Building Design and Construction

# Circuit and Conductor Calculations

Equations (15.27) and (15.28) contain a factor R that represents the resistance in ohms to direct current of 1 mil-ft of wire. The value of R may be taken as 10.7 for copper and 17.7 for aluminum. Tables in the National Fire Protection Association ‘‘National Electrical Code Handbook’’ give the resistance, ohms per 1000 ft, for various sizes of conductors. For small wire sizes, up to No. 3, resistance is the same for alternating and direct current. But above No. 3, ac resistance is larger, and this value as given in the handbook should be applied.
Voltage drops used in design may range from 1 to 5% of the service voltage.
Some codes set a maximum for voltage drop of 2.5% for combined light and power circuits from service entry to the building to point of final distribution at branch panels.
When this voltage drop is apportioned to the various parts of the circuit, it is economical to assign the greater part, say 1.5 to 2%, to the smaller, more numerous feeders, and only 0.5 to 1% to the heavy main feeders between the service and main distribution panels. Tables in the NFPA handbook give the maximum allowable current for each wire size for copper and aluminum wire and the area, in circular mils, to be used in the voltage-drop formulas.
First, select the minimum-size wire allowed by the building code, and test it for voltage drop. If this drop is excessive, test a larger size, until one is found for which the voltage drop is within the desired limit. This trial-and-error process can be shortened by first assuming the desired voltage drop, and then computing the required wire area with Eqs. (15.27) and (15.28). The wire size can be selected from the handbook tables.
For circuits designed for motor loads only, no lighting, the maximum voltage drop may be increased to a total of 5%. Of this, 1% can be assigned to branch circuits and 4% to feeders.
Tables in the handbook also give dimensions of trade sizes of conduit and tubing and permissible numbers of conductors that can be placed in each size.

Motors have a high starting current that lasts a very short time. But it may be 4 to 6 times as high as the rated current when running. Although motor windings will not be damaged by a high current of short duration, they cannot take currents much greater than the rated value for long periods without excessive overheating and consequent breakdown of the insulation.
Overcurrent protective devices, fuses and circuit breakers, should be selected to protect motors from overcurrents of long duration, and yet permit short-duration starting currents to pass without disconnecting the circuit. For this reason, the National Electrical Code permits the fuse or circuit breaker in a motor circuit to have a higher ampere rating than the allowable current-carrying capacity of the wire.

Tables in the NFPA handbook give the overcurrent protection for motors allowed by the Code and data on time-delay fuses that permit smaller fuse holders for a given-size motor than with standard fuses.
The National Electrical Code requirements for motor circuit conductors and overcurrent protection are as follows:

Branch Circuits (One Motor). Conductors shall have an ampacity not less than 125% of the motor full-load current. Overcurrent protection, fuses or circuit breakers, must be capable of carrying the starting current of the motor. Maximum rating of such protection varies with the type, starting method, and locked-rotor current of the motor. For the great majority of motor applications in buildings, conductor and fuse protection may be selected from Tables 15.2 and 15.3.
Feeder Circuits (More than One Motor on a Conductor). The conductor should have an allowable current-carrying capacity not less than 125% of the full-load current of the largest motor plus the sum of the full-load currents of the remaining motors on the same circuit. The rating of overcurrent protection, fuses or circuit breakers, shall not be greater than the maximum allowed by the code for protection of the largest motor plus the sum of the full-load currents of the remaining motors on the circuit.
If the allowable current-carrying capacity of the conductor or the size of the computed overcurrent device does not correspond to the rating of a standard-size fuse or circuit breaker, the next larger standard size should be used.
Amp-Traps and Hi-Caps are high-interrupting-capacity current-limiting fuses used in service switches and main distribution panels connected near service switches. This type of fuse is needed here because this part of the wiring system in large buildings consists of heavy cables or buses and large switches that have very little resistance. If a short circuit occurs, very high currents will flow, limited only by the interrupting capacity of the protective device installed by the utility company on its own transformers furnishing the service. Ordinary fuses cannot interrupt this current quickly enough to avert damage to the building wiring and connected electrical equipment. The interrupting-capacity value needed can be obtained  from the utility company.
Fuses in service switches and connected main panels should have current-time characteristics that will isolate only the circuit in which a short occurs, without permitting the short-circuit current to pass to other feeders and interrupt those circuits too. The electrical designer should obtain data from manufacturers of approved fusing devices on the proper sequence of fusing.