Insulation resistance tests are typically performed on motors, circuit breakers, transformers, low-voltage (unshielded) cables, switchboards, and panel boards to determine if degradation due to aging, environmental, or other factors has affected the integrity of the insulation. This test is normally conducted for 1 min, and the insulation resistance value is then recorded.

As mentioned earlier, the electrical properties of the insulation and the amount of surface area directly affect the capacitance between the conductor and ground, and therefore affect the charging time. With larger motors, generators, and transformers, a common test is to measure the "dielectric absorption ratio" or the "polarization index" of the piece of equipment being tested.

The dielectric absorption ratio is the 1 min insulation resistance reading divided by the 30 s insulation resistance reading. The polarization index is the 10 min (continuous) insulation resistance reading divided by the 1 min reading.

Both of these provide additional information as to the quality of the insulation. Many types of insulation become dry and brittle as they age, thereby becoming less effective capacitors.

Thus, a low polarization index (less than 2.0) may indicate poor insulation. Even though insulation may have a high insulation resistance reading, there could still be a problem, since the motor and transformer windings are subjected to strong mechanical stresses on starting.

With the exception of electronic equipment (which can be damaged by testing), insulation resistance testing is normally done on most types of new equipment and is also part of a maintenance program. It is a good practice to perform insulation resistance testing on switchgear and panelboards after maintenance has been performed on them, just prior to re-energizing them. This prevents re-energizing the equipment with safety grounds still applied or with tools accidentally left inside.

High-potential testing, as its name implies, utilizes higher levels of voltage in performing the tests. It is generally utilized on medium-voltage (1000-69 000 V) and on high-voltage (above 69 000 V) equipment.

As stated earlier, the leakage current is usually measured. In some cases, such as in cable hi-potting, the value of leakage current is significant and can be used analytically. In other applications, such as switchgear hi-potting, it is a pass/fail type of test, in which sustaining the voltage level for the appropriate time (usually 1 min) is considered "passing."

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