Grounding and Bonding

ARTICLE
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250 Grounding and Bonding
PART I. GENERAL
250.1 Scope. Article 250 contains the following grounding
and bonding requirements:
(1) What systems and equipment are required to be grounded.
(3) Location of grounding connections.
(4) Types of electrodes and sizes of grounding and bonding
conductors.
(5) Methods of grounding and bonding.
250.2 Definitions.
Bonding Jumper, Supply-Side. A conductor on the supply side
or within a service or separately derived system to ensure the
electrical conductivity between metal parts required to be electrically
connected. Figures 250–1 and 250–2
INTRODUCTION TO ARTICLE 250—GROUNDING AND BONDING
No other article can match Article 250 for misapplication, violation, and misinterpretation. The terminology used in this article has
been a source for much confusion, but that has improved during the last few NEC revisions. It’s very important to understand
the difference between grounding and bonding in order to correctly apply the provisions of Article 250. Pay careful attention to
the definitions that apply to grounding and bonding both here and in Article 100 as you begin the study of this important article.
Article 250 covers the grounding requirements for providing a path to the earth to reduce overvoltage from lightning, and the
bonding requirements for a low-impedance fault current path back to the source of the electrical supply to facilitate the operation
of overcurrent devices in the event of a ground fault.
Over the past five Code cycles, this article was extensively revised to organize it better and make it easier to understand and
implement. It’s arranged in a logical manner, so it’s a good idea to just read through Article 250 to get a big picture view—after
you review the definitions. Next, study the article closely so you understand the details. The illustrations will help you understand
the key points.
Figure 250–1
48 Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding 2011 NEC Requirements for Grounding vs. Bonding
250.2 Grounding and Bonding
The current path is shown between the supply source grounding
electrode and the grounding electrode at the service main
shows that some current will flow through the earth but the
earth is not part of the effective ground-fault current path.
The effective ground-fault current path is intended to help
remove dangerous voltage from a ground fault by opening the
circuit overcurrent device. Figure 250–4
Ground-Fault Current Path. An electrically conductive path
from a ground fault to the electrical supply source.
Note: The ground-fault current path could be metal raceways,
cable sheaths, electrical equipment, or other electrically conductive
materials, such as metallic water or gas piping, steel-framing
members, metal ducting, reinforcing steel, or the shields of
communications cables. Figure 250–5
Author’s Comment: The difference between an “effective
ground-fault current path” and a “ground-fault current
path” is the effective ground-fault current path is “intentionally”
constructed to provide a low-impedance fault
current path to the electrical supply source for the purpose
of clearing a ground fault. A ground-fault current path is all
of the available conductive paths over which fault current
flows on its return to the electrical supply source during a
ground fault.
Effective Ground-Fault Current Path. An intentionally constructed
a low-impedance conductive path designed to carry
fault current from the point of a ground fault on a wiring system
to the electrical supply source. Figure 250–3
Author’s Comment: In Figure 250–3, EGC represents
the equipment grounding conductor [259.118], MBJ represents
the main bonding jumper, SNC represents the
service neutral conductor (grounded service conductor),
GEC represents the grounding electrode conductor.
Figure 250–2
Figure 250–3
Figure 250–4
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Grounding and Bonding 250.4
Author’s Comment: System grounding helps reduce fires
in buildings as well as voltage stress on electrical insulation,
thereby ensuring longer insulation life for motors,
transformers, and other system components. Figure
250–7
Note: An important consideration for limiting imposed voltage
is to remember that grounding electrode conductors shouldn’t
be any longer than necessary and unnecessary bends and loops
should be avoided. Figure 250–8
250.4 General Requirements for Grounding and
Bonding.
(A) Solidly Grounded Systems.
(1) Electrical System Grounding. Electrical power systems,
such as the secondary winding of a transformer are grounded
(connected to the earth) to limit the voltage induced by lightning,
line surges, or unintentional contact by higher-voltage
lines. Figure 250–6
Figure 250–5
Figure 250–6
Figure 250–7
Figure 250–8
50 Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding 2011 NEC Requirements for Grounding vs. Bonding
250.4 Grounding and Bonding
Author’s Comment: Grounding metal parts helps drain
off static electricity charges before flashover potential is
reached. Static grounding is often used in areas where the
discharge (arcing) of the voltage buildup (static) can cause
dangerous or undesirable conditions [500.4 Note 3].
