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What's the rule on conduit fill? The answer is there are many rules!

First, let's expand things a bit. Conduit is a specific kind of raceway. So, we're really talking about raceway fill--whether that raceway is conduit, EMT, NMT or some other kind of raceway. The NEC index cross-references "conduit fill" as conductor fill. The basic NEC reference is 300.17. The NEC does not provide a specific fill number, here. It merely says the number and size of conductors can't be more than will permit heat dissipation and the ready withdrawal of conductors without damaging them. Notice, I said the basic NEC reference. Just below 300.17, you'll find an FPN. This one happens to be highly detailed. The fill requirements are specified by first by raceway type in 342.22 - 388.22. Then, they are specified by application as follows:

Underfloor, 390.5 Fixture wire, 402.7 Theaters, 520.6 Signs, 600.31(C) Audio signal processing, 640.23 and 640.24 Class I, II, III circuits, Article 725 Fire alarm circuits, Article 760 Fiberoptics, Article 770.

Now, you can simplify all of this by understanding something the FPN doesn't tell you. Most of these various references tell you to use Table 1 of Chapter 9. It's probably left out of the FPN to avoid duplication of information (the result of which is invariably conflict and confusion), and to allow each standards committee to decide whether to refer to Table 1 or not. Article 770, for example, says that Table 1 does not apply [770.12(A)]. Going to Table 1, Chapter 9, we don't find a whole heck of a lot. One wire can fill only 53% of a raceway, and two wires can fill only 31%. And if you have more than 2 conductors in a raceway, the maximum fill is 40%. That 40% is subject to further downward adjustment, though. The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can require even less fill--so, use common sense. Read the FPN in Table 1 thoroughly. Don't assume that 50% fill is OK, because it's close. It's not close-it's over the limit. But don't assume 40% is always OK, either. Circumstances may dictate otherwise, and the NEC provides some examples on that point. Some people get confused on which conductors count for raceway fill. They all count. The confusion results from misapplying 310.15(B)(6) to raceway fill. But 310.15(B)(6) is is about ampacity calculations, not raceway fill calculations. You exclude grounding or bonding conductor(s) when determining the number of current carrying conductors for purposes of selecting an ampacity table. But you don't exclude them from determining the raceway fill. Keep Articles 300 and 310 separate!

Do the math Conduit fill requires calculation. In the past, this involved determining the circular mils for various conductors. Fortunately, the NEC now provides tables to reduce the amount of calculation in the field. To determine how much wire you can run in a given raceway: 1. Find the raceway type and size you're running, in Table 4 of Chapter 9. The number you want is Total Area. This is expressed in square inches. Multiply by 0.4, and you'll know your total permissible wire fill for that raceway. 2. Find the wire type and size you're running, in Table 5 of Chapter 9. The number you want is approximate area. This is expressed in square inches. 3. Add the results of Step 2 for each wire you want to run as you go, and stop when you reach your total permissible wire fill for that raceway. Most likely, you'll stop before you reach it, as you are not allowed to exceed it. To determine what size raceway you need for a given wire run: 1. Find the wire type and size you're running, in Table 5 of Chapter 9. The number you want is Approximate Area. This is expressed in square inches. 2. Perform Step 1 for each wire you want to run, and add the results as you go. The final total is your total wire area. Divide this number by 0.40, and you'll know your minimum raceway area. 3. Find the raceway type you're running, in Table 4 of Chapter 9. Look down the column until you find an area number that is greater than the minimum raceway area you calculated in Step 2. You must use a raceway at least this size.

