. suppressing the leakage current development. which are: early aging period. while the migration of low molecular 27 . leading to the development of leakage currents. which heats up the insulator surface. Fig. the current density on the surface is non-uniform. through which the development of leakage current takes place. This non-uniform water evaporation forms narrow dry bands on the surface.3.Aging process In region one. leading to water evaporation.5. However. transition period and final aging period.Field Enhancement due to water Droplet As the surface of insulator becomes hydrophilic. known as dry-band arcs.

and small diameter.5. where the dry-band arcing starts to degrade the material.  Vandalism resistance-less gunshot damage  High strength to weight ratio-longer spans/new tower  Better contamination performance  Hydrophobicity 28 . The specific advantages. In region two. Early evaluations indicated that their withstand performance was "equal to or better than that of a comparable length of porcelain insulator chain". the insulator surface becomes wet. Their light weight allows tower designs and compacting that porcelain and glass insulators do not. transition period. including quality control and testing requirements.11. Advantage of Polymer Insulators: Polymeric transmission line insulators offer significant advantages over porcelain and glass insulators. the hydrophobic properties are completely lost and the leakage current reaches a saturation level. More recent tests have generally verified these evaluations.weight fluids to the surface helps to maintain the hydrophobicity property. 3. especially for ultra HV transmission lines. They have generated considerable interest among utilities. contribute to this improved performance. compared with ceramic insulators. are:  Light weight-lower construction and transportation costs. as a result of partial loss of hydrophobicity. while dry band-arcing starts to develop at this stage. They can be used as phase spacers on compact lines to control galloping and to limit conductor motion due to through-faults. Lack of intermediate electrodes. In the last stage of aging.