DANGER: Because the contact resistance of an electrode
to the earth is so high, very little fault current
returns to the power supply if the earth is the only
fault current return path. Result—the circuit overcurrent
device won’t open and clear the ground fault, and
all metal parts associated with the electrical installation,
metal piping, and structural building steel will become
and remain energized. Figure 250–11
(3) Equipment Bonding. Metal parts of electrical raceways,
cables, enclosures, and equipment must be connected to
the supply source via the effective ground-fault current path.
Figures 250–12 and 250–13
(2) Equipment Grounding. Metal parts of electrical equipment
are grounded (connected to the earth) to reduce induced voltage
on metal parts from exterior lightning so as to prevent fires
from an arc within the building/structure. Figure 250–9
DANGER: Failure to ground the metal parts can result
in high voltage on metal parts from an indirect lightning
strike to seek a path to the earth within the building—
possibly resulting in a fire and/or electric shock. Figure
250–10
Figure 250–9
Figure 250–10
Figure 250–11
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Grounding and Bonding 250.4
• The time it takes for an overcurrent device to open is
inversely proportional to the magnitude of the fault current.
This means the higher the ground-fault current
value, the less time it will take for the overcurrent device
to open and clear the fault. For example, a 20A circuit
with an overload of 40A (two times the 20A rating) takes
25 to 150 seconds to open the overcurrent device. At
100A (five times the 20A rating) the 20A breaker trips in
5 to 20 seconds. Figure 250–15
Author’s Comments:
• To quickly remove dangerous touch voltage on metal
parts from a ground fault, the fault current path must
have sufficiently low impedance to the source so that
fault current will quickly rise to a level that will open the
branch-circuit overcurrent device. Figure 250–14
Figure 250–12
Figure 250–13
Figure 250–14
Figure 250–15
52 Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding 2011 NEC Requirements for Grounding vs. Bonding
250.4 Grounding and Bonding
Because the earth isn’t suitable to serve as the required effective
ground-fault current path, an equipment grounding conductor
is required to be installed with all circuits. Figure 250–19
(4) Bonding Conductive Materials. Electrically conductive
materials such as metal water piping systems, metal sprinkler
piping, metal gas piping, and other metal-piping systems,
as well as exposed structural steel members likely to
become energized, must be connected to the supply source
via an equipment grounding conductor of a type recognized in
250.118. Figure 250–16
Author’s Comment: The phrase “likely to become energized”
is subject to interpretation by the authority having
jurisdiction.
(5) Effective Ground-Fault Current Path. Metal parts of electrical
raceways, cables, enclosures, or equipment must be bonded
together and to the supply system in a manner that creates a
low-impedance path for ground-fault current that facilitates the
operation of the circuit overcurrent device. Figure 250–17
Author’s Comment: To ensure a low-impedance groundfault
current path, all circuit conductors must be grouped
together in the same raceway, cable, or trench [300.3(B),
300.5(I), and 300.20(A)]. Figure 250–18
Figure 250–16
Figure 250–18
Figure 250–17
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Grounding and Bonding 250.4
DANGER: Because the contact resistance of an electrode
to the earth is so high, very little fault current returns to
the power supply if the earth is the only fault current
return path. Result—the circuit overcurrent device won’t
open and all metal parts associated with the electrical
installation, metal piping, and structural building steel
will become and remain energized. Figure 250–21
Question: What’s the maximum fault current that can flow
through the earth to the power supply from a 120V ground
fault to metal parts of a light pole that’s grounded (connected
to the earth) via a ground rod having a contact
resistance to the earth of 25 ohms? Figure 250–20
(a) 4.80A (b) 20A (c) 40A (d) 100A
Answer: (a) 4.80A
I = E/R
I = 120V/25 ohms
I = 4.80A
Figure 250–19
Figure 250–20
Figure 250–21
EARTH SHELLS
According to ANSI/IEEE 142, Recommended Practice for
Grounding of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems
(Green Book) [4.1.1], the resistance of the soil outward
from a ground rod is equal to the sum of the series resistances
of the earth shells. The shell nearest the rod has
the highest resistance and each successive shell has
progressively larger areas and progressively lower resistances.
