General earthing system: earthing installation

General earthing system: earthing installation

The general earthing system connects the different parts of an electrical installation with the surface conductor of the Earth to guarantee security and functionality.

In an electrical installation, the soil itself provides equipotentialization for all of the metallic parts so that there are no differences in potential between each other. This is carried out in order to guarantee the safety of people and equipment from any possible defects in the actual facilities.

Depending on the purpose for which the earthing system is designed, there are two types of earthing:

  • Protection or masses earthing: It is defined as all the metallic parts of the installation that normally are not under tension, but could be due to consequences such as damages, accidents, atmospheric discharges or overvoltages.
  • Service or neutral grounding: It is defined as the return of the current in the installation and its mission is to set a reference potential.

How to install earthing in an electric system

Depending on the electric system that the general grounding installation requires, certain steps and guidelines must be followed. In all cases, earthing must be installed before the foundation, because if it is planned afterwards, more complex and expensive solutions would be required.

Grounding installation in low voltage systems

The aim of this earthing system is to guarantee that, if a person touches a metallic object that has a certain voltage due to an electric failure, it does not exceed the safety threshold, generally established as a maximum of 50 volts.

Grounding elements

The elements that are used in an earthing system, will vary slightly depending of the resistivity of the land.

Below is a description of the parts of an earthing connection:

Electrodes for earthing

General earthing is usually done via a bare earth ring or horizontal conductor mesh buried in the ground, complemented by vertical electrodes to decrease resistance.

There are different types of electrodes depending on their characteristics and functionality:

  • Earth rods, also known as spikes, are steel electrodes with an electrolytic copper coating which are used in the standard solutions for terrains with low resistivity. The rod is a copperbond steel rod which is recommended to have a copper coating thickness of more than 250 microns. Usually, the rods are usually 2 meters in length yet could be joined together for longer lengths. There are also solid copper, galvanized steel and stainless steel rods.
  • Dynamic electrodes are used in high resistivity grounds, for example, when the terrain is rock and a standard solution is not adequate.

In these cases, APLIROD© dynamic electrodes are used. These are composed of a hollow copper tube filled with an ionic compound mixture that improves the resistivity of the soil around the electrode between 30-80%.

  • Earth plates are recommended for grounding in stony ground and are generally made of copper or galvanized steel.
  • Graphite electrodes are characterized as being good conductors, and inert to chemical agents, therefore they are ideal electrodes for high resistivity terrains. It is convenient to install them in deep wells so that the electrode sits at least two meters below the surface.

Earth pits in earthing installations

Earth pits are usually situated towards the outside of buildings. Their function is to provide an accessible manhole for any tests and inspections.

The connection to the earth pit is made at the bottom of the excavation, through a device that allows the disconnection of the earth conductors and which must carry an earth symbol.

Earth bonds: permanent and mechanical

Connection components must ensure the continuity between the down conductor and the earthing. It is recommended that connections be made using the exothermic welding APLIWELD© because, unlike mechanical connections, welded joints do not degrade and are a permanent solution that is not going to deteriorate with the passage of time.

Conductivity enhancers

Conductivity enhancers are used in high-resistivity terrains, where obtaining a low-resistivity ground value could be impossible, even with the installation of multiple electrodes. Conductivity enhancers achieve moisture retention in the soil and provide ions that significantly reduce the resistance in a long-lasting manner and without any corrosion.

Ground connection to lightning rods

Lightning rods must have their own ground connection, independent from the general earthing, yet linked to it by means of spark gaps in order to avoid corrosion problems and to decrease any overvoltage.

In a lightning protection system, each down conductor must have a ground connection, comprised of the conductor elements in contact with the soil capable of dispersing the lightning current.

The ground connection of lightning rods must have a resistance value of less than 10 ohms. Due to a lightning bolt being an impulse current, it is important that the impedance of the earthing is low.

In an earthing system, it is not recommended to only use one long electrode. It is recommended to use deep electrodes if the surface resistivity is elevated and the underlying layers of the soil are moist.

Advanced geoelectrical studies: expert analysis of soil resistivity to optimise an earthing system

A geoelectrical study describes the subsoil of a ground, determining the stratification: the number of layers in the soil, their depth, thickness and apparent resistivity. Knowing the resistivity of the soil in each subsoil layer facilitates the selection of the most suitable earthing system.

This type of study usually requires specific equipment and personnel with extensive knowledge of the subject for its correct execution, which complicates and makes it more expensive.

Aplicaciones Tecnológicas has developed its own method based on the simplification of measuring, IoT communications and the application of Artificial Intelligence that provides the most reliable results with the most optimised procedure possible, which makes this service extremely competitive.

Earthing system projects 4.0

In Aplicaciones Tecnológicas S.A. we have a technical team of experts and the most advanced software tools to offer our professional service for earthing systems 4.0.

Our earthing systems 4.0 projects include:

  • Prior geoelectrical study to determine the stratification and resistivity of the ground. At Aplicaciones Tecnológicas S.A. we offer a highly competitive geoelectrical study service.
  • Designs based on international standards and projected with advanced software to determine the best solution objectively.
  • Use of anti-theft conductors and specific electrodes according to the particularities of the terrain: corrosion-resistant electrodes for aggressive soils, special electrodes and/or perimeter conductor rings for highly resistive soils, etc.
  • Durable connections between conductors using Apliweld® Secure + exothermic welding, which keeps them in excellent condition throughout the lifetime of the installation.
  • Advanced and continuous monitoring system of the state of the earthing points using the Smart Earthing Monitoring System.

If you want to know more about how to make an earthing system, you can contact us by clicking this link.

You can also attend any of our earthing webinars by clicking on the link below.