Search

How electricians test continuity of protective conductors

Home / Technical Articles / Energy and Power / How electricians test continuity of protective conductors

Testing protective conductors

For all protective conductors, including main and supplementary bonding conductors, electricians must perform continuity test using a low-reading ohmmeter. For main equipotential bonding, there is no single fixed value of resistance above which the conductor would be deemed unsuitable.

Continuity of protective conductors
Continuity of protective conductors (photo credit: tradeskills4u.co.uk)

Each measured value, if indeed it is measurable for very short lengths, should be compared with the relevant value for a particular conductor length and size. Such values are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1 // Resistance ( Ω) of Copper Conductors at 20°C

Resistance (Ω) of Copper Conductors at 20°C
Table 1 – Resistance (Ω) of Copper Conductors at 20°C

Where a supplementary protective bonding conductor has been installed between simultaneously accessible exposed and extraneous conductive parts the resistance of the conductor R must be equal to or less than 50/ Ia.

So, R ≤ 50/Ia, where 50 is the voltage, above which exposed metalwork should not rise and Ia is the minimum current, causing operation of the circuit protective device within 5s. For example, suppose a 45 A BS 3036 fuse protects a cooker circuit, the disconnection time for the circuit cannot be met, and so a supplementary bonding conductor has been installed between the cooker case and the adjacent metal sink.

The resistance R of that conductor should not be greater than 50/ Ia, which in this case is 145 A (IEE Regulations). So:

50/145 = 0.34 Ω

How then do we conduct a test to establish continuity of main or supplementary bonding conductors?

Quite simple really, just connect the leads from the continuity tester to the ends of the bonding conductor (Figure 1). One end should be disconnected from its bonding clamp, otherwise any measurement may include the resistance of parallel paths of other earthed metalwork.

Remember to zero the instrument first or, if this facility is not available, record the resistance of the test leads so that this value can be subtracted from the test reading.


Important Note //

If the installation is in operation, never disconnect main bonding conductors unless the supply can be isolated. Without isolation, persons and livestock are at risk of electric shock.

Continuity of main protective bonding conductors
Figure 1 – Continuity of main protective bonding conductors

The continuity of circuit protective conductors (CPC’s) may be established in the same way, but a second method is preferable, as the results of this second test indicate the value of (R1+R2) forthe circuit in question.

Circuit protective conductors (CPC) continuity
Figure 2 – Circuit protective conductors (CPC) continuity

The test is conducted in the following way (Figure 2) //

  1. Temporarily link together the line conductor and CPC of the circuit concerned in the distribution board or consumer unit.
  2. Test between line and CPC at each outlet in the circuit. A reading indicates continuity.
  3. Record the test result obtained at the furthest point in the circuit. This value is (R1+R2) for the circuit.
There may be some difficulty in determining the (R1+R2) values of circuits in installations that comprise steel conduit and trunking and/or steel wire armoured (SWA) cables and mineral insulated metal sheathed (MIMS) cables because of the parallel earth paths that are likely to exist.

In these cases, continuity tests may have to be carried out at the installation stage before accessories are connected or terminations made off as well as after completion.


Continuity Test of Protective Conductors (VIDEO)

Reference: Electric Wiring: Domestic – Brian Scaddan IEng, MIET

SEARCH: Articles, software & guides

Premium Membership

Premium membership gives you an access to specialized technical articles and extra premium content (electrical guides and software).
Get Premium Now ⚡

About Author

author-pic

Edvard Csanyi

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