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Branch Circuits Chapter 2


The purpose of branch circuits is to carry the current from the service entrance panel (SEP) to the electrical devices. Three common types of current are used in agricultural buildings:
120 volt (108 125) 240 volt (220 250) Three phase

Why are a range of voltages listed?

What happens when the voltage drops below 108 V?

What happens when the voltage goes above 124 V?

Service Entrance Panel (SEP)

The service entrance panel (load center) is the entry point for the electricity into the building. The size (amp capacity) of the load center is determined by the number of circuits and total amp load for the building. Current NEC regulations require that the load center have a master disconnect. The entrance panel must be grounded with a NEC approved earth connection.

What is an NEC earth connection?

Service Entrance Panel [SEP] Load Center

Service Entrance Neutral Master Disconnect 120/240 V Service

Service Hot Conductors Breaker Grounding Bar Circuit Neutral & Ground Connections Bonding Screw Metal Box Non-conducting base Non-conducting Attachment bars Conducting Attachment bars
Ground Neutral 120 V

240 V Circuit

Earth Ground

120 V Branch Circuit Hot (black) Conductor 120 V Branch Circuit Neutral (white) Conductor

120 V

120 V Branch Circuit Ground (bare) Conductor 4

The 120/240 service is attached to the master disconnect (breaker). From master breaker each hot conductor is connected to one of the conducting breaker bars. The 120/240 neutral conductor is attached to the grounding bar.

A 120 volt breaker attaches by snapping onto one conducting and one non-conducting bar in the load center. For a 240 volt circuit two individual breakers may be used and the levers are pined together or a combination breaker may be used.

Branch circuits have two different types of grounds.
System Equipment

System grounding is accomplished by one of the two current carrying conductors (white).

What is another term for the system ground?

What is the insulation color of the system ground?

What is the insulation color of the equipment ground?


Grounding - Equipment
Equipment grounding is the bonding of all non current carrying metal components back to the SEP. The equipment ground is designed to provide a low resistant circuit to the earth in the event of a short from the energized conductor to any metallic component. Must make a complete, low resistance circuit from all metallic electrical devices in the system to the earth.

Equipment ground

What hazard is created if the equipment ground is interrupted?

120 V Circuits
120 V circuits have 3 or 4 conductors:
one energized (hot) conductor one neutral conductor one ground conductor. Black or red White Bare or green

What does PVC stand for?

What other common building component is made from PVC

240 V Circuits
240 Volt circuits have three conductors:
Two hot Equipment ground

Neutral circuit is not required unless both 240 and 120 circuits are supplied by the device. The 240 Volt electrical service to the SEP will have a neutral so both 240 and 120 Volt branch circuits can be used.

Three Circuit Types

General purpose branch circuits Individual branch circuits Motor


General Purpose Branch Circuits

Designed for temporary loads such as lights and DCOs (Duplex Convenience Outlets) under 1500 W. Minimum 12 AWG Fused at 20 amps No more than ten (10) DCOs or light fixtures per circuit. (Fig. 2-3, pg 21) Recommended location for DCOs (Table 1-12, pg 18).


Special Purpose Branch circuits

Used for known specific loads
Stationary motors Stationary appliances

SPOs (Special Purpose Outlets)

Usually used for loads greater than 20 amps240 V.

What would be an example of an SPO in an agriculture building?


Motor Circuits
Use 240 V whenever possible.
Reduces amperage load on circuit Reduces stray voltage potential

Five (5) horsepower and larger should be 3 phase.


Motor Circuitscont.
Branch circuits for electric motors have four (4) requirements (Fig 2-6 through 9, pg 23-26):
1 2 3 4 Branch circuit, short circuit protection A disconnecting means A controller Overload protection

Summary Table 2-1, pg 26


Motor CircuitsShort Circuit Protection

Fuse or circuit breaker

For motor circuits they must have greater capacity than full load current.

Motor starting load is higher than the running loadSCP devices must be able to handle temporary overload.
Inverse time breaker Time delay fuses

Maximum size
Inverse time breaker = 2.50 times full load current Time delay fuses = 1.75 times full load current.


