Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Importance Of Ground Fault System Certification

By Ines Flores

Any electrical circuit will take the nearest route to a grounded surface when given the opportunity. If a person becomes the connector, the resulting shock may be damaging or fatal. If the phenomenon is the result of malfunctioning equipment or poor engineering, the cost can be measured in destroyed equipment and increased liability for injury. Ground fault system certification helps maintain higher levels of safety and compliance.

Although people assume that all building electrical system or equipment design issues automatically include proper grounding techniques, each has unique requirements. If errors were made in the original planning or the installed equipment and connections have not been maintained properly, a low-level arcing ground fault can demolish expensive switching gear by producing an electrical arc similar to those used when welding metals.

The International Electrical Testing Association, or NETA, cites figures showing that nearly fifteen percent of all installations that are tested have problem areas capable of producing injuries or damages. Protection against that possibility are mandated by the National Electrical Code in the United States, and includes installing specialized sensors able to discover and clear improper grounding within milliseconds.

They accomplish that by constantly checking whether current is both leaving and returning correctly. If a normal path is out of phase, the current may automatically take an alternate route to ground that is less resistant. That route may include the steel building framework, interior pipes, or heating and cooling conduits. Devices use monitors that are able to detect deviations, and relay logic devices to measure the value and timing of tripping current.

Most safety setups also have mechanisms that activate a circuit breaker or switch if trouble is found, and many also include test panels intended to simulate an event and the resulting emergency response. Although these tests are useful, they do not always comply with the standards required by the National Electrical Code and other safety standards, making manual inspections the preferred method.

Certified and trained technicians make judgments based on the latest technological assessments that are currently associated with building safety and electrical system designs, and their testing equipment conforms to uniform standards in all locations. They can provide recorded documentation of any issues that may be discovered, and retain information from the evaluations that have already been performed.

NETA also provides certification for workers that ensures competency, which includes the use of accepted safety procedures and full awareness of all potential related hazards. They must meet minimum requirements for industry qualification, and have completed the necessary experience and training. Employees must also comply with the standards of independent and impartial certification required for accurate results.

Insurance companies recommend annual testing. The cost involved varies, depending on the type of equipment, the scheduled timing of the event, and the actual topography of the site. Coordination with local utilities may be required, which testing companies arrange. A system that is in good working order will be able to detect and correct problems instantly, potentially saving thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs.

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