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Many existing variable frequency drive (VFD) installations use interlocked armor TECK or
continuously welded and corrugated aluminum armor (CCA) cable to connect from the VFD to
Cut Harmful Electrical the motor. These cable types will release excessive electrical noise in many installations—and this
Noise with Correct VFD electrical noise can wreak havoc with the sensitive electronic components, network cabling and
Cabling Practices other sensitive wiring found in most modern industrial facilities.

The solution is to use specially-designed VFD cable with a foil braid or copper tape shield and
By Peter Cox, Project Manager,
suitable ground wires. For larger cables it becomes important to use a symmetric ground design
Belden Inc.
to balance the induced ground currents. Compared to TECK or CCA, this type of VFD cable
provides superior performance in terms of common mode current (CMC) containmentand in
other areas.

With VFD cable, CMC is effectively contained within the cable, with CMC returned back to the
ground point of the VFD. With both TECK and CCA cable, CMC may be returned back to the VFD
enclosure metal. Returning the current to the enclosure causes electrical noise to radiate from
the enclosure into surrounding areas.

This radiated electrical noise, commonly referred to as electromagnetic interference/radio

frequency interference (EMI/RFI), can often cause certain electronic components, cabling and
wiring to malfunction. Other advantages of VFD cable as compared to both TECK and CCA cable
will be detailed in this white paper.
Table of Contents
The superior performance of VFD cable can result in reduced nuisance trips of alarms or safety
Introduction............................................1 circuits and enhanced signal integrity for critical process measurements. These and other
advantages of VFD cable can be garnered for a relatively small price adder, particularly as
Why Use VFDs?......................................2
compared to the cost of the entire VFD and motor installation.
Uncontained CMC Noise Can Wreak
Havoc.......................................................2 In addition to demonstrating the advantages of using specially-designed VFD cable, this white
VFD Cable Specifics..............................2-3 paper will also show how to best install this cable between the VFD and the motor. But first,
VFD Cabling Specification and let’s take a quick look at why VFDs are used and at the problems that can arise from VFD-motor
Installation.........................................3-4 connections.

