March 30, 2011 53 Comments
Lighting and Voltage Surge
- Lightning can create voltage surges in several of the following ways. Lightning can score a direct hit on your house. It can strike the overhead power line which enters your house, or a main power line that is blocks away from your home. Lightning can strike branch circuitry wiring in the walls of your house. Lightning can strike an object near your home such as a tree or the ground itself and cause a surge. Voltage surges can be created by cloud to cloud lightning near your home. A highly charged cloud which passes over your home can also induce a voltage surge.
- Voltage surges can also be caused by standard on and off switching activities of large electric motors or pieces of equipment. These surges can be created by a neighbor, or by a business or manufacturing facility some distance from your house. These surges are insidious and for the most part are silent. They can occur with little or no warning.
Method to Suppress Lighting and Voltage Surge:
- When a voltage surge is created, it wants to equalize itself and it wants to do it as quickly as possible. These things seem to have very little patience. The surges will do whatever it takes to equalize or neutralize themselves, even if it means short circuiting all of your electronic equipment.
- The method of providing maximum protection for equipment is quite simple. Create a pathway for the voltage surge (electricity) to get to and into the ground outside your house as quickly as possible. This is not, in most cases, a difficult task.
- The first step is simple. Create an excellent grounding system for your household electrical system. The vast majority of homes do not have an excellent grounding system. Many homes have a single grounding rod and /or a metallic underground water pipe which are part of the electrical grounding system. In most cases, this is inadequate. The reason is somewhat easy to explain. Imagine putting a two inch fire hose into your kitchen sink and opening the nozzle to the full on position. I doubt that the drain in your sink could handle all of the water. Your grounding system would react in the same way to a massive voltage surge. Just as the water jumps out of the sink, the electricity jumps from the grounding system and looks for places to go. Frequently it looks for the microchips in your electronic devices. They are an easy target. They offer a path of least resistance.
- Voltage surges want to be directed to the grounding system, and when they do, they want to get into the ground around your house in a hurry. You can achieve this by driving numerous grounding rods into virgin soil around your house. These rods should be UL approved and connected by a continuous heavy solid copper wire which is welded to each grounding rod. This solid copper wire begins on the grounding bar inside of your electrical panel and terminates at the last grounding rod. Avoid using clamps if at all possible. Over time, the connection at the clamp can corrode or become loose creating tremendous resistance. This will act as a roadblock to the electricity trying to get into the ground around your home.
- The grounding rods should be at least ten feet apart from one another. They should be located in soil which readily accepts electricity. Moist clay soils are very desirable. Rocky, sandy, or soils with gravel generally have high resistance factors. Electricity has a tough time dissipating into them. Resistance readings should be in the range of 10 to 30 ohms. The lower the better.
- The second step in household surge protection is to install a lightning arrester inside of your electric service panel. These devices can be extremely effective in intercepting large voltage surges which travel in the electric power lines. These devices capture the voltage surges and ‘bleed’ them off to the grounding wire which we just spoke of. If for some reason you do not have a large enough grounding wire, or enough ground rods, the arrester cannot do its job. It must be able to send the surge quickly to the ground outside of your house. Almost every manufacturer of circuit breakers makes one to fit inside their panel. They can be installed by a homeowner who is experienced in dealing with high voltage panels. If you do not have this capability, have an experienced electrician install it for you.
- The final step in the protection plan is to install ‘point of use’ surge suppression devices. Often you will see these called ‘transient voltage surge suppressors’. These are your last line of defense. They are capable of only stopping the leftover voltage surge which got past the grounding system and the lightning arrester. They cannot protect your electronic devices by themselves. They must be used in conjunction with the grounding system and the lightning arresters. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security if you merely use one of these devices!
- The ‘point of use’ surge suppression devices are available in various levels of quality. Some are much better than others. What sets them apart are several things. Generally speaking, you look to see how fast their response time is. This is often referred to as clamping speed. Also, look to see how high of a voltage surge they will suppress. Make sure that the device has a 500 volt maximum UL rated suppression level. Check to see if it has an indicator, either visual or audio, which lets you know if it is not working. The better units offer both, in case you install the device out of sight. Check to see if it offers a variety of modes with respect to protection. For example, does the device offer protection for surges which occur between the ‘hot’ and neutral, between ‘hot’ and ground, as well as between neutral and ground. There is a difference! Check to see if it monitors the normal sine waves of regular household current. Surges can cause irregularities in these wave patterns. Good transient surge suppression devices ‘devour’ these voltage spikes. Finally, check the joule rating. Attempt to locate a device which has a joule rating of 140 or higher. Electrical supply houses often are the best place to look for these high quality devices.
