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Low and Medium Voltage Cable Fundamentals

Southwire Company Presented by: Sy Shaheen 1-800-444-1700

The basic function of the conductor is to carry load current. The conductor may be solid or stranded.



Comparison of Copper and Aluminum Conductors

Predominates in the Industrial Market place Greater conductivity

Predominates in the Utility Market Conduct 61% of copper for a given size Lighter in weight than copper 750kcmil : 704 lbs/Mft Very cost effective today COPPER AND ALUMINUM CONDUCTOR EQUIVALENT SIZES ALUMINUM CONDUCTOR

Heavier for same ampacity 500kcmil : 1544lb/Mft More costly.

COPPER CONDUCTOR (KCM OR AWG) 4/0 350 500 1000 Aluminum 61% Conductivity of Copper


NEAREST STANDARD SIZE (KCM) 350 750 1000 1750

American Wire Gage

The American Wire Gage is based on the following definitions: The diameter of size #0000 (often written 4/0) is chosen to be 0.4600 inch and that of size #36, 0.0050 inch; the 38 intermediate sizes are governed by geometric progression. That is, the ratio of any diameter to that of the next smaller size (i.e. the next larger gage number) is

Circular Mil Sizes larger than 4/0 are specified in terms of the total cross-sectional area of the conductor and are expressed in circular mils. A circular mil is a unit of area equal to the area of a circle having a diameter of one mil (one mil equals 0.001 inch). The area of a circle, in circular mils, is therefore equal to the square of its diameter, in mils. Thus a wire 10 mils in diameter has a cross-sectional area of 100 circular mils. For convenience, sizes are usually expressed in thousands of circular mils (abbreviated kcmil).

WIRE GAGE TABLE-SOLID CONDUCTORS Diameter In Inches .4600 .4096 .3648 .3249 .2893 .2576 .2294 .2043 .1819 .1620 .1443 .1285 .1144 .1019 .0907 .0808 Cross Sectional Area in Sq. inches .1662 .1318 .1045 .08291 .06573 .05212 .04133 .03278 .02599 .02061 .01635 .01297 .01028 .00816 .00646 .00513


Circular Mils

Lb./1000 Ft. Copper 640.5 507.8 402.8 319.5 253.3 200.9 159.3 126.3 100.2 79.4 63. 49.9 39.6 31.4 24.9 19.8 Aluminum 194.7 154.4 122.4 97.13 77.00 61.07 48.43 38.39 30.46 24.15 19.16 15.19 12.04 9.55 7.57 6.02

0000 000 00 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

211600 167800 133100 105600 83690 66360 52620 41740 33090 26240 20820 16510 13090 10380 8230 6530


.0720 .0641 .0571 .0508 .0453 .0403 .0359 .0320 .0285 .0253 .0226 .0201 .0179 .0159 .0142 .0126

Continued Cross Sectional Area in Sq. inches

.00407 .00323 .00256 .00203 .00161 .00128 .00101 .000804 .000638 .000503 .000401 .000317 .000252 .000199 .000158 .000125 Lb./1000 Ft. Copper 15.7 12.4 9.87 7.81 6.21 4.92 3.90 3.10 2.46 1.94 1.55 1.22 .970 .765 .610 .481 Aluminum 4.77 3.77 3.00 2.37 1.89 1.50 1.19 .942 .748 .599 .471 .371 .295 .233 .185 .146


Circular Mils

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

5180 4110 3260 2580 2050 1620 1290 1020 812 640 511 404 320 253 202 159

WIRE GAGE TABLE-SOLID CONDUCTORS Continued 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 .0113 .0100 .0089 .0080 .0071 .0083 .0056 .0050 .0045 .0040 128 100 79.2 64.0 50.4 39.7 31.40 25.0 20.2 16.0 .000100 .0000785 .0000622 .0000503 .0000396 .0000312 .0000246 .0000196 .0000159 .0000126 .387 .303 .240 .194 .153 .120 .0949 .0757 .0613 .0484 .118 .0921 .0730 .0590 .0465 .0365 .0233 .0230 .0186 .0147

Stranded conductors were developed to overcome the stiffness of solid wires. For any given wire size, the greater the number of strands, the more flexible the conductor becomes.