VFDs provide many advantages over single-speed motor control, but care must be taken with connections
between the VFD and the motor.
Why Use VFDs? number of potential issues that can arise if A transmitter may send out a false reading,
care isn’t taken when selecting and installing causing a spurious alarm or trip. This
The full load efficiency of standard AC cabling between a VFD and its associated can often cause all or part of a plant to
electric motors ranges from around 80% for motor. go off-line. Network switches can send
the smallest motors to over 95% for motors out erroneous data, leading to incorrect
greater than 100 hp, but the efficiency of Uncontained CMC Noise Can Wreak information, or at the very least transmission
all electric motors drops significantly as the Havoc delays as error-correcting mechanisms spot
load is reduced below 40%. As a result, good the problem and force retransmission.
practice dictates that motors should be sized There are a number of issues that need to be
so that full load operation corresponds to at considered and addressed when selecting and More and more plants are employing wireless
least 75% of the rated power of the motor. installing wiring between a VFD and a motor devices of all types including handheld
including CMC, capacitive coupling (or cable operator interfaces and wireless sensor
In many installations, a VFD is the best way to charging) and reflected wave voltage. and transmitter systems. These wireless
assure that a motor is sized correctly and runs devices can be particularly sensitive to EMI/
efficiently (Image 1). A typical VFD-motor By far the most important when comparing
RFI radiated into plant areas, causing false
installation will exhibit system efficiencies VFD to TECK or CCA cable is CMC. As
signals and poor overall wireless network
of up to 90% or more at full load. At previously mentioned, CMC is effectively
reduced loads, the efficiency drops, but not contained within VFD cable in a correctly
as significantly as with single-speed motor installed system, with CMC returned back to The signals contained within cabling and
installations. For example, VFDs coupled with the ground point of the VFD. wiring can be very sensitive to EMI/RFI,
motors equal to or greater than 10 hp may particularly when these signals are either
With both TECK and CCA cable, CMC is
have 90% efficiency for all loads greater than digital or voltage-based analog. More and
returned back to the VFD enclosure surface,
25% of full load. more industrial plants are installing digital
from which it finds a path to ground. This is
networks within their facilities such as
This increased efficiency is the main economic electrically the same as using conduit and
Ethernet and various specialized process and
reason for using VFDs, but VFDs do more than releases the most harmful noise currents at
discrete digital automation networks. As
reduce energy cost as they also: the most sensitive places.
with any digital network, excess EMI/RFI can
Releasing CMC into the environment can degrade performance.
• Reduce power consumption by operating
the motor at the speed required for the cause the sensitive electronic components,
Most plants utilize voltage-based analog
application, reducing energy dissipated by cabling and wiring found in most modern
signals for sensing temperature, weight
throttling or dampers. industrial facilities to malfunction. Affected
and other parameters. These signals can be
electronic components include but aren’t
acutely sensitive to EMI/RFI, causing false
• Reduce power draw during motor starting limited to controllers, graphic displays,
by gradually ramping the motor up to speed, transmitters, network switches and any
often lowering electric utility demand wireless device. For example, a thermocouple typically sends
charges. a millivolt-level signal to a controller’s analog
Most of the electronic components used
input through thermocouple cable. If EMI/
• Accurately control the load to a specific in modern industrial plants contain one or
RFI is excessive, the signal level can spike,
speed. more microprocessor chips and other special
causing the controller to falsely read a high
purpose integrated circuit chips. These chips
• Cost less to maintain than mechanical temperature. This can often cause a trip,
will often malfunction when subjected to
speed controls such as valves and dampers. interrupting plant operations and possibly
excessive EMI/RFI.
causing a safety-related incident.
• Reduce wear and tear on motors, sheaves,
For example, a controller or a graphic
belts, couplings and other system components In systems greater than 50 hp, another issue
display may lock-up, much like an office
during startup and operation. with CMC and other electrical noise is excess
PC, and require a forced reboot. This is
current introduced into the motor bearings.
For the reasons given above, VFDs have just an annoying condition with an office
Motor bearing life can be shortened by this
a long history of proven use in industrial PC, but can result in much more serious
electrical discharge through the bearings,
applications where it’s necessary to control consequences in a plant environment.
causing etching in the races and premature
a motor at varying speeds. But, there are a motor failure.

Be Certain with Belden

Although noise generated by improperly termination of shields at the VFD enclosure Reflected wave voltage may produce
contained CMC is the most compelling instead of the VFD itself. potentially destructive voltage stress on the
reason to use VFD cable instead of TECK or motor insulation. Cabling that is specially
CCA cable, there are other factors that favor TECK cable is constructed with shields in a designed for VFD-to-motor connections
its use. spiral path. This spiraling creates an inductor, will not eliminate reflected wave voltages,
which cannot carry the high frequency but their lower capacitance conductors
VFD Cable Specifics components of common mode current, will effectively increase the allowable cable
forcing those components to travel through distance before experiencing significant
VFD cable features grounding systems which other paths outside of the cable, creating buildup of reflected waves. In some cases, the
are specifically designed for the application. excess EMI/RFI. difference in allowable cable length can be as
These systems utilize much more copper much as 3 times farther with VFD cables.
in the grounds to reduce induced and High performance VFD cables use either a
coupled ground currents. For higher power braided shield—or a double copper tape with Any cable with more than three conductors,
applications VFD cables utilize symmetric contra-helically application to maximize not including ground, increases cable
grounds to reduce induced currents. TECK surface area for high frequency conduction charging losses due to conductor capacitive
has neither the grounds size, nor symmetry and to minimize the inductive effects of a interaction. TECK cable is often installed with
required to reduce ground currents and single tape. more than 3 conductors. Also, TECK cable can
potential difference. The lack of symmetric VFD cable is suitable for installation in potentially interact with other cables due to
grounds in TECK cable results in the either conduit or cable tray, while TECK and the gaps in the interlocked armor
introduction of excessive current noise into CCA cable aren’t designed to be installed in VFD Cabling Specification and
the grounding system, particularly with high conduit. For plants that prefer to run cable in Installation
horsepower VFD-motor installations. conduit, this can be a compelling reason to
use VFD cable. VFD cable is also much more To prevent excess current that may damage
So TECK cable not only generates more
flexible than TECK or CCA cable, making drives during events such as line disturbances
current noise due to the lack of symmetric
installation within cable tray easier. or certain types of ground faults, drives
grounds, but also radiates more of this noise
should have a minimum amount of
into the environment due to intermediate
upstream impedance. In many installations,
this impedance comes from the supply
transformer and the supply cables. In certain
cases, an additional transformer or reactor is
recommended to minimize impedance.