- Some devices can also protect your phone equipment at the same time. This is very important for those individuals who have computer modems. Massive voltage surges can come across phone lines as well. These surges can enter your computer through the telephone line! Don’t forget to protect this line as well. Also, be sure the telephone ground wire is tied to the upgraded electrical grounding system.
What is a surge arrester?
- Surge arresters are devices that help prevent damage to apparatus due to high voltages. The arrester provides a low-impedance path to ground for the current from a lightning strike or transient voltage and then restores to a normal operating conditions.
- A surge arrester may be compared to a relief valve on a boiler or hot water heater. It will release high pressure until a normal operating condition is reached. When the pressure is returned to normal, the safety valve is ready for the next operation.
- When a high voltage (greater than the normal line voltage) exists on the line, the arrester immediately furnishes a path to ground and thus limits and drains off the excess voltage. The arrester must provide this relief and then prevent any further flow of current to ground. The arrester has two functions; it must provide a point in the circuit at which an over-voltage pulse can pass to ground and second, to prevent any follow-up current from flowing to ground.
Causes of over voltages
- Internal causes
- External causes
- Switching surge
- Insulation failure
- Arcing ground
- Switching surge: The over voltages produced on the power system due to switching are known as switching surge.
- Insulation failure: The most common case of insulation failure in a power system is the grounding of conductors (i.e. insulation failure between line and earth) which may cause overvoltage in the system.
- Arcing ground: The phenomenon of intermittent arc taking place in line to ground fault of a 3phase system with consequent production of transients is known as arcing ground.
- Resonance: It occurs in an electrical system when inductive reactance of the circuit becomes equal to capacitive reactance. under resonance , the impedance of the circuit is equal to resistance of the circuit and the p.f is unity.
Types of lightning strokes
- Direct stroke
- Indirect stroke
(1) Direct stroke
- In direct stroke, the lightning discharge is directly from the cloud to the subject equipment. From the line, the current path may be over the insulator down the pole to the ground.
(2) Indirect stroke
- Indirect stroke results from the electro statically induced charges on the conductors due to the presence of charge clouds.
Harmful effects of lightning
- The traveling waves produced due to lightning will shatter the insulators.
- If the traveling waves hit the windings of a transformer or generator it may cause considerable damage.
Protection against lightning
- Different types of protective devices are:-
- Earthing screen
- Overhead ground wires
- Lightning arresters
(1)The Earthing screen
- The power station & sub-station can be protected against direct lightning strokes by providing earthing screens.
- On occurrence of direct stroke on the station ,screen provides a low resistance path by which lightning surges are conducted to ground.
- It does not provide protection against the traveling waves which may reach the equipments in the station.
(2)Overhead ground wires
- It is the most effective way of providing protection to transmission lines against direct lightning strokes.
- It provides damping effect on any disturbance traveling along the lines as it acts as a short-circuited secondary.
- It requires additional cost.
- There is a possibility of its breaking and falling across the line conductors, thereby causing a short-circuit fault.
- It is a protective device which conducts the high voltage surge on the power system to ground
- The earthing screen and ground wires fail to provide protection against traveling waves. The lightning arrester provides protection against surges.
AC Power Surge Arrester
Type 1 Surge Protectors
- Type 1 surge protectors are designed to be installed where a direct lightning strike risk is high, especially when the building is equipped with external lightning protection system (LPS or lightning rod).
- In this situation IEC 61643-11 standards require the Class I test to be applied to surge protectors : this test is characterized by the injection of 10/350 μs impulse current in order to simulate the direct lightning strike consequence. Therefore these Type 1 surge protectors must be especially powerful to conduct this high energy impulse current.
Type 2 surge protectors
- Type 2 surge protectors are designed to be installed at the beginning of the installation, in the main switchboard, or close to sensitive terminals, on installations without LPS (lightning rods).
- These protectors are tested following the Class II test from IEC61643-11 based on 8/20 μs impulse current injection.
Type 3 surge protectors
- In case of very sensitive or remote equipment, secondary stage of surge protectors is required : these low energy SPDs could be Type 2 or Type 3. Type 3 SPDs are tested with a combination waveform (1,2/50 μs – 8/20 μs) following Class III test.
Types of Lightning Arrestors according to Class:
1. Station Class
- Station class arrestors are typically used in electrical power stations or substations and other high voltage structures and areas.
