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Earthing system

A protective earth (PE) connection ensures that all exposed conductive surfaces are at the same electrical potential as the surface of the Earth, to avoid the risk of electrical shock if a person touches a device in which an insulation fault has occurred. t also ensures that in the case of an insulation fault, a high fault current flows, which will trigger an overcurrent protection device (fuse, !"#) that disconnects the power supply.

$. A functional earth connection serves a purpose other than providing protection against electrical shock. n contrast to a protective earth connection, a functional earth connection may carry a current during the normal operation of a device. %unctional earth connections may &e re'uired &y devices such as surge suppression and electromagnetic( compati&ility filters, some types of antennas and various measurement instruments. )enerally the protective earth is also used as a functional earth though this re'uires care in some situ

E" nomenclature
*he first letter indicates the connection &etween earth and the power(supply e'uipment (generator or transformer)+ T + direct connection of a point with earth (%rench+ terre I + no point is connected with earth (isolation), except perhaps via a high impedance .*he second letter indicates the connection &etween earth and the electrical device &eing supplied+ T + direct connection with earth, independent of any other earth connection in the supply system N + connection to earth via the supply network

*, network
n a TN earthing system, one of the points in the generator or transformer is connected with earth, usually the star point in a three(phase system. *he &ody of the electrical device is connected with earth via this earth connection at the transformer -. /012345 67 /0168/09:4231 39; -<=4 >?:@A B72 /C D2 B@8D -. E@4 F2E@GH1 -4I.J CC3K L8 MN?8 B@8D CC3K L8 M;J >?:@A B72 O73P


*he conductor that connects the exposed metallic parts of the consumer is called protective earth PE . *he conductor that connects to the star point in a three(phase system, or that carries the return current in a single(phase system is called neutral N . *hree variants of *, systems are distinguished+

TNS + PE and , are separate conductors that are only connected near the power source

.TNC + A com&ined PE, conductor fulfills the functions of &oth a PE and an , conductor

TNCS + Part of the system uses a com&ined PE, conductor, which is at some point split up into separate PE and , lines. *he com&ined PE, conductor typically occurs &etween the su&station and the entry point into the &uilding, whereas within the &uilding separate PE and , conductors are used. ( n the QR, this system is also known as protective multiple earthing (PME), &ecause of the practice of connecting the com&ined neutral and earth to real earth at many locations to reduce the risk of &roken neutrals.)

TN-S: separate protective earth (PE) and neutral (,) conductors from transformer to consuming device, which are not connected at any point after the &uilding distri&ution point.

TN-C: com&ined PE and , conductor all the way from the transformer to the consuming device.

TN-C-S earthing system: com&ined PE, conductor from transformer to &uilding distri&ution point, &ut separate PE and , conductors in fixed indoor wiring and flexi&le power cords.

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** network
n a TT earthing system, the protective earth connection of the consumer is . provided &y a local connection to earth, independent of any earth connection at the generator.

* network
n an IT network, the distri&ution system has no connection to earth at all, or it has only a high impedance connection.

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*, networks save the cost of a low(impedance earth connection at the site of each consumer. Such a connection (a &uried metal structure) is re'uired to provide protective earth in * and ** systems. *,(" networks save the cost of an additional conductor needed for separate , and PE connections. Towever to mitigate the risk of &roken neutrals, special ca&le types and lots of connections to earth are needed. ** networks re'uire U"V protection and often an expensive time delay type is needed to provide discrimination with an U"V downstream

n *, an insulation fault is very likely to lead to a high short(circuit current that will trigger an overcurrent circuit(&reaker or fuse and disconnect the W conductors. n the maXority of ** systems the earth fault loop impedance will &e too high to do this and so an U"V must &e employed

n *,(S and ** systems (and in *,("(S &eyond the point of the split), a residual( current device can &e used as an additional protection. n the a&sence of any insulation fault in the consumer device, the e'uation IW$YIWZYIW[YI, \ ] holds, and an U"V can disconnect the supply as soon as this sum reaches a threshold (typically $](^]] mA). An insulation fault &etween either W or , and PE will trigger an U"V with high pro&a&ility

n * and *,(" networks, residual current devices are far less likely to detect an insulation fault. n a *,(" system they would also &e very vulnera&le to unwanted triggering from contact &etween earths of circuits on different U"Vs or with real ground thus making their use impractical. Also U"Vs usually isolate the neutral core which is dangerous in a *,(" system.