When the cable impedance closely matches

the motor impedance, the voltage pulse from
the VFD to the motor is evenly distributed.
However, when the motor impedance is
much larger than the cable impedance, the
pulse reflects at the motor terminals, causing
standing waves. So, a best practice is to select
cabling from the VFD to the motor such
that the cable and motor impedances are as
closely matched as possible.

Drive cable shields should always be

terminated at the motor and at the drive, any
intermediate termination of the ground or
shield is not recommended. The shield acts as
a conductor for CMC, so proper termination
is essential.

This cable is specially designed to connect a VFD to a motor and provides superior performance over
standard motor wiring and cable.

Failure to terminate the shields and grounds Grounding provides a path for undesirable levels often high enough to be measured in
properly can result in harmful electrical noise currents to be safely managed, but the amps.
flowing in the ground grid, or radiated to voltages as a result of harmonics can still
the surrounding environment. Intermediate be quite significant. These problems can In addition to releasing ground and shield
grounding of the shield can cause the be compounded if care is not taken in the currents prematurely, the use of a conductive
unintended release of shield currents and selection of the wiring and cabling used to gland also implies that within the enclosure
resulting electrical noise. connect a VFD to its associated motor. the cable would be unshielded, creating a
great potential for radiated noise in a very
VFD cable is designed to be terminated at Care should be taken when selecting a cable sensitive environment. Some manufacturers
the motor and at the drive, minimizing gland to ingress any enclosure. The role of offer shielding kits, for use inside the
the release of electrical noise into the the shielding and grounds in creating an enclosure, but again these kits are difficult to
surrounding environment. TECK and CCA effective CMC containment system can be fit effectively and will introduce additional
cable is designed to be terminated at the compromised or rendered ineffective by contacts points for noise release.
drive enclosure, which causes electrical improper gland selection—so, it’s important
noise to radiate from the enclosure into to select a gland with a suitable rating Some credible gland manufacturers offer
surrounding areas for ingress protection and with the proper isolation bushings, with grounding lugs for
environmental classification. shield contact. These can be effective in
Ungrounded VFD metal parts can accumulate preventing the release of shield noise into the
electrical charge thru leakage current, Like any other conductor, a conductive gland enclosure metal and can be effective if the
sometimes resulting in voltages greater than should carry an applicable agency listing cable contains insulated ground conductors.
the recognized safe touch potential of 50 V. such as UL, CSA, or IEC. For non-conductive
Thus, all drive metallic parts, both internal cable glands, the correct degree of ingress Summary
and chassis, should be bonded together, protection must be considered for each
with a ground wire connected to the drive application. Selecting and installing the right cable
potential earth (PE) terminal. for VFD-motor connections mitigates or
When drives are mounted in enclosures which eliminates many of the issues that can arise
The VFD PE terminal should be wired to a contain sensitive items such as analog signals, from the inherent characteristics of VFD
cabinet PE bus bar, thus providing electrical PLCs and I/O modules—non-conductive installations. A relatively small investment in
ground continuity. An appropriate sized glands are recommended. Shields and jackets properly designing, selecting and installing
single ground conductor leaving the cabinet should be left intact until the cable enters the the right VFD-motor cabling increases
must then be bonded to the true earth zero drive proper to ensure maximum protection reliability, improves safety and reduces
voltage ground. This ensures safe touch from current and noise release. Use of a maintenance.
voltage potentials exist under ground-fault conductive gland provides a release point for
conditions. shield currents and related noise, with current


Building a Reliable VFD System,

Unarmored Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Cable Termination Guide,


Wiring and Grounding Guidelines for Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) AC Drives, http://literature.

Belden Technical Support: 1.800.BELDEN.1

©Copyright 2012, Belden Inc. VFD Cables 070912