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Fault indicator

A fault indicator is a device which provides visual or remote indication of a fault on the electric power system. Also called a faulted circuit indicator (FCI), the device is used in electric power distribution networks as a means of automatically detecting and identifying faults to reduce outage time.

Overhead indicators are used to visualize the occurrence of an electrical fault on an overhead electrical system. Underground indicators locate faults on an underground system. Often these devices are located in an underground vault. Some fault indicators communicate back to a central location using radio or cellular signals.

Basic principles

During an electrical fault on a grounded system, additional current flows through a conductor, which is picked up by the fault indicator causing a state change on the mechanical target flag, LED, or remote indication device. Ground fault indicators for ungrounded systems sense the vector sum of the current and look for an imbalance indicating a fault on one or more of the three phases.

High-voltage fuses commonly drop down after operating, making it obvious where the fault is.


The first fault indicators came onto the market from Horstmann (Germany) in 1946. The E.O. Schweitzer Manufacturing Company (now a division of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.) introduced a product in the U.S.A in 1948. The first fault indicators were manual reset devices. Later fault indicators automatically reset on system restoration or after a set period of time. More recent fault indicators communicate their status (tripped or reset) via cell signal or radio to a central station, handheld device, or pole-mounted receiver.

Recent developments include a remotely-programmable overhead line indicator, fault indication for paper-insulated lead cable, and an overhead fault indicator for mesh networks.

See also

Power transmission
Polyphase system
Electricity distribution
Overhead powerline
Power outage
Three-phase electric power

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