Motor CircuitsShort Circuit Protection--example

Determine the required SCP for a 120 V circuit for a horsepower, single phase motor. Table 2 - 3. 1/2 hp = 9.8 V

Breaker : 9.8 x 2.5 = 24.5 A Fuse : 9.8 x 1.75 = 17.15

Determine the required SCP for a 240 V circuit for a 1/6 horsepower, single phase motor.

Table 2 - 3 : 1/6 hp

= 2.2 V

Breaker : 2.2 x 2.5 = 5.5 A Fuse : 2.2 x 1.75 = 3.8 A

Smallest breaker is 10 A SolutionUse 10 A breaker in the SEP and install a 4 to 6 amp fuse inline with the motor.


Motor CircuitsDisconnecting Means

Each motor or motor circuit must have an individual disconnecting means. The disconnecting means must disconnect all hot wires. The DM must clearly indicate whether it is on or off.


Motor CircuitsDisconnecting Means-cont.

Must be located within sight and within 50 feet of the controller and the motor. Disconnecting Means
Stationary motors can use the circuit switch as long as correct size. Portable motors the plug and receptacle is acceptable.

The circuit switch can be a snap switch as long as the motor is 2 hp or less and its capacity is equal to or 1.25 times greater than the motor full load rating.

What is a snap switch?


Motor CircuitsController
A controller is a device used to automatically start and stop a motor. Only required to open enough conductors to stop the motor.
One wire for 120 & 240 V single phase.

Must be located within sight and 50 feet of the motor. Thermostats, variable speed controllers and timers are considered to be a controller.

Is a heater/airconditioner thermostat within sight and 50 feet of the furnace/airconditioner? If not, does this meet code?


Motor CircuitsControllercont.
Current rating must be greater than or equal to motor full load rating, or a magnetic starter must be used. For 1/3 hp and less portable motors the plug and receptacle can function as the controller. If motor is 2 hp or less, a snap switch an serve as the controller. If a knife switch is operated by hand, it can serve as both the disconnecting means and the controller. What is a magnetic starter?


Motor CircuitsControllerMagnet Starter


Motor CircuitsOverload protection

Motors and conductors must be protected from overloads. Because motors draw more current for starting that running, the overload protection device must allow temporary overload on the circuit but not allow the overload to last long enough to damage the motor. When magnetic starters are used the overload protection is usually included in the starter. Common practice to use a heater device to trip the controller before the conductors or motor overheats. One hp and larger motors have specific requirements based on the design and size of the motor.

Motor CircuitsOverload protectioncont.

For motors less than 1 hp, and manually started, the circuit breaker or fuse can serve as the OPD. Smaller motors may include a built in overload protection switch.


Motor CircuitsOverload protectioncont.

Critical issue is if a manual restart or automatic restart is used. Manual restart is usually used unless the motor operates a critical function such as a ventilation fan in a chicken house.



Branch Circuit Conductors


Sizing Conductors

Conductors are usually considered single wires.

Cables are multiple conductors in the same sheathing.
Conductor are sized using two systems
American Wire Gauge (AWG)

circular mills (cmil).


Sizing Conductorscont.
Numbers run from 40 to 0000 AWG numbers only apply to non-ferrous metals. The larger the number--the smaller the diameter of the wire.

Circular-mils (cmils) is a unit used to describe the cross-sectional area of wire. A mil = 0.001 inch AWG sizes greater than 0000 are sized in thousands of circular mils (kcmil)

AWG #8 and higher are usually multiple strands. The diameter of multiple strand wire in cmils is the cmils of each strand times the number of strands.


Sizing Conductorscont.

The minimum size of an individual conductor is determined by two factors.

Ampacity Voltage drop

What is ampacity?

What is voltage drop?


