Open-wire construction consists of uninsulated conductors on insulators which are mounted on poles or structures. The conductor may be bare or it may have a thin covering for protection from corrosion or abrasion. The attractive features of this method are its low initial cost and the fact that damage can be detected and repaired quickly.
On the other hand, the uninsulated conductors are a safety hazard and are also highly susceptible to mechanical damage and electrical outages resulting from short circuits caused by birds or animals. Proper vertical clearances over roadways, walkways, and structures are critical. Exposed open-wire circuits are also more susceptible to the effects of lightning than other circuits, however, these effects may be minimized by the use of overhead ground wires and lightning arresters.
In addition, there is an increased hazard where crane or boom truck use may be involved. In some areas contamination on insulators and conductor corrosion can result in high maintenance costs.
2. Aerial Cable
Aerial cable consists of fully insulated conductors suspended above the ground. This type of installation is used increasingly, generally for replacing open wiring, where it provides greater safety and reliability and requires less space.
Properly protected cables are not a safety hazard and are not easily damaged by casual contact.
They do, however, have the same disadvantage as open-wire construction, requiring proper vertical clearances over roadways, walkways, and structures.
Aerial cables may be either self-supporting or messenger-supported. They may be attached to pole lines or structures. Self-supporting aerial cables have high tensile strength for this application. Cables may be messenger-supported either by spirally wrapping a steel band around the cables and the messenger or by pulling the cable through rings suspended from the messenger.
Self-supporting cable is suitable for only relatively short distances, with spans in the range of 100-150 feet. Messenger-supported cable can span relatively large distances, of over 1000 feet, depending on the weight of the cable and the tensile strength of the messenger. For this reason, aerial cable that must span relatively large distances usually consists of aluminum conductors to reduce the weight of the cable assembly.
The supporting messenger provides high strength to withstand climatic rigors or mechanical shock. It may also serve as the grounding conductor of the power circuit.
3. Above-Ground Conduits
Rigid steel conduit systems afford the highest degree of mechanical protection available in above-ground conduit systems. Unfortunately, this is also a relatively high-cost system. For this reason their use is being superseded, where possible, by other types of conduit and wiring systems.
Where applicable, rigid aluminum, intermediate-grade steel conduit, thin-wall EMT, intermediate-grade metal conduit, plastic, fiber and asbestos-cement ducts are being used.
4. Underground Ducts
Underground ducts are used where it is necessary to provide a high degree of safety and mechanical protection, or where above-ground conductors would be unattractive.
Underground ducts use rigid steel, plastic, fiber, and asbestos-cement conduits encased in concrete, or precast multi-hole concrete with close fitting joints.
Clay tile is also used to some extent. Where the added mechanical protection of concrete is not required, heavy wall versions of fiber and asbestos-cement and rigid steel and plastic conduits are direct buried.
Cables used in underground conduits must be suitable for use in wet areas, and protected against abrasion during installation.
5. Direct Burial
Cables may be buried directly in the ground where permitted by codes and only in areas that are rarely disturbed. The cables used must be suitable for this purpose, that is, resistant to moisture, crushing, soil contaminants, and insect and rodent damage. While direct-buried cable cannot be readily added to or maintained, the current carrying capacity is usually greater than that of cables in ducts. Buried cable must have selected backfill.
It must be used only where the chance of disturbance is unlikely. The cable must be suitably protected, however, if used where the chance of disturbance is more likely to occur.
Relatively recent advances in the design and operating characteristics of cable fault location equipment and subsequent repair methods and material have diminished the maintenance problem.
6. Underwater (Submarine) Cable
Submarine cable is used only when no other cable system can be used. It supplies circuits that must cross expanses of water or swampy terrain.
Submarine cable generally consists of a lead sheathed cable and is usually armored. Insulation material should be XLP or EPR, except when paper insulation is justified because of its high resistance to, and freedom from, internal discharge or corona.
Multiconductor construction should be used, unless limited by physical factors. The lead sheathing usually consists of a copper-bearing lead material, however, other alloys may be required when special conditions warrant nonstandard sheathing. The most common type of armoring material used for submarine cables is the spirally wrapped round galvanized steel wire.
In this type of cable, asphalt impregnated jute is usually applied over the lead sheath and the wire armor is applied over the jute to reduce mechanical damage and electrolytic corrosion. An additional covering of the asphalt impregnated jute may be applied over the wire armor.
Nonmetallic sheathed cables are sometimes suitable for certain submarine applications. The cable must be manufactured specifically for submarine service and, generally, has an increased insulation thickness. The cable may require wire armor and should have electrical shielding for all voltage ratings above 600 V.
Submarine cable should lie on the floor of the body of water and should have ample slack so that slight shifting caused by current or turbulence will not place excessive strain on the cable. Where the cable crossing is subject to flow or tidal currents, anchors are often used to prevent excessive drifting or shifting of the cable. In addition to laying cables directly on the bottom, burying cable in a trench using the jet water method should be considered.
Cables must be buried in waters where marine traffic is present. The depth of burial should be enough to prevent damage caused by dragging anchors, which may be in excess of 15 feet for large ships on sandy bottoms.
Warning signs located on shore at the ends of the submarine cable should be provided to prohibit anchoring in the immediate vicinity of the cable.