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Finding that Elusive Ground Fault

George Pederson

J. Allen Byrne

In PRC-005 the three parameters of a DC system that are required to be checked and verified most frequently are the system voltage, electrolyte level (for VLA and NiCad) and for unintentional grounds. Checking for that ground fault is relatively simple and many battery chargers incorporate a ground fault detection system which will generate an alarm if a ground fault is detected. The problems start when you try to find where the ground fault exists within the DC power system. This paper will provide a quick overview of the most typical methods by which ground faults are identified and the potential impact that the methodology used has on finding the actual location of the fault. This will be followed by a review of the most often suggested methods by which the location of the fault can be identified, and an explanation as to the potential risks associated with many of these methods. An explanation of how a low frequency AC signal can be used to locate the ground fault and the limitation that might have with the use of microprocessor-based controls rather than relays. Case studies will be used to demonstrate the challenges that occur in trying to find that elusive fault.

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