Polarization Index (PI) Test

A Polarization Index (PI) test is generally performed at the same voltage as the Insulation Resistance (IR) test.  Where the IR test is performed for a period of one minute, the PI test is performed over a period of ten minutes. This gives the absorption (polarization) current ample time to decay, and reveals a more detailed indication of the total leakage and conduction current. As such, PI is a good indication of winding contamination, moisture ingress (leakage currents), and/or bulk insulation damage (conduction currents).

Polarization Index testing is generally performed with an Insulation Resistance (IR) test set (commonly known as a Megger), immediately after performing the IR test. However, the test can also be performed utilizing a DC high potential (hipot) test set. The readings produced by the two instruments are different. A Megger commonly gives readings in ohms of resistance. A hipot registers the amount of current (typically in microamps (mA). One microamp is equal to 1 x 10-6 amps, or 0.000001 amps.

The Polarization Index is derived by the ratio between the one minute reading and the ten minute reading. Recommended minimum PI results for suitability for service (or implementation of high voltage testing) is widely accepted as 2:1 or greater. Any reading lower than this minimum value is a concern. The windings would be presumed to be wet, contaminated, and/or compromised in some fashion. Conversely, vintage windings (varnish cambric, asphalt mica, etc.) may produce an unusually high Polarization Index ratio.  The insulation may be void of binder content, thus making it dry and brittle.  According to IEEE standards, if the insulation resistance reading after the voltage has been applied for one minute is greater than 5,000 megohms the resulting polarization index may or may not be indicative of the true insulation condition and is therefore not recommended as a means of assessment.

Polarization Index testing should be performed in accordance with IEEE Standard 43-2000(R2006), IEEE Recommended Practice for Testing Insulation Resistance of Rotating Machinery. A Megger brand model number BM25 (or its replacement or comparable) is recommended if a Megger is used. A High Voltage, Inc. PTS Series DC high potential test set is recommended if a hipot is used.