|IEC voltage range||AC||DC||defining risk|
|High voltage (supply system)||> 1000 Vrms||> 1500 V||electrical arcing|
|Low voltage (supply system)||50–1000 Vrms||120–1500 V||electrical shock|
|Extra-low voltage (supply system)||< 50 Vrms||< 120 V||low risk|
Extra-low voltage (ELV) a general definition of a voltage range in electricity supply, used as a means to protect against dangerous electrical shock. There are various standards that define Extra-Low Voltage (ELV) The International Electrotechnical Commission member organizations and the UK IET (BS 7671:2008) define an ELV device or circuit as one in which the electrical potential between conductor or electrical conductor and earth (ground) does not exceed 50v a.c. or 120v d.c. (ripple free).
The IEC and IET go on to define actual types of extra-low voltage systems, for example SELV, PELV, FELV. These can be supplied using sources including motor / fossil fuel generator sets, transformers, switched PSU's or rechargeable battery. SELV, PELV, FELV, are distinguished by various safety properties, supply characteristics and design voltages.
Some types of landscape lighting use SELV / PELV (extra-low voltage) systems. Modern battery operated hand tools fall in the SELV category. In more arduous conditions 25 volts RMS alternating current / 60 volts (ripple-free) direct current can be specified to further reduce hazard. Lower voltage can apply in wet or conductive conditions where there is even greater potential for electric shock. These systems should still fall under the SELV / PELV (ELV) safety specifications.
- 1 Types
- 2 Stand-alone power systems
- 3 Regulations
- 4 References
This section is ordered from system considered safest, to those less restrictive. It should be noted that voltage will vary depending on the design of equipment, it's use, application and other potential requirements
Separated or safety extra-low voltage (SELV)
IEC defines a SELV system as "an electrical system in which the voltage cannot exceed ELV under normal conditions, and under single-fault conditions, including earth faults in other circuits". It is generally accepted that the acronym: "SELV" stands for "separated extra-low voltage" (separated from earth) as defined in installation standards (e.g., BS 7671), though BS EN 60335 refers to it as "safety extra-low voltage".
A SELV circuit must have:
- electrical protective-separation (i.e., double insulation, reinforced insulation or protective screening) from all circuits other than SELV and PELV (i.e., all circuits that might carry higher voltages)
- simple separation from other SELV systems, from PELV systems and from earth (ground).
The safety of a SELV circuit is provided by
- the extra-low voltage
- the low risk of accidental contact with a higher voltage;
- the lack of a return path through earth (ground) that electric current could take in case of contact with a human body.
The design of a SELV circuit typically involves an isolating transformer, guaranteed minimum distances between conductors and electrical insulation barriers. The electrical connectors of SELV circuits should be designed such that they do not mate with connectors commonly used for non-SELV circuits.
Protected extra-low voltage (PELV)
IEC 61140 defines a PELV system as "an electrical system in which the voltage cannot exceed ELV under normal conditions, and under single-fault conditions, except earth faults in other circuits".
A PELV circuit only requires protective-separation from all circuits other than SELV and PELV (i.e., all circuits that might carry higher voltages), but it may have connections to other PELV systems and earth (ground).
In contrast to a SELV circuit, a PELV circuit can have a protective earth (ground) connection. A PELV circuit, just as with SELV, requires a design that guarantees a low risk of accidental contact with a higher voltage. For a transformer, this can mean that the primary and secondary windings must be separated by an extra insulation barrier, or by a conductive shield with a protective earth connection.
Functional extra-low voltage (FELV)
The term functional extra-low voltage (FELV) describes any other extra-low-voltage circuit that does not fulfill the requirements for an SELV or PELV circuit. Although the FELV part of a circuit uses an extra-low voltage, it is not adequately protected from accidental contact with higher voltages in other parts of the circuit. Therefore the protection requirements for the higher voltage have to be applied to the entire circuit.
Examples for FELV circuits include those that generate an extra low voltage through a semiconductor device or a potentiometer or a transformer. A typical example is an electronically controlled toaster where the timer circuit runs off extra low voltage derived from a tap on the heating element. Another is the old door-bell circuit fed from a transformer.