+National Electrical Code Explanations


National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 501, Class I Locations 1. Article 500 provides the basis for interpreting and correctly applying Articles 501 516. For one thing, you will find the definitions for those Articles in Article 500. So, do not work with Article 501 until you have read and understood Article 500. 2. Class I locations are those in which flammable gases or vapors are (or may be) present in sufficient quantities to produce explosive or ignitible mixtures [500.5(B)]. 3. Class locations are further broken down into Division 1 (normal operations) and Division 2 (abnormal operations). That is, point #2 above applies in normal or abnormal conditions. 4. You must use Division 1 wiring methods when combustibles are present under normal operations [501.10(A)]. 5. You must use Division 2 wiring methods when combustibles are present under abnormal operations [501.10(B)]. 6. Seal requirements for Class I locations [501.15] are highly detailed and far more

extensive than those for Class II locations [502.15]. Do not confuse the two. 7. Any electrical parts that operate at more than 30V can't be exposed, but this drops to 15V under wet conditions. Further, you must apply the appropriate protection technique from 500.7(E), (F), or (G) to these parts [501.25]. 8. The grounding and bonding requirements for Class I locations are in 501.30. If you ground where you should, instead, bond, you will create a difference of potential that violates 501.30 and will pose a threat to people and property. To avoid catastrophic consequences, read the definitions of grounding and bonding in Article 100, and take some time to study Article 250, Part V. 9. You cannot use multiwire branch circuits in a Class I, Division 1 location unless the disconnect for the circuit opens all ungrounded conductors simultaneously [501.40]. 10. Any luminaire used in a Class I, Division 1 location must be identified as a complete assembly for Class I, Division 1 locations [501.130(A)(1)]. Any luminaire used in a Class I, Division 2 location must meet some conditions that the typical person in the field can't possibly conform to with any certainty, or it must conform to the requirements for a Class I, Division 1 location [501.130(B)(1)].

+National Electrical Code Explanations


National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 502, Class II Locations 1. Article 500 provides the basis for interpreting and correctly applying Articles 501 516. For one thing, you will find the definitions for those Articles in Article 500. So, do not work with Article 501 until you have read and understood Article 500. 2. Class II locations are those in which combustible dust is (or may be) present in sufficient quantities to produce a hazard of explosion or ignition 500.5(C)]. 3. Class locations are further broken down into Division 1 (normal operations) and Division 2 (abnormal operations). That is, point #2 above applies in normal or abnormal conditions. 4. You must use Division 1 wiring methods when combustibles are present under normal operations [502.10(A)]. 5. You must use Division 2 wiring methods when combustibles are present under abnormal operations [502.10(B)]. 6. Seal requirements for Class II locations [502.15] are very simple, compared to the highly detailed and far more extensive seal requirements of Class I locations [501.15]. Do not confuse the two. 7. Any electrical parts that operate at more than 30V can't be exposed, but this drops to 15V under wet conditions. Further, you must apply the appropriate protection technique from 500.7(E), (F), or (G) to these parts [501.25. 8. The grounding and bonding requirements for Class II locations are in 502.30. If you ground where you should, instead, bond, you will create a difference of potential that violates 502.30 and will pose a threat to people and property. To avoid catastrophic consequences, read the definitions of grounding and bonding

in Article 100, and take some time to study Article 250, Part V. 9. You cannot use multiwire branch circuits in a Class II, Division 1 location unless the disconnect for the circuit opens all ungrounded conductors simultaneously [502.40]. 10. Any luminaire used in a Class II must be identified for use in Class II locations [502.130(A)(1)] and [502.130(B)(1)].

+National Electrical Code Explanations


National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 300, Wiring Methods Please note, we do quote from copyrighted material. While the NFPA does allow such quotes, it does so only for the purposes of education regarding the National Electrical Code. This article is not a substitute for the NEC. These are the 10 NEC Article 300 items we deem most important, based on the pervasiveness of confusion and the potential costs of same. The language throughout NEC Article 300 misplaces the word "only," but the meaning where this is misused is still clear if you interpolate just a bit. 1. NEC Article 300.3 addresses conductors and enclosures. (B) requires all conductors of the same circuit to be in the same wireway. One reason for this is the basic physics involved when the electromagnetic fields of conductors interact. Many other reasons make this requirement of great practical value. An exception to it does exist, and there are sometimes practical reasons for taking advantage of that exception. (C) allows conductors at or below 600V to be mixed in the same enclosure, cable, or raceway regardless of their voltage. That mixing is safe from the standpoint of the NEC, but the more of it you do the higher your risk of misoperation and other problems. Good engineering practice demands separating wiring systems as much as is practical. Thus, you would run 5V signal wires in one wireway, 120V control wires in another, and 480V power in yet anothereven though you might terminate them all in one control cabinet. Even inside the cabinet, you want to route and bundle the wires so as to maintain the maximum separation that is reasonably attainable. Motor drive power and output wiring deserves extra attention in this regard. 2. NEC Article 300.4 addresses protection against physical damage. Many folks who run nonmetallic-sheathed cables (e.g., Romex) dont consider adding protection. In residential applications, this is usually unnecessary, but a hole drilled off-center could easily leave the wiring susceptible to puncture from a nail or screw driven to support shelving, cabinets, or other wall-mounted objects. 3. NEC Table 300.5 provides the minimum cover requirements for buried cable of 0 to 600V. 4. NEC Article 300.8. Raceways or cable trays containing electrical conductors cannot contain elements of other systemsno water pipes, gas pipes, or any

