Difference between Bonding, Grounding and Earthing

Introduction:

  • One of the most misunderstood and confused concept is difference between Bonding, Grounding and Earthing. Bonding is more clear word compare to Grounding and Earthing but there is a micro difference between Grounding and Earhing.
  • Earthing and Grounding are actually different terms for expressing the same concept. Ground or earth in a mains electrical wiring system is a conductor that provides a low impedance path to the earth to prevent hazardous voltages from appearing on equipment. Earthing is more commonly used in Britain, European and most of the commonwealth countries standards (IEC, IS), while Grounding is the word used in North American standards (NEC, IEEE, ANSI, UL).
  • We understand that Earthing and Grounding are necessary and have an idea how to do it but we don’t have crystal clear concept for that. We need to understand that there are really two separate things we are doing for same purpose that we call Grounding or Earthing.
  • The Earthing is to reference our electrical source to earth (usually via connection to some kind of rod driven into the earth or some other metal that has direct contact with the earth).
  • The grounded circuits of machines need to have an effective return path from the machines to the power source in order to function properly (Here by Neutral Circuit).
  • In addition, non-current-carrying metallic components in a System, such as equipment cabinets, enclosures, and structural steel, need to be electrically interconnected and earthed properly so voltage potential cannot exist between them. However, troubles can arise when terms like “bonding,” “grounding,” and “earthing” are interchanged or confused in certain situations.
  • In TN Type Power Distribution System, in US NEC (and possibly other) usage: Equipment is earthed to pass fault Current and to trip the protective device without electrifying the device enclosure. Neutral is the current return path for phase. These Earthing conductor and Neutral conductor are connected together and earthed at the distribution panel and also at the street, but the intent is that no current flow on earthed ground, except during momentary fault conditions. Here we may say that Earthing and grounding are nearly same by practice.
  • But In the TT Type Power Distribution System (In India) Neutral is only earthed (here it is actually called Grounding) at distribution source (at distribution transformer) and Four wires (Neutral and Three Phase) are distributed to consumer. While at consumer side all electrical equipments body are connected and earthed at consumer premises (here it is called Earthing). Consumer has no any permission to mix Neutral with earth at his premises here earthing and grounding is the different by practice.
  • But in both above case Earthing and Grounding are used for the same Purpose. Let’s try to understand this terminology one by one.

Bonding:

  • Bonding is simply the act of joining two electrical conductors together. These may be two wires, a wire and a pipe, or these may be two Equipments.
  •  Bonding has to be done by connecting of all the metal parts that are not supposed to be carrying current during normal operations to bringing them to the same electrical potential.
  • Bonding ensures that these two things which are bonded will be at the same electrical potential. That means we would not get electricity building up in one equipment or between two different equipment. No current flow can take place between two bonded bodies because they have the same potential.
  • Bonding, itself, does not protect anything. However, if one of those boxes is earthed there can be no electrical energy build-up. If the grounded box is bonded to the other box, the other box is also at zero electrical potential.
  • It protects equipment & Person by reducing current flow between pieces of equipment at different potentials.
  • The primary reason for bonding is personnel safety, so someone touching two pieces of equipment at the same time does not receive a shock by becoming the path of equalization if they happen to be at different potentials.
  • The Second reason has to do with what happens if Phase conductor may be touched an external metal part. The bonding helps to create a low impedance path back to the source. This will force a large current to flow, which in turn will cause the breaker to trip. In other words, bonding is there to allow a breaker to trip and thereby to terminate a fault.
  • Bonding to electrical earth is used extensively to ensure that all conductors (person, surface and product) are at the same electrical potential.  When all conductors are at the same potential no discharge can occur.  

Earthing:

  • Earthing means connecting the dead part (it means the part which does not carries current under normal condition) to the earth for example electrical equipment’s frames, enclosures, supports etc.
  • The purpose of earthing is to minimize risk of receiving an electric shock if touching metal parts when a fault is present. Generally green wire is used for this as a nomenclature.
  • Under fault conditions the non-current carrying metal parts of an electrical installation such as frames, enclosures, supports, fencing etc. may attain high potential with respect to ground so that any person or stray animal touching these or approaching these will be subjected to potential difference which may result in the flow of a current through the body of the person or the animal of such a value as may prove fatal.
  • To avoid this non-current carrying metal parts of the electrical system are connected to the general mass of earth by means of an earthing system comprising of earth conductors to conduct the fault currents safely to the ground.
  • Earthing has been accomplished through bonding of a metallic system to earth. It is normally achieved by inserting ground rods or other electrodes deep inside earth.
  • Earthing is to ensure safety or Protection of electrical equipment and Human by discharging the electrical energy to the earth.