(UK Reduced low voltage - RLV)
The IET / BSI (BS 7671) also define Reduced low voltage (RLV) which can be either single phase or three phase A.C. This system has been used for many years on construction sites. Both single and three phase. The single phase voltage is 110v a.c. though having a "centre tapped Earth" reducing the voltage to Earth to 55v a.c. The three phase is 63v to Neutral / Earth. This systems slightly outside ELV but still very commonly used for chord powered hand tools and temporary lighting in hazardous areas. (and is worth noting here)
Stand-alone power systems
Cabling for extra-low voltage systems, such as in remote-area power systems (RAPS), is designed to minimise energy losses while maximising safety. Lower voltages require a higher current for the same power. The higher current results in greater resistive losses in the cabling. Cable sizing must therefore consider maximum demand, voltage drop over the cable, and current-carrying capacity. Voltage drop is usually the main factor considered, but current-carrying capacity is as important when considering short, high-current runs such as between a battery bank and inverter.
Arcing is a risk in DC ELV systems, and some fuse types which can cause undesired arcing include semi-enclosed, rewireable and automotive fuse types. Instead high rupturing capacity fuses and appropriately rated circuit breakers are the recommended type for RAPS. Cable termination and connections must be done properly to avoid arcing also, and soldering is not recommended.
Australia and New Zealand
ELV is defined in AS/NZS 3000 Wiring Rules as "Not exceeding 50 V a.c or 120 V ripple-free d.c." However, AS/ACIF S009 Clause 18.104.22.168 Extra-Low Voltage (ELV)states: "a voltage not exceeding 42.4 V peak or 60 V d.c.[AS/NZS 60950.1:2003]" and adds a note: "This definition differs from the ELV definition contained in AS/NZS 3000:2000" which is more closely aligned to the Telecommunications Network Voltage (TNV) limits ... i.e. 120 V d.c. or 70.7 V a.c. peak (50 V a.c. r.m.s.)"
TNV is the traditional line limit to accommodate telephone ringing machine voltage (ripple)from a current limiting source on top of the nominally -48Vdc battery supply which could be encountered on a telephone line and was not considered hazardous, whereas 120Vac without current limiting at its source can inject 115mA into individuals leading to fibrillation of the heart. In most Australian states (but not all) there are no formal constraints as to who can work on ELV systems. AS 4509.1 Stand-alone Power Systems: Safety requires that work be performed by a "competent person" that is "a person who has acquired through training, qualifications, experience, or a combination of these, knowledge and skill enabling that person to correctly perform the task required".
ELV wiring in domestic premises must be installed at a minimum distance of 50 mm from low voltage wiring or have a separate insulating barrier such a conduit. ELV cable and wire types include PVC insulated building wire, double insulated Thermo-Plastic Sheath (TPS), and fine stranded multi-strand cable (like automotive cable, although this may only be rated to 32 V DC, and not the full ELV range).
State regulations override the Australian Standards, and there are some differences.
ELV (Extra-baixa tensão or EBT in Portuguese) is officially defined into the Regulatory Standard no. 10 from the Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment as any voltage "not exceeding 50 volts a.c. or 120 volts d.c.". Although that standard defines safety rules for electricity, the Regulatory Standard no. 12 requires an even lower voltage for start and stop devices on machines and equipment made from March 2012 and on, stating it shall not exceed 25 volts a.c. or 60 volts d.c.
UK IET / BS 7671:2008 (inc. Anendment 3)
Voltage, nominal: "Extra-Low Voltage" Not exceeding 50v a.c. or 120v ripple free d.c., whether between conductors or Earth
Also SELV, PELV, FELV, "Voltage Band I". (Not to be muddled with Reduced Low Voltage (RLV) 110v a.c. commonly used for temporary power on construction sites).
- BS 7671
- DIN/VDE 0100-410
- IEC 60364-4-41: Low-voltage electrical installations – Part 4-41: Protection for safety – Protection against electric shock.
- IEC 61140: Protection against electric shock – Common aspects for installation and equipment.
- Stand-alone Power Systems Components. Edition 1 (Dec 2002) Resource Book. Renewable Energy Centre. ISBN 1-876880-31-7
- "NR-10 atualizada - Glossário" [updated NR-10 - Glossary] (PDF). Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment Website (in Portuguese). December 7, 2004. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- "NR-12 atualizada - item 12.36" [updated NR-12 - Item 12.36] (PDF). Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment Website (in Portuguese). June 25, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015.