Concentric Stranding
A concentric stranded conductor consists of a central wire or core surrounded by one or more layers of helically laid wires. Each layer after the first has six more wires than the preceding layer. Except in compact stranding, each layer is applied in a direction opposite to that of the layer under it. If the core is a single wire and if it and all of the outer strands have the same diameter, the first layer will contain six wires; the second, twelve; the third, eighteen; etc. The following diagram shows this relationship in convenient form.

Types of Strand Construction

Approximate size comparison:








A material that has a high resistance to the flow of current to prevent leakage from the conductor to ground. There are two types of insulations, a thermoplastic and a thermoset insulation.



Thermoplastic Definition: A classification for an insulation that is extruded and quenched. It can readily be softened and re-softened by repeated heating without a substantial change in physical and chemical properties. Normal Temperature Rating 75C 60, 75, 90,105C 80C 90 to 105C 150C 150 or 200C

Types -High Molecular Weight Polyethylene HMPE -Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) -Polypropylene -Thermoplastic Elastomer TPE -Tefzel -Teflon


2. Thermoset Definition: A classification for an insulation that is extruded and then, when subject to heat and pressure, undergoes a chemical change known as vulcanization or crosslinking. The process fixes or establishes the properties of the material so that when again exposed to heat, the properties are not affected. Styrene-Butadiene Rubber (SBR or GRS) 0il Base Rubber Butyl Rubber Silicone Rubber Hypalon (Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene) (CSPE,CP)

Types -

Normal Temperature Rating 75 C 75 C 85 C 125 C 90 C


CROSSLINKED Definition: A classification for an insulation which is extruded as a thermoplastic and then converted to a thermoset compound through chemical means, through irradiation techniques, or through exposure to humidity or moisture. Normal Temperature Rating 90 C 90C

Types -Crosslinked Polyethylene (XLPE) -Ethylene-Propylene-Rubber (EPR) -EPM -EPDM

The Thermoset and Thermoplastic Process

Curing Tube


Thermoset Process

Cooling Tube


I : Insulation

Thermoplastic Process

600 volt Cable Designation


Thermoplastic, High Heat resistant, Dry or Wet (W), Nylon covered. Rated 90C dry, 75C wet.

XL polymer (thermoset), High Heat resistant, Dry or Wet (W) locations. Rated 90C dry, 75C wet. (Can not be direct buried)

-2 indicates 90C wet or dry. XHHW-2 rated 90C wet or dry















1/0 & Larger




1/0 & Larger

UL Vertical Tray Flame Test

A large scale ribbon burner flame propagation test performed in a standard configuration flame room. An 8 foot high 12-inch wide steel ladder rack with 9-inch rung spacing is mounted vertically in the center of the flame room. Test samples usually 9/c #12 Tray cable or single conductor 1/0 awg) are mounted in the tray with diameter spacing, filling the center 6inches of the tray. A 10-inch wide ribbon burner having a theoretical heat output of 70,000 Btu/hr. is placed behind the tray in a horizontal plane, 18inches from the tray bottom and 3-inches away from the cables in the tray. The burner is applied for 20 minutes, is then extinguished and the cable fire is allowed to burn itself out. The cables must not propagate flame to the top of the tray as defined by blistering or charring of the cables. Two test are performed to demonstrate reproducibility.

Medium Voltage, 5 and 15kv Cable Fundamentals


The same conductor concepts for low voltage cables do apply to medium voltage cables.

As voltage increases, projections on the surface of the conductor bundle cause concentration of electrical stress. This can lead to degradation of the insulation.