All materials will conduct electricity. Good conducting materials have low resistance. The resistance of a conductor depends on the physical properties of the material (), the length (ft) of the conductor and the cross-sectional area of the conductor (cmils). Expressed in an equation:
A = cross-sectional area in cmils = (diameter in mils)2 1mil = 0.001 in

R = R = A = L =

A resistance of the conductor ) ( resistivity of the conductor material - cmil/ft) ( cross sectional area of conductor (cmils) Length of conductor (ft)


What is the resistivity of a 1/2 inch steel rod that is 12 feet long?
Steel = 100 ohm-cmil/foot

Material Silver Copper Gold Aluminum Tungsten Platinum Steel Lead Cast iron Mercury

Resistivity () 9.55 10.67 14.7 17.01 33.10 66.9 100 129 360 577

cmil = ft
mil = 0.50 in x 1 mil 500 mil 0.001 in

Electricity for Agricultural Applications, Bern

Area = (500 mil) 2 = 250, 000 cmil

Restance ( ) =

A 100 x 12 0.0048 250, 000

Resistance ( ) =

Voltage Drop
When electricity passes through a resistance heat is generated. Heat is energy The loss energy shows up as voltage drop. All conductors have resistance = all conductors have voltage drop. What must be avoided is excessive voltage drop.

What will cause excessive voltage drop?

What are some possible outcomes of a circuit with excessive voltage drop?


Voltage Drop--Cont.

When there is no current flow, there is no voltage at the load. A 2 % voltage drop is considered normal. If the voltage drop is more than 2% the circuit will overheat.


Three Ways of Wiring Circuits

The loads and electrical components in a circuit can be connected in three different ways:
Parallel Series-parallel (not included)


Series Circuit
In a series circuit the electricity has no alternative paths, all of the electricity must pass through all of the components. The total circuit resistance is the sum of the individual resistances.

Rt = R + R2 + . . . R n 1
For these calculations assume no resistance in the conductors or connections.

Determine the total resistance for the circuit in the illustration.

Rt = 5.0 + 8.2 = 13.2


Series Circuit-cont.
To the power source, a series circuit appears as one resistance.

In all circuits a voltage drop occurs as electricity passes through each resistance in the circuit. The method for calculating voltage drop in series circuits is different than the method for parallel circuits.


Parallel Circuits
In parallel circuits the electricity has alternative paths. The amount of current in each path is determined by the resistance of that path. Electricity follows the path of least resistance Because there are alternative paths, the total resistance of the circuit is not the sum of the individual resistances. In a parallel circuit: The inverse of the total resistance is equal to sum of the inverse of each individual resistance.

1 Rt

1 R 1

1 R2


1 Rn


Parallel Circuits--cont.
R1 x R2 R1 + R2

An alternative equation is:

Rt =

When a circuit has more than two resistors, select any two and reduce them to their equivalent resistance and then combine that resistance with another one in the circuit until all of the resistors have been combined.


Parallel Circuit Resistance

Determine the total resistance for the circuit in the illustration.
1 Rt = 1 R 1 + 1 R2 +... 1 Rn
= 1 1 1 + 2.5 4.0 5.2 = 21 13 10 + 52 52 52 = 44 52 = 0.846

1 1 1 1 = + + Rt R1 R2 R3

Rt =

1 = 1.18 0.846


1 1 1 1 = + + Rt R1 R2 R3

1 1 1 + 2.5 4.0 5.2

= 0.4 + 0.25 + 0.192 = 0.842

R1 x R2 2.5 x 4.0 10 = = = 1.54 R1 + R2 2.5 + 4.0 6.5

1 Rt = = 1.19 0.842

Rt =


Rt =

R1 x R2 R1 + R2

1 .54 x 5 .2 8 .0 1 .19 1.54 + 5.2 6 .74


Circuits Summary

When the source voltage, and the total resistance of the circuit is known, amperages and voltages can be determine for any part of a

In a series circuit the amperage is the same at all points in the circuit, but the voltage changes with the resistance. In a parallel circuit the amperage changes with the resistance, but the voltage is the same throughout the circuit.