- These arrestors protect against both lightning and over-voltages, when the electrical device has more current in the system than it is designed to handle.
- These arrestors are designed to protect equipment above the 20 mVA range.
2. Intermediate Class
- Like station class arrestors, intermediate class arrestors protect against surges from lightning and over-voltages, but are designed to be used in medium voltage equipment areas, such as electrical utility stations, substations, transformers or other substation equipment.
- These arrestors are designed for use on equipment in the range of 1 to 20 mVA.
3. Distribution Class
- Distribution class arrestors are most commonly found on transformers, both dry-type and liquid-filled.
- These arrestors are found on equipment rated at 1000 kVA or less.
- These arrestors are sometimes found on exposed lines that have direct connections to rotating machines.
4. Secondary Class
- Secondary class lightning arrestors are designed to protect most homes and businesses from lightning strikes, and are required by most electrical codes, according to, Inc., an electrical power protection company.
- These arrestors cause high voltage overages to ground, though they do not short all the over voltage from a surge. Secondary class arrestors offer the least amount of protection to electrical systems, and typically do not protect solid state technology, or anything that has a microprocessor.
Choosing the right AC Power Surge Arrester
- AC power surge protectors is designed to cover all possible configurations in low voltage installations. They are available in many versions, which differ in:
- Type or test class (1 , 2 or 3)
- Operating voltage (Uc)
- AC network configuration (Single/3-Phase)
- Discharge currents (Iimp, Imax, In)
- Protection level (Up)
- Protection technology (varistors, gas tube-varistor, filter)
- Features (redundancy, differential mode, plug-in, remote signaling…).
- The surge protection selection must be done following the local electrical code requirements (i.e.: minimum rating for In) and specific conditions (i.e. : high lightning density).
Working Principle of LA:
- The earthing screen and ground wires can well protect the electrical system against direct lightning strokes but they fail to provide protection against traveling waves, which may reach the terminal apparatus. The lightning arresters or surge diverts provide protection against such surges. A lightning arrester or a surge diverted is a protective device, which conducts the high voltage surges on the power system to the ground.
- The earthing screen and ground wires can well protect the electrical system against direct lightning strokes but they fail to provide protection against traveling waves, which may reach the terminal apparatus. The lightning arresters or surge diverters provide protection against such surges. A lightning arrester or a surge diverted is a protective device, which conducts the high voltage surges on the power system to the ground.
- Fig shows the basic form of a surge diverter. It consists of a spark gap in series with a non-linear resistor. One end of the diverter is connected to the terminal of the equipment to be protected and the other end is effectively grounded. The length of the gap is so set that normal voltage is not enough to cause an arc but a dangerously high voltage will break down the air insulation and form an arc. The property of the non-linear resistance is that its resistance increases as the voltage (or current) increases and vice-versa. This is clear from the volt/amp characteristic of the resistor shown in Fig
- The action of the lightning arrester or surge divert er is as under:
- (i) Under normal operation, the lightning arrester is off the line i.e. it conducts no current to earth or the gap is non-conducting
- (ii) On the occurrence of over voltage, the air insulation across the gap breaks down and an arc is formed providing a low resistance path for the surge to the ground. In this way, the excess charge on the line due to the surge is harmlessly conducted through the arrester to the ground instead of being sent back over the line.
- (iii) It is worthwhile to mention the function of non-linear resistor in the operation of arrester. As the gap sparks over due to over voltage, the arc would be a short-circuit on the power system and may cause power-follow current in the arrester. Since the characteristic of the resistor is to offer low resistance to high voltage (or current), it gives the effect of short-circuit. After the surge is over, the resistor offers high resistance to make the gap non-conducting.
Type of LA for Outdoor Applications:
- There are several types of lightning arresters in general use. They differ only in constructional details but operate on the same principle, providing low resistance path for the surges to the round.
- 1. Rod arrester
- 2. Horn gap arrester
- 3. Multi gap arrester
- 4. Expulsion type lightning arrester
- 5. Valve type lightning arrester
(1) Rod Gap Arrester
- It is a very simple type of diverter and consists of two 1.5 cm rods, which are bent at right angles with a gap in between as shown in Fig.
- One rod is connected to the line circuit and the other rod is connected to earth. The distance between gap and insulator (i.e. distance P) must not be less than one third of the gap length so that the arc may not reach the insulator and damage it. Generally, the gap length is so adjusted that breakdown should occur at 80% of spark-voltage in order to avoid cascading of very steep wave fronts across the insulators.
