Neutral Versus Ground

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Understanding Neutral versus Ground in electrical equipment installations

It may be possible that a simple rule would clarify the differences between Neutral and Ground.

It can be stated that Neutral can be grounded, but Ground is not neutral.

A Neutral represents a reference point within an electrical distribution system. Conductors connected to this reference point (Neutral) should, normally, be non current carrying conductors, sized to handle momentary faults (short circuits) occurring in electrical equipment. However, with the introduction of non linear loads, such as computers, electronic lighting, TVs, VCRs and other switch-mode power conversion equipment, the requirements for the neutral conductor has changed (increased).

A Ground represents an electrical path, normally designed to carry fault current when a insulation breakdown occurs within electrical equipment. (Note: Breakdowns can be forced by connecting (dropping) a metal tool or conductive material from a voltage potential to the steel structure within a facility.) Connections to the electrical path (Ground) are made convenient for the installation of electrical equipment. Some current will always flow through the ground path. This current will come from a number of normal sources. Capacitive coupling and Inductive coupling between power conductors and the ground path (conductive conduit, conductive structure members, etc) are the greatest sources of ground path current.

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