Electrical stress lines

Medium Voltage Cable Conductor (Strand) Shielding

The semi-conductive layer between conductor and insulation compensates for air voids that exist between conductor and insulation. Air is a poor insulator, having a nominal dielectric strength of only 55 volts per mil, while most cable insulations have dielectric strengths over 700 volts/mil. Without strand shielding an electrical potential exists that will over-stress these air voids. As air breaks down or ionizes, it causes corona (partial discharges). This forms ozone, which chemically deteriorates cable insulations. The semi-conductive strand shielding eliminates this potential by simply shorting out the air. Modern cables ar e generally constructed with an extruded strand shield.

Medium Voltage Insulation

The same insulating concepts for low voltage cables do apply to medium voltage cables. ie. thermoset, thermoplastic, crosslinking.

100% Insulation Level 133% Insulation Level (Grounded Neutral) (Ungrounded Neutral)

For shielded medium voltage power cables, the phase-to-phase voltage rating of the cable is specified along with an insulation level category 100% Insulation Level (IL) or 133% Insulation Level (IL). (Several years ago, these categories were referred to as Grounded Neutral (GN) and Ungrounded Neutral (UN), respectively. Some customers still use these terms.) The Insulation Level (IL) category is used to define what happens to a cable during failure conditions and determines the proper insulation thickness for the cable. 100% IL Cable in this category are used on electrical systems with relay protection such that ground faults (cable failure) will be cleared within 1-minute (i.e., fault current is transmitted to circuit breaker which opens, removing all three phases from the circuit). A normal insulation thickness can be used for these cables because no exposure to over- voltages occurs during the failure. 133% IL Cables in this category are used on electrical systems where a ground fault (cable failure) cannot be cleared in 1-minute but the faulted cables will be de-energized within 1 hour. These cables are often used on delta connected circuits or ungrounded neutral circuits. When one phase fails, the two remaining phases continue to operate but with a higher than normal voltage applied across the insulation. A greater insulation thickness is required on some cables to withstand this higher voltage. CABLE INSULATION THICKNESS COMPARISON CHART Industry Standard UL MV-90, ICEA 5kV 100% IL .090 5kV 133% IL .090 15kV-100% IL .175 15kV-133% IL .220

NOTE: Some customers specify a 133% IL Cable even though their system complies with 100% IL Definition: i.e., desire over insulated cable for lower electrical stress operation and perceived longer life.

Medium Voltage EPR

EPR - Ethylene Propylene Rubber
Good Insulating Properties Flexible; Easier to Work With Tree Retardant Premium Cost

Low Voltage - Occasionally Used Medium Voltage - Used by Some Utilities and Most Industrial Plants

Medium Voltage XLPE

XLPE Cross-Linked Polyethylene
Excellent Electrical Properties Less Expensive than EPR Physically Tough Insulation Good Aging Characteristics Stiff

Low Voltage - Widely Used Medium Voltage - Typically Used by Utilities

EPR -vs- XLPE for Medium Voltage Applications

Consideration....Typical Cable Choice Thermal Overload.....EPR Flexibility........EPR Aerial Installation...EPR or XLPE Dry Conditions...EPR or XLPE Wet Conditions..EPR or XLPE Initial Cost....... XLPE Lower Electrical Losses.... XLPE
* This is only a general Guideline. Multiple factors affect most applications. select Materials on a case-by-case basis

Base Filler (EPDM) Clay Filler Silane Zinc oxide Paraffin Wax Polyethylene Red Lead Peroxide

Polyethylene Anti-oxidant Peroxide Tree-retardant Additive for TRXLP




EPR 5 3 3
Thermal Stability Moisture Resistance S Ruggedness Flexibility Spliceability

Medium Voltage Insulation Compound Comparisons

Ratings: 4 3 3 1 1 4 4 5 5 5 = Exceptional 4 = Excellent 3 = Good 2 = Fair 1 = Poor 4 2 4 3 3 4 3 4 3 4 5 5 3 4 1 2 4 4 5 4 5 4 4 4 5 3 2 3 3 2 3 1 2 4 5 5 4 5 4 4 5 5

SIC Dielectric Strength Impulse Strength Cost Oil Resistance Chemical Res. Flame Res. Dissipation Factor Dielectric Losses

Smoke Evolvement Acid Gas Generation

Corona Resistance Electrical Stability H20

This is What We Have Built This Far

Conductor shield Conductor


Proximity of cable to ground can cause electrical stress concentration on the outer surface of the insulation.


