Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents

Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents
Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents


Three primary categories of low-level currents will be discussed in this paper.

1. Ground Currents are any currents that are flowing on grounds. Grounds can be:

  • Chassis grounds,
  • Safety grounds,
  • Shields,
  • Raceways, or
  • Reference grounds.
In general, safety grounds have ideally no current. However, many normal and abnormal conditions may create ground currents – both at power frequencies as well as at other frequencies. Ground currents may be sourced from the source being considered, or from other sources in the facility, and it is often difficult to identify the specific cause of ground currents.

2. Leakage Currents are currents that are derived from normal and abnormal connections of the source to the safety earth. In general, leakage currents are more easily identified that ground currents. Leakage currents often flow back to the source through the associated ground conductor.

However, they may also flow through alternate ground paths, contributing to ground currents throughout the building.

3. Net Currents are non-zero summary currents that flow on conduits, feeders, or branches. They can be related to ground currents, leakage currents that return to the source through parallel ground paths, or neutral currents that flow to the source through parallel ground paths.

These three types of low-level currents, while often related, must be measured and investigated differently – the types of troubleshooting and appropriate solutions vary widely.

Ground Currents

Basic ground currents are measured on a ground conductor, typically colored or marked green, or a bare conductor. If reviewing a set of power monitor data, or remotely reviewing site measurements made by another individual, this is the most probable type of low-level current measurement that is made.

Scheme for measuring of ground currents
Scheme for measuring of ground currents

As it can be seen above, ground current measurements are being made on the equipment safety ground A as well as on a supplemental ground connection B. Usually, measurement point A is what people refer to when discussing ground currents.

The problem with this type of ground current measurement is that it is incomplete.

Assuming a normal electrical system (with no attempts made to insulate equipment, raceways, etc.) there are other paths for ground current: raceways, conduit, mounting hardware, mechanical chassis connection, and signal connections. Each of these paths may be a sufficiently low impedance parallel ground path to take a significant portion of the ground current.

As a result, simply measuring the ground current at point A (for instance) provides limited information about the total ground current that may be flowing.

Title:Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents – Judith M. Russell; Consulting Electrical Engineer at PowerLines
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Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents
Measurement techniques of leakage and ground currents

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