The process of earthing is to connect all these parts which could become charged to the general mass of earth, to provide a path for fault currents and to hold the parts as close as possible to earth potential. In simple theory this will prevent a potential difference between earth and earthed parts, as well as permitting the flow of fault current which will cause the operation of the protective systems. The standard method of tying the electrical supply system to earth is to make a direct connection between the two. This is usually carried out at the supply transformer, where the neutral conductor (often the star point of a three-phase supply) is connected to earth using an earth electrode or the metal sheath and armouring of a buried cable. Lightning conductor systems must be bonded to the installation earth with a conductor no larger in cross-sectional area than that of the earthing conductor. The advantages of earthing The practice of earthing is widespread, but not all countries in the world use it. There is certainly a high cost involved, so there must be some advantages.
In fact there are two. They are:
- The whole electrical system is tied to the potential of the general mass of earth and can not ‘float’ at another potential. For example, we can be fairly certain that the neutral of our supply is at, or near, zero volts (earth potential) and that the phase conductors of our standard supply differ from earth by 240 volts.
- By connecting earth to metalwork not intended to carry current (an extraneous conductive part or an exposed conductive part) by using a protective conductor, a path is provided for fault current which can be detected and, if necessary, broken.