Electric cables are normally installed on the assumption of a safe working life
Electric cables are normally installed on the assumption of a safe working life of at least 20 years. Changes in the insulating material take place with the passing of time and these changes, which may eventually result in an electrical breakdown, are accelerated at higher temperatures. Thus, if the working life is fixed, the limiting factor is the temperature at which the cable is required to operate.
During operation, the temperature at which the cable will operate depends upon the ambient temperature and the heating effects of the current produced due to the resistance of the cable conductors.
The heat dissipation of buried cables depends on the depth of laying, ground ambient temperature and its thermal resistivity, these being dependent on their geographical location and the season of the year. Nearby cables would also affect the ground temperature. Cables in air reach steady operating temperatures more quickly than similar cables underground and large cables take longer than small ones.