- The string of insulators for an overhead line on the bushing of transformer has frequently a rod gap across it. Fig 8 shows the rod gap across the bushing of a transformer. Under normal operating conditions, the gap remains non-conducting. On the occurrence of a high voltage surge on the line, the gap sparks over and the surge current is conducted to earth. In this way excess charge on the line due to the surge is harmlessly conducted to earth
- (i) After the surge is over, the arc in the gap is maintained by the normal supply voltage, leading to short-circuit on the system.
- (ii) The rods may melt or get damaged due to excessive heat produced by the arc.
- (iii) The climatic conditions (e.g. rain, humidity, temperature etc.) affect the performance of rod gap arrester.
- (iv) The polarity of the f the surge also affects the performance of this arrester.
- Due to the above limitations, the rod gap arrester is only used as a back-up protection in case of main arresters.
(2) Horn Gap Arrester:
- Fig shows the horn gap arrester. It consists of a horn shaped metal rods A and B separated by a small air gap. The horns are so constructed that distance between them gradually increases towards the top as shown.
- The horns are mounted on porcelain insulators. One end of horn is connected to the line through a resistance and choke coil L while the other end is effectively grounded.
- The resistance R helps in limiting the follow current to a small value. The choke coil is so designed that it offers small reactance at normal power frequency but a very high reactance at transient frequency. Thus the choke does not allow the transients to enter the apparatus to be protected.
- The gap between the horns is so adjusted that normal supply voltage is not enough to cause an arc across the gap.
- Under normal conditions, the gap is non-conducting i.e. normal supply voltage is insufficient to initiate the arc between the gap. On the occurrence of an over voltage, spark-over takes place across the small gap G. The heated air around the arc and the magnetic effect of the arc cause the arc to travel up the gap. The arc moves progressively into positions 1, 2 and 3.
- At some position of the arc (position 3), the distance may be too great for the voltage to maintain the arc; consequently, the arc is extinguished. The excess charge on the line is thus conducted through the arrester to the ground.
(3) Multi Gap Arrester:
- Fig shows the multi gap arrester. It consists of a series of metallic (generally alloy of zinc) cylinders insulated from one another and separated by small intervals of air gaps. The first cylinder (i.e. A) in the series is connected to the line and the others to the ground through a series resistance. The series resistance limits the power arc. By the inclusion of series resistance, the degree of protection against traveling waves is reduced.
- In order to overcome this difficulty, some of the gaps (B to C in Fig) are shunted by resistance. Under normal conditions, the point B is at earth potential and the normal supply voltage is unable to break down the series gaps. On the occurrence an over voltage, the breakdown of series gaps A to B occurs.
- The heavy current after breakdown will choose the straight – through path to earth via the shunted gaps B and C, instead of the alternative path through the shunt resistance.
- Hence the surge is over, the arcs B to C go out and any power current following the surge is limited by the two resistances (shunt resistance and series resistance) which are now in series. The current is too small to maintain the arcs in the gaps A to B and normal conditions are restored. Such arresters can be employed where system voltage does not exceed 33kV.
(4) Expulsion Type Arrester:
- This type of arrester is also called ‘protector tube’ and is commonly used on system operating at voltages up to 33kV. Fig shows the essential parts of an expulsion type lightning arrester.
- It essentially consists of a rod gap AA’ in series with a second gap enclosed within the fiber tube. The gap in the fiber tube is formed by two electrodes. The upper electrode is connected to rod gap and the lower electrode to the earth. One expulsion arrester is placed under each line conductor. Fig shows the installation of expulsion arrester on an overhead line.
- On the occurrence of an over voltage on the line, the series gap AA’ spanned and an arc is stuck between the electrodes in the tube. The heat of the arc vaporizes some of the fiber of tube walls resulting in the production of neutral gas. In an extremely short time, the gas builds up high pressure and is expelled through the lower electrode, which is hollow. As the gas leaves the tube violently it carries away ionized air around the arc. This de ionizing effect is generally so strong that the arc goes out at a current zero and will not be re-established.
- (i) They are not very expensive.
- (ii)They are improved form of rod gap arresters as they block the flow of power frequency follow currents
- (iii)They can be easily installed.
- (i)An expulsion type arrester can perform only limited number of operations as during each operation some of the fiber material is used up.
- (ii) This type of arrester cannot be mounted on enclosed equipment due to discharge of gases during operation.
