The NESC recommends limits on the tension of bare overhead conductors as a percentage of the conductor’s rated breaking strength.
The tension limits are: 60% under maximum ice and wind load, 33.3% initial unloaded (when installed) at 60°F, and 25% final unloaded (after maximum loading has occurred) at 60°F.
It is common, however, for lower unloaded tension limits to be used. Except in areas experiencing severe ice loading, it is not unusual to find tension limits of 60% maximum, 25% unloaded initial, and 15% unloaded final.
This set of specifications could easily result in an actual maximum tension on the order of only 35 to 40%, an initial tension of 20% and a final unloaded tension level of 15%. In this case, the 15% tension limit is said to govern.
Transmission-line conductors are normally not covered with ice, and winds on the conductor are usually much lower than those used in maximum load calculations. Under such everyday conditions,
tension limits are specified to limit aeolian vibration to safe levels.
Even with everyday lower tension levels of 15 to 20%, it is assumed that vibration control devices will be used in those sections of the line that are subject to severe vibration.
Aeolian vibration levels, and thus appropriate unloaded tension limits, vary with the type of conductor, the terrain, span length, and the use of dampers.