Electrical stress lines go to ground


Electrical Stress
Electrical stress is defined as the electrical force acting on a unit positive charge.
The average radial stress is determined by the ratio of the applied voltage to the total insulation thickness:

S =


At 15kv, 220 mils insulation, S = 15 = 68 Volts per mil 220

S = Average stress in volts per mil E = Voltage applied in volts t = Insulation thickness in mils

Electrical Stress Cont.

The stress at any point in a homogeneous cable insulation is given by: S = E 2.303 r log D/d

S = Stress in volts per mil E = Voltage to ground in volts d = Diameter of conductor in mils (over strand shield) D = Diameter over insulation in mils r = Distance of point from axis in mils

Electrical Stress Cont.

As the radius of the conductor increases the electrical stresses decreases. Example: The stress at the surface of the conductor interface operating at 8660 volts to ground:

Conductor Size

Conductor Diameter d

Insulation Diameter D

Stress v/mil

4/0 500 kcmil 750 kcmil

.528 .813 .998

1.00 1.29 1.48

51.4 46.2 44.0

Insulation Shield
The function of the insulation shield is to:
Confine the electrical field within the cable Obtain symmetrical radial distribution of voltage stress within the insulation. To limit radio interference. To reduce the hazard of shock. The shield must be grounded

Equal Electrical Stress Line Distribution

Insulation shield

Electrical stress lines

Conductor shield


The Capacitor Affect

The insulation shield does not confine the voltage to the insulation. If the insulation shield is not grounded, the cable acts like a long line capacitor and presents a serious shock hazard.

C = 7.35 e Log D/d

e : dielectric constant of insulation. SIC D : OD. of insulation. (in) d : OD. of conductor including shield material (in) V

Metallic Shield
The metallic shield can either be a wire shield or tape shield.
The metallic shield is used to ground the nonmetallic insulation shield. To prevent shock hazard To provide fault current path Sometimes to provide a system neutral (URD cable)

Medium Voltage Cable with Wire Shield

Insulation Insulation shield conductor conductor shield

Wire shield

The purpose of the jacket is to:
- p: 58

Protect the underlying cable from physical abuse Protect the underlying cable from water ingress Protect the underlying cable from chemicals Protect the underlying cable from corrosion


CSPE: Chlorosulfonated polyethylene, DuPont polymer Primarily used as a thermoset jacket in 600 and Medium Voltage cables.


Chlorinated polyethylene - Primarily Used as a thermoplastic jacket. Unlike Hypalon has no sulfur


Low Smoke Zero Halogen - Primarily used as a thermoset jacket or insulation for 600 volt and a thermoplastic jacket for Medium Voltage. LSZH is a Polyolefin compound.


Fire Retardant PVC - Primarily used as a thermoplastic insulation on 600 volt cables and a jacket on 600 volt medium voltage cables. Does have chlorine,

PVC PHYSICAL PROPERTIES Tensile Strength (PSI) Elongation (%) AGING CHARACTERISTICS Air Oven, 121C, 168 Hrs. * Tensile Strength (% of Unaged Value) * Elongation (% of Unaged Value) MOISTURE RESISTANCE 7 Days in 70C Water * Mg Absorbed/Square Inch




1500 100

1400 150

1800 300

2000 160

60 8

50 25

65 35

63 14.3


FLAME RESISTANCE 20 Min. at 70,000 BTU/Hr. * Vertical Ladder Tray Test LOW TEMPERATURE RATING Cold Bend Test Temperature Passed (C) HALOGEN CONTENT (Chlorine) (%) COEFFICIENT OF DYNAMIC FRICTION () in PVC Duct LIMITED SMOKE TEST (PASS/FAIL) UL 1685





