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Earthing in DC distribution systems analogously to the alternating current
Earthing in DC distribution systems analogously to the alternating current (on photo: Photovoltaic panel, credit: solarprofessional.com)

DC distribution systems

This technical article shows earthing of a specific pole of a two-wire DC distribution systems. The decision whether to earth the positive or the negative pole shall be based upon operational circumstances on site or other considerations.

The Standard IEC 60364-1 defines the direct current distribution systems analogously to the alternating current ones:

  1. TT system
  2. TN system
    1. TN-S system
    2. TN-C system
    3. TN-C-S system
  3. IT system
  4. Protection against direct and indirect contact

Symbols appearing in DC distribution schemes //

DC distribution systems symbols
DC distribution systems symbols

TT system

A polarity of the system and the exposed conductive-parts are connected to two electrically independent earthing arrangements (Figure 1). If necessary, the middle point of the supply can be connected to earth (Figure 2).

Figure 1 – TT DC distribution system
Figure 1 – TT DC distribution system

TT DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply connected to earth
Figure 2 – TT DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply connected to earth

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TN system

Polarity or the middle point of the supply, is directly earthed. The exposed conductive parts are connected to the same earthed point. Three types of TN system are defined according to whether the earthed polarity and the protective conductor are separated or not:

  1. TN-S DC distribution system
    In which throughout the system, a separate protective conductor is used
  2. TN-C-S DC distribution system
    In which neutral and protective functions are combined in a single conductor in a part of the system
  3. TN-C DC distribution system
    In which neutral and protective functions are combined in a single conductor throughout the system

Go back to DC Earthing Arrangements ↑


a. TN-S system

The earthed line conductor (for example L–) in system (Figure 3) or the earthed mid-wire conductor, M, in system (Figure 4) are separated from the protective conductor throughout the system.

TN-S DC distribution distribution system
Figure 3 – TN-S DC distribution distribution system

TN-S DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply connected to earth
Figure 4 – TN-S DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply connected to earth

Go back to DC Earthing Arrangements ↑


b. TN-C system

The functions of the earthed line conductor (for example L–) in system (Figure 5) and protective conductor are combined in one single conductor called PEN (d.c.) throughout the system, or the earthed mid-wire conductor, M, in system (Figure 6) and protective conductor are combined in one single conductor PEN (d.c.) throughout the system.

TN-C DC distribution system
Figure 5 – TN-C DC distribution system

TN-C DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply source connected to earth
Figure 6 – TN-C DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply source connected to earth

Go back to DC Earthing Arrangements ↑


c. TN-C-S system

The functions of the earthed line conductor (for example L–) in system (Figure 7) and protective conductor are combined in one single conductor PEN (d.c.) in parts of the system, or the earthed mid-wire conductor, M, in system (Figure 8) and protective conductor are combined in one single conductor called PEN (d.c.) in parts of the system.

TN-C-S DC distribution system
Figure 7 – TN-C-S DC distribution system

TN-C-S DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply source connected to earth
Figure 8 – TN-C-S DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply source connected to earth

Go back to DC Earthing Arrangements ↑


IT system

The supply source is not earthed. The exposed-conductive-parts are connected to the same earthing point.

 IT DC distribution system
Figure 9 – IT DC distribution system

IT DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply isolated form earth
Figure 10 – IT DC distribution system with the middle point of the supply isolated form earth

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Protection against direct and indirect contact

To the purpose of protection against direct and indirect contacts, the Standard IEC 60364-4 prescribes that the protective device shall automatically disconnect the supply, so that in the event of a fault between a live part and an exposed-conductive-part or a protective conductor, a voltage exceeding 120 V (DC) does not persist for a time sufficient to cause harmful physiological effects for a human body.

For IT systems, the automatic opening of the circuit is not necessarily required in the presence of a first fault!

For particular environments tripping times and voltage values lower than the above mentioned ones may be required.
Further requirements for DC systems are being studied at present.

The measures of protection against direct contact are:

  • Insulation of live parts with an insulating material which can only be removed by destruction (e.g. cable insulation).
  • Barriers or enclosures: live parts shall be inside enclosures or behind barriers providing at least the degree of protection IPXXB or IP2X. For horizontal surfaces the degree of protection shall be of at least IPXXD or IP4X.
  • Obstacles: the interposition of an obstacle between the live parts and the operator prevents unintentional contacts only, but not an intentional contact by the removal of the obstacle without particular tools.
  • Placing out of reach: simultaneously accessible parts at different potentials shall not be within arm’s reach.

Go back to DC Earthing Arrangements ↑

References //

  • Technical Application Paper Circuit-breakers for direct current applications by ABB
  • IEC standard 60364-1 – Electrical installations of buildings – Part 1: Fundamental principles, assessment of general characteristics, definitions

About Author //

author-pic

Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears.Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design.Present on

One Comment


  1. Leslie Chin
    Jul 20, 2016

    Most household loads are DC or can be made DC. Solar PV panels generate DC power which has to be stored in DC batteries or converted to hydrogen by DC electrolysis so it makes sense to have a DC distribution system, .

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