Calculating Voltage In A Series Circuit

What would V1 read in the illustration? Ohms Law states: E = IR Therefore: E


At this point there is insufficient data because I (amp) is unknown. Using Ohms Law to solve for the E 120 V E = IR I = = 9.09 A current in the circuit: R 13.2 Knowing the amount of current we can calculate the voltage drop.

E = IR = 9 .09 A x 5.0

= 45.4 V

Note: circuit conductors behave like resistors in series.


Determining Voltage In A Parallel Circuit Assuming no resistance in the conductors, the two volt meters in the illustration will have the same value--source voltage.


Determining Amperage In A Series Circuit Determine the readings for A1 and A2 in the illustration. In a series circuit the electricity has no alternative paths, therefore the amperage is the same at every point in the circuit.

The current in the circuit is determined by dividing the voltage by the circuit resistance.

E = IR I =

E 12 V = = 1.0 A R 1.5 + 4.2 + 6.3


Determining Amperage in a Parallel Circuit

Determine the readings for amp meters A1 and A2 in the circuit.

In a parallel circuit the amperage varies with the resistance. In the illustration, A1 will measure the total circuit amperage, but A2 will only measure the amperage flowing through the 6.3 Ohm resistor.

To determine circuit amperage the total resistance of the circuit must be calculated:

Rt =

R1 x R2 1.5 x 4.2 6.3 = = = 1.10 R1 + R2 1.5 + 4.2 5.7

1.10 x 6.3 6.96 = = 0.94 1.10 + 6.3 7.40


Determining Amperage in a Parallel Circuit--cont. When the total resistance is known, the circuit current (Amps) can be calculated.

Total current is:


E 12 V = = 12.76 A R 0.94

A1= 12.76 A

When the circuit current (Amps) is known, the current for each branch circuit can be calculated. Branch current is:


E 12 V = = 1.9 A R 6.3

A2 = 1.9 A


Conductor Size
The conductor size is determined by seven (7) factors.
1. the load on the circuit

2. the voltage of the circuit

3. the distance from the load to the source 4. the circuit power factor 5. the type of current (phases)

6. the ampacity of the conductor

7. the allowable voltage drop


Insulation Designation THHN Trade Name Heat resistant thermoplastic Moisture and heat resistant thermoplastic Non metallic sheathe cable Temperature o Rating ( C) 90 Description and Common uses Flame retardant, heat resistant thermoplastic insulated individual conductors. For use in conduit, dry and damp locations. Flame retardant, moisture resistant, heat resistant thermoplastic insulated individual conductors. For use in conduit, dry and wet locations. Two or three conductors (plus bare grounding conductor) in a moisture resistant, flame retardant non metallic sheath. For use in normally dry locations. Cannot be imbedded in poured concrete or use d as se rvice entrance cable. Use d in family dwellings not exceeding 3 floors above grade and other st ructures. Can be use d expose d or concealed. Commonly three conductors in a flame retardant, moisture resistant covering. The neutral is braided around the two energized conductors. Type SE is use d primarily between an above ground point of attachment and the se rvice entrance panel. Single conductors cabled into an uncovered asse mbly for direct burial as a feeder or branch circuit or se rvice lateral. Covering is moisture resistant but not necessa rily flame retardant, or protected against mechanical abuse . Two or three conductors (plus bare ground) with flame retardant, moisture resistant, fungus resistant, corrosi on resistant covering for direct burial as a feeder or branch circuit. Also use d for interior wiring in wet, dry or corrosi ve locations. Use d in livestock buildin gs, Cannot be expose d to direct sunlight unless label specifies sunlight resistant . Cannot be use d as se rvice entrance cable Cannot be embedded in poured concrete. Two or three insulated aluminum conductors wound around a bare stranded messe nger which se rves as a neutral, and supports the asse mbly. The messe nger contains one steel strand for strength

The common types used in Agriculture.





90o C = 194o F


Service entrance cable



Underground se rvice entrance cable Underground feeder cable




Multiplex (triples, quadruplex)

Overhead feeder


Electricity for Agricultural Applications, Bern



The selection of insulation is very important because the life of the conductor is usually determined by the life of the insulation.

