Does Grounding the Neutral Wire Increase Fire Hazards?

Does Grounding the Neutral Wire Increase Fire Hazards?

There exists a difference of opinion among electricians, says The Age, as to the advisability of grounding electric light wires. One party contends that such practice increases the fire hazard, while the other argues from the opposite standpoint. The investigation into this important subject which the New York Board of Fire Underwriters recently undertook, resulted, on March 10, at a special meeting, in the offering of a set of resolutions requiring that electric companies discontinue the practice of intentionally grounding any portion of their equipment, and requiring that all such grounds now existing shall be removed on or before October 1 next. This action was based upon the report of Prof. Henry Morton in answer to questions propounded by the committee on police and origin of fires, with reference to fire hazards from the grounding of electric wires, and particularly the middle or “ neutral ” wire in the Edison system.

Prof. Morton is emphatic in his utterances, and states that in his opinion grounding the middle wire decidedly increases the fire risk. On the other hand, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company, replying to Prof. Morton’s report, states that “ it is the general opinion of the Edison interest that while absolute insulation, if it can be had, is preferable (to the grounding of the neutral wire), the advantages of grounding the neutral under certain conditions, and particularly on large systems, are such as to make that practice in those cases the best working method, particularly as a precaution against fire risk.” The resolutions will be considered and acted upon at the next meeting of the board, and the result will be awaited with interest, as the interests involved are large and important.

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