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Bonding Not Grounding

Here are some of my thoughts on grounding and bonding for transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) or surge protective device (SPD) applications.

There are two basic rules for the proper application of TVSS. The first rule is to meet the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) bonding and grounding requirements (and, NFPA 780, "The Installation of Lightning Protection Systems" the Lightning Protection Code as required). If we do this, we will establish a ground reference point for the TVSS. The establishment of this ground reference point is accomplished by proper bonding procedures, not grounding.

Figure 1 below shows a bonding scheme for protection from externally generated transients, such as those produced by lightning activity, normal utility switching operations and noisy electrical neighbors.

Figure 1

The key points to note in Figure 1 above are:

  • We have established a single-point ground reference for the various services and the various protection device ground leads.
  • The protection devices provide a "temporary bond" during transient events.
  • The temporary bond(s) are referenced to the same single-point ground reference.
  • This arrangement the minimizes the potential difference between the circuits.
  • By minimizing the surge potential differences, we minimize the possibility of damage due to the potential differences.

The effect of this arrangement is analogous to placing the facility and equipment in a boat. As the tide comes in (the surge voltage increases), the facility and equipment all rise together inside the boat. The facility and equipment are not aware of the tidal change (surge voltage rise). As the tide recedes (the surge voltage decreases) the boat, the facility and equipment all fall together and are unaware of the tidal (surge voltage) activity.

  • The facility and equipment have no idea what the earth grounding system resistance and impedance are and really don't care.

It is always important to meet the applicable codes. Considerable sums of money have been spent attempting to reduce the earth grounding system resistance. From the standpoint of surge and transient protection, bonding is the critical issue. We can protect aircraft and 911 vehicles. Neither the aircraft nor the 911 vehicles are dragging ground rods along behind them. Additionally, we can protect installations situated upon solid rock that exhibit extremely high earth ground resistances.


Karl B. Clark, E.E., E.I.T.
Power Quality Consultant
Spring Hill, FL 34608

Mike Holt's Comment: Yep you are correct. A lot of engineers are designing systems where they have the contractor install lots of copper in the ground to achieve a low resistance, sometimes as low as 3 ohm or even 1 ohm.

For the life of me I can't figure what why the industry spend so much money, time, and effort on grounding. The important thing is that all metal parts of electrical installations be properly bonded together to provide the low impedance path for fault current to the source [250.4(A)(3) and 250.4(A)(5)]. And as you clearly demonstrated Karl, bonding is critical to accomplish proper TVSS protection as well as preventing voltage differences between systems [800.40, 810.21, 820.40 and 830.40].

No matter how much copper you put in the ground (low the ground resistance), it cannot replace proper bonding.

For those of you that feel that grounding (lots of copper stuff in the earth) is important, please let me know your thoughts why, but please have something to support your comments.

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Grounding and Bonding Book — 2002


Grounding and Bonding textbook is all new and printed in full color. Loaded with detailed, color coded graphics, this text gets to the root of all problems associated with grounding and bonding.

Product Code: 02NCT2
Pages: 94
Illustrations: 206

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