Don’t be concerned if you don’t understand this
statement; just review the table below. Figure 250–22
Distance from Rod Soil Contact Resistance
1 ft (Shell 1) 68% of total contact resistance
3 ft (Shells 1 and 2) 75% of total contact resistance
5 ft (Shells 1, 2, and 3) 86% of total contact resistance
54 Mike Holt’s Illustrated Guide to Understanding 2011 NEC Requirements for Grounding vs. Bonding
250.4 Grounding and Bonding
CAUTION: Connecting metal parts to the earth (grounding)
serves no purpose in electrical shock protection.
(2) Equipment Bonding. Metal parts of electrical raceways,
cables, enclosures, or equipment must be bonded together in
a manner that creates a low-impedance path for ground-fault
current to facilitate the operation of the circuit overcurrent
device.
Since voltage is directly proportional to resistance, the
voltage gradient of the earth around an energized ground
rod will be as follows, assuming a 120V ground fault:
Distance from Rod Soil Contact
Resistance
Voltage
Gradient
1 ft (Shell 1) 68% 82V
3 ft (Shells 1 and 2) 75% 90V
5 ft (Shells 1, 2, and 3) 86% 103V
(B) Ungrounded Systems.
Author’s Comment: Ungrounded systems are those systems
with no connection to the ground or to a conductive
body that extends the ground connection [Article 100].
Figure 250–23
(1) Equipment Grounding. Metal parts of electrical equipment
are grounded (connected to the earth) to reduce induced voltage
on metal parts from exterior lightning so as to prevent fires
from an arc within the building/structure. Figure 250–24
Author’s Comment: Grounding metal parts helps drain
off static electricity charges before an electric arc takes
place (flashover potential). Static grounding is often used
in areas where the discharge (arcing) of the voltage
buildup (static) can cause dangerous or undesirable conditions
[500.4 Note 3].
Figure 250–23
Figure 250–24
Figure 250–22
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Grounding and Bonding 250.6
Author’s Comment: A single ground fault can’t be
cleared on an ungrounded system because there’s no lowimpedance
fault current path to the power source. The first
ground fault simply grounds the previously ungrounded
system. However, a second ground fault on a different
phase results in a line-to-line short circuit between the two
ground faults. The conductive path, between the ground
faults, provides the low-impedance fault current path necessary
so the overcurrent device will open.
250.6 Objectionable Current.
(A) Preventing Objectionable Current. To prevent a fire, electric
shock, or improper operation of circuit overcurrent devices
or electronic equipment, electrical systems and equipment
must be installed in a manner that prevents objectionable neutral
current from flowing on metal parts.
(C) Temporary Currents Not Classified as Objectionable
Currents. Temporary currents from abnormal conditions, such
as ground faults, aren’t to be classified as objectionable current.
Figure 250–27
(D) Limitations to Permissible Alterations. Currents that
introduce noise or data errors in electronic equipment are not
considered objectionable currents for the purposes of this section.
Circuits that supply electronic equipment must be connected
to an equipment grounding conductor.
The fault current path must be capable of safely carrying the
maximum ground-fault current likely to be imposed on it from
any point on the wiring system where a ground fault may occur
to the electrical supply source.
(3) Bonding Conductive Materials. Conductive materials such
as metal water piping systems, metal sprinkler piping, metal
gas piping, and other metal-piping systems, as well as exposed
structural steel members likely to become energized must be
bonded together in a manner that creates a low-impedance
fault current path that’s capable of carrying the maximum fault
current likely to be imposed on it. Figure 250–25
Author’s Comment: The phrase “likely to become energized”
is subject to interpretation by the authority having
jurisdiction.
(4) Fault Current Path. Electrical equipment, wiring, and
other electrically conductive material likely to become energized
must be installed in a manner that creates a low-impedance
fault current path to facilitate the operation of overcurrent
devices should a second ground fault from a different phase
occur. Figure 250–26
Figure 250–25
Figure 250–26


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