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Grounding is a critical safety component in any electrical system. It provides a safe pathway for excess electrical current that arises through a short circuit or surge event to travel to the earth. Otherwise, that current could end up electrifying adjacent surfaces, creating an obvious safety hazard.

Staying Grounded: The Connections that Matter

Chuck Ross
Grounding is a critical safety component in any electrical system. It provides a safe pathway for excess electrical current that arises through a short circuit or surge event to travel to the earth. Otherwise, that current could end up electrifying adjacent surfaces, creating an obvious safety hazard. Grounding connections are established at every level of a building’s electrical wiring, eventually tying the entire system to a conductor attached to a copper rod buried underground.

Electrical contractors can call on three different methods for creating these connections: mechanical, compression and exothermic. Sarah Parsons, mechanical grounding product manager for BURNDY, explains why having this variety is important.

“Each grounding method has its benefits, but it comes down to meeting customer preferences and requirements,” she says. “Having all three methods allows customers to choose the best method for their specific project conditions and requirements.”

Mechanical connections
Mechanical grounding options offer the advantage of reversible connections. “These versatile connectors use bolts and/or other hardware to apply clamping force,” Parsons explains. This means electrical contractors need to follow manufacturers’ torqueing requirements to ensure a solid, reliable connection. Parson cites metal fences as one application for mechanical grounding, adding that connectors are available for a range of conductor sizes and fence-post designs.

Compression connections
Compression connectors are designed to create irreversible connections, using a dedicated tool and die combination matched to conductors’ sizes. The process embosses an identification code on the connector. “This allows installers and inspectors to easily confirm that the proper connector, tool and installation dies were used,” Parsons says. Example uses include below-grade grid applications to dissipate excess voltage from above-grade structures into the earth.

Exothermic connections
This is another approach for creating permanent connections, through welding copper to copper or other metals. Applications can include welding cable to steel surfaces – for example, in rail connections, such as rail signaling and power bonds. “When done properly, the exothermic process provides an excellent way to connect a cable to a buried pipeline or rail track,” Parsons notes.
Photo courtesy of BURNDY
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