other non-electrical system elements can run in those electrical wireways. The intent of the NEC Article 300.8 also means, for example, running Romex through an A/C duct is a Code violation. 5. NEC Article 300.11 addresses the issues of securing and supporting. Cables and raceways must have their own supportindependent of other systems. Their supporting structures cannot be piggybacked onto other supports. For example, you cant hang conduit from ceiling grids, but you can clamp to the I-beams or rafters to hang rod and strut specifically for the conduit. (C) prohibits using wireways to support other wireways, cables, or non-electrical equipment. Thus, using cable ties to secure the wiring for that new PA system to conduit is a Code violation. A chief concern of NEC Article 300.11 is that electrical wireways be independent. They may share a supportfor example, you can strap multiple conduits to a strut suspended by two rods. But, you cannot then strap a strut to those conduits and hang a secondary set of rods to support another set of conduit or anything else. 6. NEC Article 300.12 requires mechanical continuity of raceways and cable sheaths. 7. NEC Article 300.13 requires mechanical and electrical continuity for conductors in raceways. In other words, you cannot have a splice in a raceway (but you can have it in a box or conduit body that has an accessible cover). NEC Article 300.5 does allow splices in direct-buried conductors. Thats because you can use instruments to locate the splices and you can excavate to get to them. However, its much more difficult to do maintenance and inspection on conductors that are in raceways. 8. NEC Article 300.15 explains the exceptions noted in our comments in the preceding item, and it addresses similar issues in 13 subheadings. 9. NEC Article 300.19 and NEC Table 300.19(A) provide specifics on conductor and raceway supports. 10. NEC Article 300.20 requires conductors to be grouped together to reduce heating (this takes advantage of magnetic field interaction and cancellation). It contains two exceptions. (B) prescribes a technique few people know about. In fact, when this appeared in EC&M Magazine, many readers thought it was a hoax. It is not. The technique involves cutting cooling slots in the holes through which a single conductor passes. This item has an exception and an FPN. It is worth becoming familiar with.

National Electrical Code Top Ten Tips: Article 250, Grounding Please note, we do quote from copyrighted material. While the NFPA does allow such quotes, it does so only for the purposes of education regarding the National Electrical Code. This article is not a substitute for the NEC. These are the 10 NEC Article 250 items we deem most important, based on the pervasiveness of confusion and the potential costs of same.