- (iii)Due to the poor volt/am characteristic of the arrester, it is not suitable for protection of expensive equipment
(5) Valve Type Arrester:
- Valve type arresters incorporate non linear resistors and are extensively used on systems, operating at high voltages. Fig shows the various parts of a valve type arrester. It consists of two assemblies (i) series spark gaps and (ii) non-linear resistor discs in series. The non-linear elements are connected in series with the spark gaps. Both the assemblies are accommodated in tight porcelain container.
- The spark gap is a multiple assembly consisting of a number of identical spark gaps in series. Each gap consists of two electrodes with fixed gap spacing. The voltage distribution across the gap is line raised by means of additional resistance elements called grading resistors across the gap. The spacing of the series gaps is such that it will withstand the normal circuit voltage. However an over voltage will cause the gap to break down causing the surge current to ground via the non-linear resistors.
- The non-linear resistor discs are made of inorganic compound such as thyrite or metrosil. These discs are connected in series. The non-linear resistors have the property of offering a high resistance to current flow when normal system voltage is applied, but a low resistance to the flow of high surge currents. In other words, the resistance of these non-linear elements decreases with the increase in current through them and vice-versa.
- Under normal conditions, the normal system voltage is insufficient to cause the break down of air gap assembly. On the occurrence of an over voltage, the breakdown of the series spark gap takes place and the surge current is conducted to earth via the non-linear resistors. Since the magnitude of surge current is very large, the non-linear elements will offer a very low resistance to the passage of surge. The result is that the surge will rapidly go to earth instead of being sent back over the line. When the surge is over, the non-linear resistors assume high resistance to stop the flow of current.
(6) Silicon carbide arresters:
- A great number of silicon carbide arresters are still in service. The silicon carbide arrester has some unusual electrical characteristics. It has a very high resistance to low voltage, but a very low resistance to high-voltage.
- When lightning strikes or a transient voltage occurs on the system, there is a sudden rise in voltage and current. The silicon carbide resistance breaks down allowing the current to be conducted to ground. After the surge has passed, the resistance of the silicon carbide blocks increases allowing normal operation.
- The silicon carbide arrester uses nonlinear resistors made of bonded silicon carbide placed in series with gaps. The function of the gaps is to isolate the resistors from the normal steady-state system voltage. One major drawback is the gaps require elaborate design to ensure consistent spark-over level and positive clearing (resealing) after a surge passes. It should be recognized that over a period of operations that melted particles of copper might form which could lead to a reduction of the breakdown voltage due to the pinpoint effect. Over a period of time, the arrester gap will break down at small over voltages or even at normal operating voltages. Extreme care should be taken on arresters that have failed but the over pressure relief valve did not operate. This pressure may cause the arrester to
(7) Metal Oxide Arrestor:
- The MOV arrester is the arrester usually installed today
- The metal oxide arresters are without gaps, unlike the SIC arrester. This “gap-less” design eliminates the high heat associated with the arcing discharges.
- The MOV arrester has two-voltage rating: duty cycle and maximum continuous operating voltage, unlike the silicon carbide that just has the duty cycle rating. A metal-oxide surge arrester utilizing zinc-oxide blocks provides the best performance, as surge voltage conduction starts and stops promptly at a precise voltage level, thereby improving system protection. Failure is reduced, as there is no air gap contamination possibility; but there is always a small value of leakage current present at operating frequency.
- It is important for the test personnel to be aware that when a metal oxide arrester is disconnected from an energized line a small amount of static charge can be retained by the arrester. As a safety precaution, the tester should install a temporary ground to discharge any stored energy.
- Duty cycle rating: The silicon carbide and MOV arrester have a duty cycle rating in KV, which is determined by duty cycle testing. Duty cycle testing of an arrester is performed by subjecting an arrester to an AC rms voltage equal to its rating for 24 minutes. During which the arrester must be able to withstand lightning surges at 1-minute intervals.
- Maximum continuous operating voltage rating: The MCOV rating is usually 80 to 90% of the duty cycle rating.
Installation of LA:
- The arrester should be connected to ground to a low resistance for effective discharge of the surge current.
- The arrester should be mounted close to the equipment to be protected & connected with shortest possible lead on both the line & ground side to reduce the inductive effects of the leads while discharging large surge current.
Maintenance of LA:
- Cleaning the outside of the arrester housing.
- The line should be de-energized before handling the arrester.
- The earth connection should be checked periodically.
- To record the readings of the surge counter.
- The line lead is securely fastened to the line conductor and arrester
- The ground lead is securely fastened to the arrester terminal and ground.