A while back I tried to describe the various earthing/grounding methods used in Britain. I've since sent some rough sketches of the different arrngements to Bill and he's kindly scanned them to post. For those interested, I'll explain one at a time with the aid of the diagrams. Diagram #1 link: https://www.electrical-contractor.net/forum/international/UK_OldUrban1.gif
This is the old urban distribution system using armored undergound cables. The neutral is grounded only at the xfmr, and the house ground is via the cable armor back to the same point.
I've shown all the usual components at the house service, but for simplicity I've omitted the isolators and fuses that would be at the xfmr.
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 10-13-2001).]
I note the main disconnect also breaks the neutral.
As this is "Old Urban", for the Distribution Panel Earth bonding...is the bond made to the gas pipe system if that is the only piping in the dwelling? Is there an additional ground created by driven or buried ground rods or something like 'em?
Is the underground service cable armor in direct contact with earth, and if so, what is it constructed of?
So many questions, so little time.
#132617 - 10/13/0103:34 PMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
Yes, the main switch on the distribution panel for single-phase always opens both hot and neutral (the hot is colloquially called the "live" here). A 3-phase service to a commercial building would be arranged the same way (with 3-phase meter and 3 main fuses of course), except in that case the main switch is three-pole and DOESN'T open the neutral.
By the way, the neutral link shown in the service fuse block (ahead of the meter) is a bolted terminal; it isn't broken by normal removal of the main service fuse.
Everything up to and including the meter is the property of the utility and is sealed.
Bonding is normally to whatever services are present - water and/or gas, although in some older houses (pre-WWII) it's not unusual to find no bonding in place.
Naturally the bonding to buried metallic pipes creates parallel ground paths, but most of any ground fault current would flow directly through the cable armor back to the xfmr.
It's not usual to have any separate ground rod with these systems; it's usually just as drawn. There's nothing in our "code" (IEE Regs.) to prevent the use of a ground rod as additional protection, but I've never seen one of these systems with it.
The older armored cables had a lead sheath and were then wrapped in some sort of hemp/bitumen covering. I've never worked on one directly (only utility employees can install or replace service cables) so I'm not sure of the exact composition. The later types are a steel-wire armor with a similar covering.
No new systems of this type have been installed for years, but the modern replacements for feeders are steel-wire armored with a PVC outer sheath.
#132618 - 10/13/0104:10 PMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
In a pre-WWII house with no metal water, gas, etc. systems to bond to, and with the metal armor of the service cable effectively isolated from contact to earth by its covering, is the only earth connection at the transformer?
And the bonding between the neutral and earth, does it only occur at the transformer?
Is the color black reserved for use as a neutral?
#132619 - 10/13/0106:34 PMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
If no bonding is made to the water/gas services then yes, the metallic path via the armor back to the sub-station will be the only path for fault currents. Even if direct bonding isn't present, however, it's quite likely than some other parallel earth path will exist. For example, if there's an immersion heater for providing hot water, then the ground wire from the dist. panel to the heating element will ground the copper cylinder, and on an old plumbing system with all metallic couplings, this will quite likely provide an indirect ground path through the incoming water supply pipe.
Under this system, the neutral is linked to ground ONLY at the star point of the xfmr. From there on it's kept separate.
Yes, black is reserved for use as neutral in British wiring. For anyone who hasn't followed the color code topics elsewhere, I'll post a separate summary of U.K. colors in this area.
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 10-13-2001).]
#132620 - 10/14/0105:57 AMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
Until comparatively recently, this was the least common system, but I've put in it now as it will probably seem quite familiar because it's the closest we have to the American arrangement.
This system has been in use in some rural areas since the 1930s and is known as PME (Protective Multiple Earthing). The neutral has ground rods connected at regular intervals along its route (hence the name).
Being rural, the lines are overhead, and service drops to houses are a pair of single cables terminated at eaves level on to two porcelain insulators. The neutral overhead drop is often bare.
As with all other systems, the distribution panel has separate neutral and earth busbars, but the main earthing lead is bonded to the neutral at the service entrance, as shown.
Compared to the other systems, the IEE Wiring regulations specify larger size cross-bonding cables when PME is used.
More on the remaining systems later.
#132621 - 10/14/0106:14 PMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
This is the system that was installed in most rural areas with overhead lines. Once again, the neutral is grounded ONLY at the xfmr star-point.
The house ground is by way of a local rod, and there is no neutral-to-ground bond at the house. Because of the relatively high loop impedance with this system, even a direct line-to-ground short will not usually result in enough current to blow a fuse, so a whole-house or main GFI is installed.
[Note on British terminology:] The original term for a GFI was "current-operated ELCB" or "current-balance ELCB," where ELCB=Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker. In more recent years this became first an RCCB = Residual Current Circuit Breaker, and now RCD = Residual Current Device. [End note.]
On older systems the main GFI was usually a 500mA type, but the modern RCD is normally 30 or 100mA trip.
The GFI-type breaker was used on more up-market installations, but until the early 1970s the majority of residential installations used the cheaper "voltage-operated ELCB."
I've left this one until last, as it's probably going to seem very strange from an American perspective.
Instead of the earth busbar being connected straight to the ground rod, it goes via the tripping coil in the breaker. The C/B is designed so that it will trip before the voltage on the earth busbar can exceed about 40V.
#132624 - 10/15/0110:02 AMRe: British Grounding Arrangements
In these diagrams I notice Fusing before the meters. Where is this located? Is this accessible to the consumer/electrician? Your diagrams seem to place it at the house and I was wondering if they (Power Co.) have a problem with what we call "Theft of Service" (stealing electricity)?