Grounding:

  • Grounding means connecting the live part (it means the part which carries current under normal condition) to the earth for example neutral of power transformer.
  • Grounding is done for the protections of power system equipment and to provide an effective return path from the machine to the power source. For example grounding of neutral point of a star connected transformer.
  • Grounding refers the current carrying part of the system such as neutral (of the transformer or generator).
  • Because of lightening, line surges or unintentional contact with other high voltage lines, dangerously high voltages can develop in the electrical distribution system wires. Grounding provides a safe, alternate path around the electrical system of your house thus minimizing damage from such occurrences.
  • Generally Black wire is used for this as a nomenclature.
  • All electrical/electronic circuits (AC & DC) need a reference potential (zero volts) which is called ground in order to make possible the current flow from generator to load. Ground is May or May not be earthed. In Electrical Power distribution it is either earthed at distribution Point or at Consumer end but it is not earthed in Automobile( for instance all vehicles’ electrical circuits have ground connected to the chassis and metallic body that are insulated from earth through tires). There may exist a neutral to ground voltage due to voltage drop in the wiring, thus neutral does not necessarily have to be at ground potential.
  • In a properly balanced system, the phase currents balance each other, so that the total neutral current is also zero. For individual systems, this is not completely possible, but we strive to come close in aggregate. This balancing allows maximum efficiency of the distribution transformer’s secondary winding

Micro Difference between earthing & Grounding:

  • There is no major difference between earthing and Grounding, both means “Connecting an electrical circuit or device to the Earth”. This serves various purposes like to drain away unwanted currents, to provide a reference voltage for circuits needing one, to lead lightning away from delicate equipment. Even though there is a micro difference between grounding & earthing.

(1) Difference in Terminology:

  • In USA term Grounding is used but in UK term Earthing is used.

(2) Balancing the Load Vs Safety:

  • Ground is a source for unwanted currents and also as a return path for main current some times. While earthing is done not for return path but only for protection of delicate equipments. It is an alternate low resistance path for current.
  • When we take out the neutral for a three phase unbalanced connection and send it to ground, it is called grounding. Grounding is done to balance unbalanced load. While earthing is used between the equipment and earth pit so as to avoid electrical shock and equipment damage.

(3) Equipment Protection Vs Human Safety:

  • Earthing is to protect the circuit elements whenever high voltage is passed by thunders or by any other sources while Grounding is the common point in the circuit to maintain the voltage levels.
  • Earth is used for the safety of the human body in fault conditions while Grounding (As neutral earth) is used for the protection of equipments.
  • Earthing is a preventive measure while Grounding is just a return path
  • The ground conductor provides a return path for fault current when a phase conductor accidentally comes in contact with a grounded object. This is a safety feature of the wiring system and we would never expect to see grounding conductor current flow during normal operation.
  • Do not Ground the Neutral Second time When It is grounded either at Distribution Transformer or at Main service Panel of Consumer end.
  • Grounding act as neutral. But neutral cannot act as ground.

(4) System Zero Potential Vs Circuit Zero Potential:

  • Earthing and Grounding both is refer to zero potential  but the system connected to zero potential is differ than Equipment connected to zero potential .If a neutral point of a generator or transformer is connected to zero potential then it is known as grounding. At the same time if the body of the transformer or generator is connected to zero potential then it is known as earthing.
  • The term “Earthing means that the circuit is physically connected to the ground and it is Zero Volt Potential to the Ground (Earth) but in case of “Grounding” the circuit is not physically connected to ground, but its potential is zero(where the currents are algebraically zero) with respect to other point, which is also known as “Virtual Grounding.”
  • Earth having zero potential whereas neutral may have some potential. That means neutral does not always have zero potential with respect to ground. In earthing we have Zero Volt potential references to the earth while in grounding we have local Zero Volt potential reference to circuit. When we connect two different Power circuits in power distribution system, we want to have the same Zero Volt reference so we connect them and grounds together. This common reference might be different from the earth potential.

Illegal Practice of interchange Purpose of Grounding & earthing wire

  • Neutral wire in grid connections is mandatory for safety. Imagine a person from 4th floor in a building uses Earth wire (which is earthed in the basement at Basement) as neutral to power his lights. Another Person from 2nd floor has a normal setup and uses neutral for the same purpose. Neutral wire is also earthed at the ground level (as per USA practice Neutral is Grounded (earthed) at Building and as per Indian Practice it is Grounded (earthed) at Distribution Transformer). However, ground wire (Neutral wire) has a much lower electrical resistance than Earth Wire (Earthing) which results in a difference of electrical potential (i.e. voltage) between them. This voltage is quite a hazard for anyone touching a Earth wire (Metal Body of Equipment) as it may have several tens of volts.
  • The second issue is legality. Using ground wire instead of neutral makes you an energy thief as the meter uses only the Phase and neutral for recording your energy consumption. Many Consumers make energy theft by using Earthing wire as a Neutral wire in an Energy meter.