Conductors never wear out. Insulation deteriorates over time.

Insulation reacts with oxygen, ammonia, oil, gasoline, salts,
UV and water.


Determining Conductor Size

The first step is to determine answers for five of the seven factors. These are:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. the load on the circuit the voltage of the circuit the distance from the load to the source the circuit power factor the type of current (phases)

Once these are known, the remaining two factors are used to determine the conductor size.
5. the ampacity of the conductor 6. the allowable voltage drop


Determining Conductor Size--cont.

Circuit load
The circuit load is the amperage used by the electrical device, or the size of over current protection device that will be used.

Circuit voltage
Circuit voltage is the source voltage.

Distance from source

The distance between the source and the load is not used as often as the run. The run is the total amount of conductor that is used to connect the load to the source.

Power factor
The power factor for reactive loads is less than one. The power factor for resistance loads is equal to one.

The number or phases must be know.

Three phase current can use smaller diameter wires.


Determining Conductor Size--cont.

Once values are known for the first five factors, the last two are used to determine the minimum conductor size.
Ampacity is the largest load that a conductor is designed to carry regardless of length. Voltage drop is the amount of energy that is lost from the electricity passing through the resistance of the conductors.


Ampacity refers to the current carrying ability of the conductor. Ampacity is dependent on the conductor resistance, the allowable operating temperature of the insulation and the heat dissipation ability of the conductor. Ampacity increases with conductor size. Ampacity for copper is higher than the ampacity for aluminum. Ampacity is higher for conductors which have higher temperature ratings. Exceeding the ampacity rating increases the heat of the insulation.
The amount of damage that occurs is a function of the amount of overload and the duration of the overload.

Ampacity ratings for conductors can be determined from tables such as 33-19. (Agricultural Mechanics)


Ampacity can be calculated, but tables present this information. Example: what is minimum size of conductor with THWN insulation in conduit, operating on 120 volts that should be used to carry 15 amps?

AWG 14 ??
Note: Based on ampacity, #14 is sufficient, but according to the NEC #12 is smallest size of wire that can be used under any conditions using 120 V.
Pg 35 Wiring handbook

Sizing Conductors by Voltage Drop

Voltage drop is the result of a current passing through a resistance. Example:
What is the percent voltage drop at the service entrance panel for the building in the illustration?


The first step is to determine the total resistance of the circuit.
Size (AWG) Area (cmil) Number of Strands Weight (lb/1000 ft) Resistance (ohms/1000 ft) Weight (lb/1000 ft)

Resistance (ohms/1000 ft)







































In this example the resistance for each conductor is determined separately.







Example--cont. This circuit diagram illustrates the resistance of the conductors.


The next step is to determine the voltage drop and the percentage drop. Voltage drop is: Percent voltage drop is:

This is an unacceptable voltage drop. Picking the wire size first must not be the best way.
The conductor size is determined by calculating the allowable resistance for the desired voltage drop.

RT = 0.0491 0.0491
E = I R = 50 amp x 0.0982 = 4.91 V

120 V - 4.91 V = 115.06 V

% VD = 120 V - 115.06 V = 4.09 % 120 V


Voltage Drop Example--cont.

A voltage drop of 4.09% is excessive. Results of excessive voltage drop.
The heat output of a resistance heater will decrease more than 8% because power output is proportional to the square of the voltage. The useable light from an incandescent lamp will drop about 10%.

Five (5) possible solutions:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Decrease the load. Use larger conductors. Reduce the distance between the load and the source. Use a conductor that has a lower resistance. Use a higher voltage.

Of these 5 options, number 2 and 5 are usually the only practical solution.


Voltage Drop Example--cont.

If the voltage is increased to 240 V, what will be the percent voltage drop?

RT = 0.0982 E = IR = 50 A x 0.0982 = 4.91 V 240 V - 4.91 V = 235.09 V

4.91 V %VD = x 100 = 2.04 % 240 V

2.04% is an acceptable loss for this electrical service.