n single(ended single(phase systems where the Earth and neutral are com&ined (*,(" and the part of *,("(S systems which uses a com&ined neutral and earth core) if there is a contact pro&lem in the PE, conductor, then all parts of the earthing system &eyond the &reak will raise to the potential of the W conductor. n an un&alanced multi phase system the potential of the earthing system will move towards that of the most loaded live conductor. *herefore, *,(" connections must not go across plug_socket connections or flexi&le ca&les, where there is a higher pro&a&ility of contact pro&lems than with fixed wiring. *here is also a risk if a ca&le is damaged which can &e mitigated &y the use of concentric ca&le construction and_or multiple earth electrodes. Vue to the (small) risks of the lost neutral, use of *,("(S supplies is &anned for caravans and &oats in the QR and it is often recommended to make outdoor wiring ** with a separate earth electrode

n * systems, a single insulation fault is unlikely to cause dangerous currents to flow through a human &ody in contact with earth, &ecause no low(impedance circuit exists for such a current to flow. Towever, a first insulation fault can effectively turn an * system into a *, system, and then a second insulation fault can lead to dangerous &ody currents. `orse, in a multi( phase system if one of the lives made contact with earth it would cause the other phase cores to rise to the phase(phase voltage relative to earth rather than the phase(neutral voltage. * systems also experience larger transient overvoltages than other systems

n *,(" and *,("(S systems any connection &etween the com&ined neutral and earth core and the &ody of the earth could end up carrying significant current under normal conditions and could carry even more under a &roken neutral situation. *herefore main e'uipotential &onding conductors must &e siaed with this in mind and use of *,("(S is inadvisa&le in situations like petrol stations where there is a com&ination of lots of &uried metalwork and explosive gases.

n *,(" and *,("(S systems any &reak in the com&ined neutral and earth core which didnbt also affect the live conductor could theoretically result in exposed metalwork rising to near clivec potential

Electromagnetic compati&ility
n *,(S and ** systems, the consumer has a low(noise connection to earth, which does not suffer from the voltage that appears on the , conductor as a result of the return currents and the impedance of that conductor. *his is of particular importance with some types of telecommunication and measurement e'uipment. n ** systems, each consumer has its own high( 'uality connection with earth, and will not notice any currents that may &e caused &y other consumers on a shared PE line.

n most residential installations in the Q. S. and "anada, the feed from the distri&ution transformer uses a com&ined neutral and grounding conductor (two phase and one neutral, for three wires total), &ut within the residence separated neutral and protective earth conductors are used (*,("(S). *he neutral must only &e connected to earth ground on the supply side of the customerbs disconnecting switch. Additional connections of neutral to ground within the customerbs wiring are prohi&ited. %or wiring less than $]]] d, the Qnited States ,ational Electrical "ode and "anadian electrical code for&id the use of systems that com&ine the grounding conductor and neutral &eyond the customerbs disconnecting switch. n Argentina and %rance the customer must provide its own ground connection (**).

!ost modern homes in Europe have a *,("(S earthing system. *he com&ined neutral and earth occurs &etween the nearest transformer su&station and the service cut out (the fuse &efore the meter). After this separate earth and neutral cores are used in all the internal wiring. elder ur&an and su&ur&an homes in the QR tend to have *,(S supplies with the earth delivered through the lead sheath of the underground lead and paper ca&le. Some older homes, especially those &uilt &efore the invention of residual(current circuit &reakers and wired home area networks, use an in(house *,(" arrangement. *his is no longer recommended practice

Application examples

Wa&oratory rooms, medical facilities, construction sites, repair workshops, and other environments where there is an increased risk of insulation faults often use an * earthing arrangement supplied from an isolation transformer. *o mitigate the two fault issues with * systems the isolation transformers should only supply a small num&er of loads each and_or should &e protected with special monitoring gear (generally only medical * systems are done with such gear &ecause of the cost).

n remote areas, where the cost of an additional PE conductor outweighs the cost of a local earth connection, ** networks are commonly used in some countries especially in older properties. ** supplies to individual properties are also seen in mostly *,("(S systems where an individual property is considered unsuita&le for *,("(S supply. (e.g. petrol stations).