Conclusion:

  • Ground is a source for unwanted currents and also as a return path for main current. While earthing is done not for return path but only for protection of delicate equipments. It is an alternate low resistance path for current. Earth is used for the safety of the human body in fault conditions while Grounding (As neutral earth) is used for the protection of equipments.

 

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About Jignesh.Parmar
Jignesh Parmar has completed his B.E(Electrical) from Gujarat University. He has more than 11 years experience in Power Transmission-Power Distribution-Electrical energy theft detection-Electrical Maintenance-Electrical Projects(Planning-Designing-coordination-Execution). He is Presently associate with one of the leading business group as a Assistant Manager at Ahmedabad,India. He is Freelancer Programmer of Advance Excel and design useful Excel Sheets of Electrical Engineering as per IS,NEC,IEC,IEEE codes. He is technical Author for "Electrical Mirror" and "Electrical India" Magazines. He is Technical Blogger and Familiar with English, Hindi, Gujarati, French languages. He wants to Share his experience & knowledge and help technical enthusiasts to find suitable solutions and updating themselves on various Engineering Topics.

34 Responses to Difference between Bonding, Grounding and Earthing

  1. sanjay says:

    Thanks for the information. we are specialized in Earthing we always come to this terms during installation.

  2. hemant Shringi says:

    Its A Eye Opening Article ..

  3. Phelix says:

    Its a good article here

  4. siva says:

    thank you very much sir……………

  5. rk says:

    nice. and clarification
    is good

  6. gopinath says:

    realy help full could u provide some information about selection of condcutors

  7. vimal kumar says:

    Good notes for knowledge , thanks

  8. Ian says:

    Thanks for the clarification, I’ve been trying to get this answer for several months now when it was first suggested to me that there might actually be a difference between the terms grounding and earthing.

  9. gajen says:

    Dear friends,

    I need GI & copper Solid rod available in RINL (VIZAG Steel) or JSW.

    pls give feed back.

    Regards,

    Gajen

  10. gajen says:

    For Earthing Rod (GI / Copper) any standard or Specification is there ?

    20 mm Dia Copper rod

    40 mm Dia GI rod

  11. sreenu says:

    sir i need the clarification on vector group conditions like Dyn 11 & dyn 5 etc in transformers ,if possible plz.. send me

  12. Mahesh says:

    Dear Mr. Parmar,
    I have a 3 phase Diesel Generator and I have tied together the Earthing and Grounding connectors and used a single wire to the ground. Is it OK?

  13. hurricane193 says:

    Nice artice sir. Keep posting :D

  14. Ritaban Banerjee says:

    What is then the basic difference is neutral grounding and neutral earthing?

  15. Deepak Sg says:

    Thank u sir, got clear view btw grounding and earthing. But then neutral grnd and neutral earthing, wht’s d difference..?

  16. aaakkkkk says:

    m totaly satisfied with the answer…..thanks

  17. SAMPSON HOPE says:

    I love your analysis sir. If am to write a project on electrical earthing and testing, what are the things you expect from my literature review??
    you can post to my email or here so others can also benefit. thanks

  18. prashant says:

    Sir,
    what is the best method for earthing . what is the criteria for resistance value for earth pit .
    is there specific table for fault current agenst material used for earthing .

  19. ppp says:

    Thank you very much.

  20. ponganesh85 says:

    This is very clear. Thanks. I have a question. Is there any threshold for safely plugging and unplugging in live receptacles. If so what is for normal ground activities and is there anything for doing the same task (plugging and unplugging) while working on derrick (type of tower). If you can send me some references for this that would be great.

    Kind Regards

  21. Thankyou a lot sir this will surly remove my doubts……i want to stuck with u if u gave me permission so that may i can cover a lot of topics to understand…

  22. allspark says:

    In short we can also say that.

    Grounding is for the protection of appliance and for providing safe return path while earthing is for the protection of appliance user

  23. Sampson hope says:

    Sir thanks for your previous help. You have been a mentor and have seen me through my mini project with your article. I have earthed a building successfully, thereby generating neutral now how do i test if the earthing is working properly… Can it be done with a multimeter or circuit breaker?? Thanks

  24. jassi says:

    sir,
    really its very good article. it has earthed all my confusion,misconception.thnx a lot

  25. syed ibrahim says:

    the document gives a clear idea detween the explained three terms………..

  26. syed ibrahim says:

    Thank you very much.

  27. somasekhar reddy says:

    do not mention where earthing &grounding is used

    • kshirod dash says:

      Dear jignesh sir

      Earthing means connect a living part to theground for avoid the shock.
      Grounding means connect a non conductive material to the ground.
      Kindly reply me is it k.or not
      B cause in transformer neutral point is earthing.and body is grounding.

      Waiting for ur reply sir

  28. PHYO says:

    Dear Sir,
    This is very good article for us. Thanks a lot.

  29. Sonu Nagar says:

    thanks a lot.

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