Rather than using a theoretical approach to determine short-circuit currents, published standards offer methods to compute a symmetrical steady state solution to which you can apply a multiplier in order to obtain the peak value of an asymmetrical current. The result is precise enough to fall within an acceptable tolerance to meet NEC requirements.

The classical approach and the method defined by ANSI/IEEE are two such industry-accepted methods for calculating short circuits. Both methods assume that the fault impedance is zero (bolted short circuit) and the pre-fault voltage is constant during the evolution of the fault. In actuality, the fault has its own impedance, and the voltage drop, due to the short-circuit current, lowers the driving voltage.

The classical approach is used to calculate the Thevenin equivalent impedance as “seen” by the system at the point of the fault. Thevenin impedance is defined as the impedance seen at any point in a circuit once all the voltage generators have been short circuited and all the current generators have been opened. Transformer and utility impedances and rotating machine subtransient reactances describe all possible contributions to a short circuit. Once we have calculated the symmetrical and peak duties, we can determine the required rating of the protective device by direct comparison to manufacturer equipment ratings.

The ANSI/IEEE method, which is described in IEEE Std. C37.010-1979 and its revision in 1999, is used for high-voltage (above 100V) equipment. It calls for determining the momentary network fault impedance, which makes it possible to calculate the close and latch rating of the breaker. It also calls for identifying the interrupting network fault impedance, which makes it possible to calculate the interrupting duty of the breaker. The interrupting network fault impedance value differs from the momentary network fault impedance value in that the impedance increases from the subtransient to transient level.

The IEEE standard permits the exclusion of all 3-phase induction motors below 50 hp and all single-phase motors. Hence, no reactance adjustment is needed for these motors. The Chart at left clarifies the ANSI/IEEE procedure.