1. NEC Article 250.1 helps you overcome a very common problem. Most folks are so overwhelmed by NEC Article 250 that they immediately get lost when confronted with it. However, its divided into 6 logical groupings of information and NEC Article 250.1 tells you what those are. 2. NEC Article 250.2 clarifies things by defining "Effective round-fault current path," Ground fault," and "Ground-fault current path." These definitions, if understood, are not enough for proper application of grounding. You also need to understand the grounding-related definitions in NEC Article 100. Those are bonding (and variations) and grounding (and variations). 3. NEC Article 250.3. Another source of panic and confusion when dealing with NEC Article 250 is that many other NEC Articles apply. The discussions on this issue during the NEC 2002 revision process was on how to address the concern that the NEC is "too complicated" (as if electricity is simple?) and "all of the related information should be in one place (which would be fine if every application were identical). NEC Table 250.3 handles this issue quite nicely, by providing an substantial cross-reference. 4. NEC Article 250.4. This details the general requirements for grounding and bonding. It begins by distinguishing between, and giving requirements for, five categories of grounding: Electrical system grounding, Grounding of electrical equipment, Bonding of electrical equipment, Bonding of electrically conductive materials and other equipment, and Effective ground-fault current path. It also identifies and gives requirements for four categories of ungrounded systems. Figure 250.4 is a great visual for seeing which Parts of NEC Article 250 apply to various aspects of grounding. 5. NEC Article 250.6 addresses another fundamental concept of grounding. That is, the prevention of "objectionable current flow over the grounding conductors or grounding paths." 6. NEC Article 250.24(A) says, "A premises wiring system supplied by a grounded ac service shall have a grounding electrode conductor connected to the grounded service conductor, at each service." Electrons are always trying to get back to the source. The rest of NEC Article 250.24 details requirements for doing this for different applications. 7. NEC Article 250.28. You need a main bonding jumper. "For a grounded system, an unspliced main bonding jumper shall be used to connect the equipment grounding conductor(s) and the service-disconnect enclosure to the grounded conductor of the system within the enclosure for each service disconnect. There are two exceptions to this, but in no case can you use the earth as your bonding jumperits resistance is simply too many orders of magnitude too high.

8. NEC Article 250.34 discusses portable and vehicle-mounted generators. A good reference for understanding why these would differ from stationary systems is IEEE-142. 9. NEC Article 250.52 gives the requirements for grounding electrodes. This is a more complex topic than most people think. IEEE-142 gives a thorough theoretical treatise of it. The NEC just gives the minimal requirements for safety. 10. NEC Article 250.58 instructs us to use "the same electrode for grounding conductor enclosures and equipment in or on that same building." The concept of "separate ground" is nonsense. Two good sources for more information on this are Soares Book on Groundingand IEEE-142. We could easily address 10 more "top tips" for Article 250. For example, Section V on Bonding has plenty of good information. However, the purpose of this article is to cover fundamentals in a quick and easy-to-read manner. To gain a solid understanding of NEC Article 250, you need to set aside a specific amount of time each weekmaybe two 90-minute study sessions each night, or maybe a half hour at lunch each dayand tackle one Section at a time. Supplement that by reading Soares Book on Grounding and IEEE-142. Check out this grounding case history!

Understanding the Differences Between Bonding, Grounding, and Earthing


Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Larry Ray and S. Frank Waterer, Square D Engineering Services/Schneider Electric

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Avoiding confusion can help customers maximize process uptime, safety, and profits The importance of bonding and grounding in commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings cannot be overstated. The grounded circuits of machines need to have an effective return path from the machines to the power source in order to function properly. In addition, non-current-carrying metallic components in a facility, such as equipment cabinets, enclosures, and structural steel, need to be electrically interconnected so voltage potential cannot exist between them. The benefits for the building owner are many maximized equipment protection, elimination of shock hazard potential, increased process uptime, and reduced costs through avoiding expensive machine servicing. However, troubles can arise when terms like bonding, grounding, and earthing are interchanged or confused in certain situations. Earthing is the attachment of a bonded metallic system to earth, typically through ground rods or other suitable grounding electrodes. The NEC prohibits earthing via isolated ground rods as the only means of equipment grounding. Nevertheless, some manufacturers of sensitive machinery actually encourage this practice in their installation manuals, in order to reduce no problem found service calls associated with machine errors and rebooting.

An illustration
Understanding the differences between bonding/grounding and earthing is best illustrated with an example. A manufacturer of molded components was replacing failed printed circuit boards in a computerized numerically controlled (CNC) machine. After a thunderstorm, the machine's self-diagnostic system occasionally registered a component problem. The machine would not start, delaying the day's production cycle. Plant electronics technicians

identified and replaced failed circuit boards, then returned the CNC machine to operation. However, each occurrence cost thousands of dollars in repairs and lost production. Called upon to rectify the problem, personnel from the engineering services organization of a major electrical distribution equipment manufacturer observed that although the plant had grounded the CNC machine in accordance with the manufacturer's installation manual, the ground was in clear violation of the NEC. This apparent contradiction demonstrates a disturbing fact: Some grounding practices that are designed to decrease data errors in sensitive machines can actually violate grounding codes and standards, causing equipment damage and introducing safety hazards. It's also important to note that the conflicting requirements can be overcome, but never by compromising employee safety.

