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Overcurrent protection principles

A protective device is provided at the origin of the circuit concerned


to cut-off the current in a time shorter than that given by the I2t characteristic of the circuit cabling allowing the maximum load current IB to flow indefinitely


Protection against overcurrents

Under fault conditions it is the conductor itself that is susceptible to damage and must be protected.

Let-through energy

The cut-off point is where the fault current is interrupted and an arc is formed; the time t1 taken to reach this point is called the pre-arcing time. The time t2 is the total time taken to disconnect the fault During the time t1, the protective device is allowing energy to pass through to the load side of the circuit. This energy is known as the pre-arcing let-through energy and is given by I2t1, where I is the fault current. The total let-through energy from start to disconnection of the fault is given by I2t2

I2t Characteristic of insulated conductor

Insulated conductors when carrying short-circuit currents (for periods up to 5 seconds following short-circuit initiation) can be determined approximately by the formula: I2t = k2S2
t: Duration of short-circuit current (s) S: Cross sectional area of insulated conductor (mm2) I: Short-circuit current (A r.m.s.) k: Insulated conductor constant

Limiting Temperatures for Common Materials

Circuit protection

cut-off the current in a time shorter than the I2t characteristic of cabling allow the load current IB to flow indefinitely

Overload Protection Requirements

Fundamental requirement according to 433.1.1 is Ib In Iz

where Ib is the design current of the circuit, In is the nominal current or current setting of the protective device, Iz is the current-carrying capacity of the conductor in the particular installation conditions.

Fault Current Protection Requirements

Fault current protection must usually be provided at the origin of each circuit, or more generally, where there is a reduction in the size of conductor and hence in the fault current withstand capacity The regulations require that the prospective short-circuit current at the origin of the installation be established.
Under certain conditions, the fault current protection may be located on the load side of normally recommended position . Under certain circumstances, the fault current protection may be omitted altogether .

Fault protection requirements

For protection against short circuit, the overcurrent device must be able to:

withstand the short circuit current (device breaking capacity); and disconnect sufficiently quickly to prevent damage to the cables.

Fault Protection



The factor 1.45 is based on experience and investigation.


Practical values for a protective scheme-General rules