Selection of external Short Circuit Protection Device (SCPD)

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The protection devices (thermal and short circuit) must be coordinated with the SPD to ensure reliable operation, i.e.

  • ensure continuity of service:
    • withstand lightning current waves
    • not generate excessive residual voltage.
  • ensure effective protection against all types of overcurrent:
    • overload following thermal runaway of the varistor;
    • short circuit of low intensity (impedant);
    • short circuit of high intensity.

Risks to be avoided at end of life of the SPDs

Due to ageing

In the case of natural end of life due to ageing, protection is of the thermal type. SPD with varistors must have an internal disconnector which disables the SPD.

Note: End of life through thermal runaway does not concern SPD with gas discharge tube or encapsulated spark gap.

Due to a fault

The causes of end of life due to a short-circuit fault are:

  • Maximum discharge capacity exceeded.
This fault results in a strong short circuit.
  • A fault due to the distribution system (neutral/phase switchover, neutral disconnection).
  • Gradual deterioration of the varistor.

The latter two faults result in an impedant short circuit.

The installation must be protected from damage resulting from these types of fault: the internal (thermal) disconnector defined above does not have time to warm up, hence to operate.

A special device called "external Short Circuit Protection Device (external SCPD)", capable of eliminating the short circuit, should be installed. It can be implemented by a circuit breaker or fuse device.

Characteristics of the external SCPD

The external SCPD should be coordinated with the SPD. It is designed to meet the following two constraints:

Lightning current withstand

The lightning current withstand is an essential characteristic of the SPD's external Short Circuit Protection Device.

The external SCPD must not trip upon 15 successive impulse currents at In.

Short-circuit current withstand

  • The breaking capacity is determined by the installation rules (IEC 60364 standard):
The external SCPD should have a breaking capacity equal to or greater than the prospective short-circuit current Isc at the installation point (in accordance with the IEC 60364 standard).
  • Protection of the installation against short circuits
In particular, the impedant short circuit dissipates a lot of energy and should be eliminated very quickly to prevent damage to the installation and to the SPD.
The right association between a SPD and its external SCPD must be given by the manufacturer.

Installation mode for the external SCPD

Device "in series"

The SCPD is described as "in series" (see Fig. J33) when the protection is performed by the general protection device of the network to be protected (for example, connection circuit breaker upstream of an installation).

Fig. J33 – SCPD "in series"

Device "in parallel"

The SCPD is described as "in parallel" (see Fig. J34) when the protection is performed specifically by a protection device associated with the SPD.

  • The external SCPD is called a "disconnecting circuit breaker" if the function is performed by a circuit breaker.
  • The disconnecting circuit breaker may or may not be integrated into the SPD.


In the case of a SPD with gas discharge tube or encapsulated spark gap, the SCPD allows the current to be cut immediately after use.

Guarantee of protection

The external SCPD should be coordinated with the SPD, and tested and guaranteed by the SPD manufacturer in accordance with the recommendations of the IEC 61643-11 standard. It should also be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. As an example, see the Schneider Electric SCPD+SPD coordination tables.

When this device is integrated, conformity with product standard IEC 61643-11 naturally ensures protection.

Summary of external SCPDs characteristics

A detailed analysis of the characteristics is given in section Detailed characteristics of the external SCPD .

The table in Figure J36 shows, on an example, a summary of the characteristics according to the various types of external SCPD.

Fig. J36 – Characteristics of end-of-life protection of a Type 2 SPD according to the external SCPDs
Installation mode for the external SCPD 
In series In parallel
Fuse protection
Circuit breaker protection
Circuit breaker protection
DB422491.png DB422495.png DB422492.png DB422493.png
Surge protection of equipment = = = =
SPDs protect the equipment satisfactorily whatever the kind of associated external SCPD
Protection of installation at end of life - = + + +
No guarantee of protection possible Manufacturer's guarantee Full guarantee
Protection from impedant short circuits not well ensured Protection from short circuits perfectly ensured
Continuity of service at end of life - - + + +
The complete installation is shut down Only the SPD circuit is shut down
Maintenance at end of life - - = + +
Shutdown of the installation required Change of fuses Immediate resetting