Key concepts and terms


Understanding the difference between bonding/grounding and earthing requires implicit understanding of several important concepts and terms, including those outlined below.

Safety grounding and machine operation


The problem experienced by the plant in the example is not uncommon. Manufacturers of sensitive machines have discovered that isolated ground rods can decrease the number of nuisance problems, such as rebooting, data errors, and intermittent shutdowns. This decrease is due to the reduced amount of voltage transients or noise on the ground rod, as compared to a common building grounding system. Because of the reduction in data errors attributed to the ground rod, some manufacturers include isolated ground rods in their installation instructions. Some even imply the machine warranty will not be honored if the ground rod is not installed. During thunderstorms or ground faults, however, an isolated ground rod becomes a liability, creating shock hazard potential for employees and high potential rises on sensitive machine components. Figure 1 (click here to see Fig. 1) illustrates the extremely large transient voltages that can develop between driven ground rods due to lightning currents and earth resistance. Although ground faults in the machine itself may not draw enough current to trip overcurrent protective devices, they can create touch hazard potential for employees. Article 250.54 of the 2008 NEC specifically prohibits the use of isolated ground rods, or earthing, as the sole means of equipment grounding, although some have used other sections of the NEC to justify this practice. The NEC Handbook provides the following commentary associated with Art. 250.6 (Objectionable Currents): An increase in the use of electronic controls and computer equipment, which are sensitive to stray currents, has caused installation designers to look for ways to isolate electronic equipment from the effects of such stray circulating currents. Circulating currents on equipment grounding conductors, metal raceways, and building steel develop potential differences between ground and the neutral of electronic equipment. A solution often recommended by inexperienced individuals is to isolate the electronic equipment from all other power equipment by disconnecting it from the power equipment ground. In this corrective action, the equipment grounding means is removed or nonmetallic spacers are installed in the metallic raceway system contrary to fundamental safety grounding principles covered in the requirements of Art. 250. The electronic equipment is then grounded to an earth ground isolated from the common power system ground. Isolating equipment in this manner creates a potential difference that is a shock hazard. The error is compounded because such isolation does not establish a low-impedance ground-fault return path to the power source, which is necessary to actuate the overcurrent protection device.

Bonding/grounding vs. earthing


Isolated connections to earth are not required for sensitive machine operation. Issues crop up when equipment bonding/grounding and earthing are confused. In the United States, the term grounding is used to refer to at least five or more grounding-related systems, including:

System type This refers to the means by which power source voltage relationships are established. Power sources fall into four general categories: Transformers, generators, electric utilities, and static power converters. These systems may be configured as wye or delta, and the means by which they are interfaced with the grounding system determines the system type. The most common 3-phase system type is the solidly grounded wye, which is established by connecting a properly rated conductor (also known as the main or system bonding jumper) from the X0 terminal of the source (usually a transformer) to the grounding system.

Equipment grounding (bonding)

Resolving the issue


The best means of equipment grounding is to route a grounding conductor, suitably sized, along the same route as the power and neutral conductors, from source to machine. The NEC does allow use of metallic conduit and other substitutes, but some industry experts believe these systems are less effective and should be avoided.

Grounding electrode (earthing) This term refers to the method by which the facility grounding system is connected and referenced to earth. The most common grounding electrode for small facilities is a metallic ground rod, but earthing systems for larger buildings can and should be more elaborate and include the means by which to inspect and test these systems periodically. A grounding electrode system that is buried in earth or encased in concrete and then forgotten is often the source of increasing problems as the building ages and the grounding electrodes deteriorate.

Lightning abatement Some facilities use air terminals (also known as lightning rods) to direct lightning strikes away from power equipment, but these devices are often connected to the grounding system in such a way that they have the opposite effect unintentionally bringing lightning energy into facility structural steel, low-voltage transformer windings, and, subsequently, sensitive building loads.