PASS -10 29

PASS -35 19

PASS -30 13.5

PASS -40 0.0

0.35 Fail

0.35 Fail

0.5 Fail

0.35 Pass

Complete Medium Voltage Cable

Insulation Insulation shield conductor conductor shield jacket Wire shield

The Manufacturing Process of 15kv Cable

Curing Tube

Thermoset Process


CS: Conductor Shield I : Insulation IS : Insulation Shield PVC Jacket

Cooling Tube

Assembled Cable

Thermoplastic Process

AWM TC TFFN PLTC Appliance Wiring Material Tray Cable Fixture Wire Power Limited Tray Cable

MTW MV-90 MV-105

Metal Clad (IA)

Machine Tool Wire Medium Voltage 90 C Medium Voltage 105 C


Cable Tray Flame Test Designation

Flame Test Designation For Wire Sunlight Resistant Direct Burial TC Optional Listing Limited Smoke

Dielectric Loss
DL = .00276 V e tan a log D/d
V : phase to neutral in kV e : dielectric constant, SIC (specific inductive capacity) tan a : power factor of insulation in decimals D : outside diameter of insulation. (in) d : outside diameter of conductor including shield material (in)


SIC 2.4 2.9

tana .0008 .0030

Megger Testing

Megger Testing
The megger test is a common electrical test performed on low (600 volt) cables after they have been pulled in to raceways or conduit. A megger test is performed with a low voltage instrument that measures the leakage current through insulation. The megger test procedure consists of applying a dc voltage to the cable being tested, with all other cables connected together and grounded. The test voltage is usually between 500 and 1,000 volts. The minimum acceptable value for insulation resistance per ICEA (S-73532) is given as: IR > 2000/ L Mega-ohms IR: Insulation Resistance L: Length of circuit in feet

Southwires 2 to 50 Megohm Rule

Acceptable: A megohm reading of 50 megohm or higher Investigate: A megohm reading between 2 50 megohm Unacceptable: A megohm reading less than 2 megohm

High Potential Hi-Pot Testing

DC Installation Testing
DC installation testing is accomplished by employing high voltage, low current dc power to the cable. Installation testing is important in that it provides assurance that no damage has occurred during installation or in handling after leaving the factory. If the cable is installed by a contractor, the test can serve as an acceptance test and assure the owner that the cable has not been damaged and should perform satisfactorily.
Recommended dc Test Voltages for Shielded Power Cable Systems From 5 - 35KV System Voltage KV Phase to Phase 5 8 15 25 28 35 Accceptance Test Voltage (KV dc, Cond-gnd) 28 36 56 75 85 100 Maintenance Test Voltage (KV dc, Cond-gnd) 23 29 46 61 68 75

Acceptance test voltage duration is normally 15 minutes. Maintenance test voltage duration is normally not less than 5 minutes or more than 15 minutes

Three Components of dc Current

The output current of the test set into the cable is not the true leakage current. It is based on the sum of the three components below. The absolute value of the output current is not of primary importance as there is no set current value for a good/bad insulation. Capacitive charging current required to charge up the capacitance between the conductor and the shield. Current decreases with an RC time constant depending on the cable length and the resistance of the set. Dielectric absorption current required to polarize the molecules in the cable dielectric. Leakage current a relatively constant value at a fixed temperature and dc voltage. A plot of leakage current and vs. test voltage should result in a straight line for good insulation.

Components of dc Proof-Test Current

Capacitive Charging Current (Ic)

C u r r e n t

Dielectric Absorption Current (Ia)

Total dc Test Current It = (Ic)+I(a)+I(l)

Leakage Current (IL)


Behavior of dc Current Good and Bad Insulation

Good Insulation The total test current should never increase appreciably at a constant dc test voltage. There should be a fairly close match in the leakage currents between the three phases at a given voltage. A drop of current with respect to time. A falling leakage curve is indicative of good insulation.

Bad Insulation A rising current at a steady voltage is an indication of questionable condition Leakage current between phases differ greatly. A rise in current with respect to time indicates a bad insulation.