Designing For Acceptable Voltage Drop

Because all conductors have resistance, it can not be eliminated from the circuit. Therefore, circuits are designed for a specific voltage drop.
Maximum of 2% in branch circuits is common standard NEC allows up to 3% maximum in branch circuit at farthest power outlet NEC allows 5% maximum drop in feeder and branch circuit combined


Conductor Size Equation

The equation for calculating the conductor size (cmils) for a specified voltage drop:

Note: it is common practice to add 10% to the length to account for the resistance of the connections.

A (cmil) =

x Ix L

A = size of conductor (cmils)

= resistivity of conductor
I = amperage in the circuit L = length of individual conductor E = allow able voltage drop


Conductor Size Example -1

Using the resistivity equation, determine the size of conductor that should be used to power an grow lamp that draws 6.6 amps and is operating on single phase and 120 volts. The grow lamp is located 75 feet from the nearest source. Copper conductors will be directly buried and a 2% voltage drop is acceptable.


Conductor Size Example-cont.



10.37 x 6.6 x (150 x 1.1) 11292.93 = = 4705.39 cmil 120 x 0.02 2.4

4705.39 cmil = AWG #12

Ampacity = #12 Voltage Drop = #12

Note: 10% has been added for connections.

Copper Size (AWG) 14 12 10 8 6 4 3 2 Area (cmil) 4110 6530 10380 16510 26240 41740 52620 66360 Number of Strands 1 1 1 1 7 7 7 7 Weight (lb/1000 ft) 12.5 19.8 31.43 49.98 79.44 126.3 159.3 205 Resistance (ohms/1000 ft) 3.07 1.93 1.21 0.764 0.491 0.308 0.245 0.308 Weight (lb/1000 ft) 3.78 6.01 9.556 15.20 24.15 38.41 48.43 62.3

Aluminum Resistance (ohms/1000 ft) 5.06 3.18 2.00 1.26 0.808 0.508 0.403 0.319


Resistivity Equations
Because of inductance in the conductor, the equation for copper is usually changed for design purposes to: 22 = constant for copper I = Circuit load (amp) l = Run (distance) E = Allowable voltage drop (V)

22 x I x A = E

The resistivity equation for aluminum conductors is changed to:

A = 1.6 x 22 x I x E

Note: in these equations the length is the one way length, not the total length.


Conductor Size Example #2

Using the table method, determine the size of copper conductor that should be used to provide electrical service to a livestock building that is located 65 feet from the source. The service is 120 V and the estimated load for the building is 35 amps. UF-B cable and a 2% voltage drop will be used.

First determine minimum size based on ampacity. = Second: determine size based on VD = AWG 6

AWG #8


Conductor Size Example #3

Determine by calculation, using the standard equation, the size of conductor that will be required to provide service to a 120 V, 1-1/2 hp water pump that is located 250 feet from its source. The conductors with be copper and directly buried. A 2% voltage drop is acceptable. The motor has a power factor of 0.70. The standard equation for copper requires values for amperage, voltage and length. The load on the circuit, amperage, must be determined first.

1 hp = 746 watts, but when determining conductor sizes for electric motors it is common practice to use 1,000 watts per horsepower.
P = EI I = P 1500 W x 0.70 = = 8.75 amp E 120 V


Conductor size #3--cont.

For this circuit with a 8.75 amp load, the circular mills of the conductors can be determined by: 22 x I (Amp) x (ft) A (cmil) = E (V) The conductor size is:

A =

22 x I x E

22 x 8.75 x (250 x 1.1) = 22, 057.29 cmil 2.4 Size (AWG)


Area (cmil) 4110 6530

#6 = 26,240 cmil
#8 = 16,510 cmil. Which size should be used?


8 6 4 3 2

16510 26240 41740 52620 66360


Conductor Sizing Conclusion

For short distances, ampacity determines the minimum conductor size. For long distances, voltage drop determines the minimum size.

Because long and short are relative terms, both ampacity and voltage drop must be checked when sizing conductors.


Questions ?