Signal-reference grounding Sensitive electronic machines rely on the grounding system for reference of low-magnitude signals. Therefore, it's often crucial to provide multiple grounding paths, rather than rely on a single equipment grounding conductor between the power source and the sensitive load. This ensures that spurious voltages on the grounding system are maintained well below the level at which they might be confused with sensitive machine reference signals. The best guide for signal-reference grounding is IEEE Standard 1100-2006, Recommended Practice for Powering and Grounding Electronic Equipment.

Note that earthing is not required for sensitive machine operation. Modern aircraft, for example, are packed with sensitive computers and electronic devices, which operate correctly without an attachment to earth. They rely on a bonded metallic system the airplane framework, skin, structural supports, raceways, and grounding conductors to serve as the ground reference. If this bonded system rises in voltage with respect to earth, all machines onboard experience the increase together. The net result is that the machines see no voltage potential differences with respect to each other. Once the airplane lands, any voltage potential between the plane and earth must be discharged by an electrode that bypasses the rubber tires.

Resolving the issue


The immediate solution to the example plant's illegal ground rod (click here to see Fig. 2)was to remove the shock hazard. This was done by connecting a grounding conductor (1/0 copper) from the ground rod to the nearest part of the building grounding system in this case, the structural steel. This connection eliminated the shock potential during storms by reducing the resistance between the ground rod and the building grounding system. The next step was to eliminate the wiring errors and install a ground wire from the source to the CNC machine (click here to see Fig. 3). The primary reason that the isolated ground rod was effective in decreasing operating problems was the building's bonded system experienced voltage transients, imposed on it due to wiring errors. One common error is the improper connection of neutral wires to ground buses or ground wires to neutral buses. This error allows neutral currents to flow on the bonded system, thereby creating voltage transients. Neutral wires are only allowed to be connected to the bonded system at a service entrance or at a step-down transformer (called a separately derived source by the NEC). Notice in Fig. 2 that the plant had installed both a voltage regulator and a noise suppression device ahead of the CNC machine. These devices are often applied to solve the nuisance operating problems

brought on by ground system transients. Suppression devices are not a cure-all, however. In fact, they're sometimes unnecessary when wiring and grounding problems are corrected first. Once the spurious ground rod had been connected to the rest of the bonded system, operating issues had to be addressed, which involved correcting the wiring errors identified in the site survey. For the example facility, these steps were adequate. For other situations, you should refer to the following checklist: 1. 2. 3. 4. Connect the ground rod to the bonded system and install a grounding conductor from the power source to the sensitive load to eliminate the safety hazard and allow an effective ground-fault return path. Correct wiring and grounding errors on the power system serving the sensitive machine. Install a step-down transformer (i.e., a separately derived source) to serve only the process machine. Derive a new neutral to the ground bonding point at the load side of the transformer. Any remaining operating problems are probably caused by communications ground loops. Ground loops, which are introduced by communication wiring between sensitive machines fed from different power sources, may require more elaborate correction schemes, such as optical isolation.

Taking the next step


In summary, the plant in the example had installed a CNC process machine in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. Unfortunately, those recommendations included the requirement for a separate ground rod to serve as the only means of equipment grounding. While this practice may reduce data errors in sensitive process machines, it violates the NEC, creates a shock hazard for employees, and causes a potential difference that may damage sensitive electronic components. Electrical engineers and contractors can help customers avoid situations like this by providing proactive counsel in this area. The best place to start is to gather as much information as possible from the 2008 NEC, seminars/conferences, trusted electrical equipment manufacturers, and online sources. With that knowledge in hand, you have yet another reason to call on a customer and resolve an issue of critical importance. Ray, P.E., is director of Schneider Electric's Square D Engineering Services, Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached atlarry.ray@us.schneider-electric.com. Waterer is an Engineering Fellow for Schneider Electric's Square D Engineering Services, Norcross, Ga. He can be reached atfrank.waterer@us.schneider-electric.com.

Sidebar: Knowledge is Power


An electrical engineer or contractor who understands the various elements of proper grounding, bonding, and earthing systems is best positioned to counsel customers on appropriate practices in this area. A keen understanding of NEC requirements could also help you develop a reputation as being the one to contact with any bonding/grounding-related questions. Such expertise could also lead to future business.