Transformers Electrical - Definition and Types

By G Fox, Editor, The Electricity Forum

Power Electrical Power Transformers
Electrical Power Transformers

Definition of Transformer A transformer is a static machine used for transforming electricity up or down from one circuit to another without changing the frequency. Of course, this is a very basic definition for a transformer. Since there are no rotating or moving parts, in a sense a transformer is a static, mechanical device. Typically, a transformer operates on AC supply, although there are some DC transformers. A Transformer works on the fundamental principle of mutual induction.

History of The Transformer

If we want to source the history of the transformer, we have go back to the 1880s. Around 50 years before that in 1830, the property of induction was discovered, which is the working principle of transformer. Later, transformer design was improved, resulting in more efficiency and smaller size. Gradually, large capacity transformers in the range of several KVA/MVA were invented. By 1950, 400KV electrical power transformers were introduced in high voltage electrical power systems. By the early 1970s, unit ratings as large as 1100 MVA were produced and 800KV and even higher KV class transformers were manufactured in the 1980s.

Types of Transformers

Transformers can be categorized in different ways, depending upon their purpose, use, construction etc. The types of transformer are as follows:

  • Step Up Transformers & Step Down Transformers - These transformers are generally used for stepping up and stepping down the voltage level in the transmission and distribution network.
  • Three Phase Transformers & Single Phase Transformers - Three Phase Transformers are generally used in three phase power systems as it is more cost effective than with Single Phase Transformers. But when size matters, it is preferable to use a bank of three single phase transformers as it is easier to transform electricity this way, than with one single, three phase transformer.
  • Electrical Power Transformers, Distribution Transformers & Instrument Transformers - Power transformers are generally used in the transmission network for stepping up or down the voltage level. It operates mainly during high or peak loads and has a maximum efficiency at or near full load. Distribution transformers step down the voltage for distribution purposes to industrial, commercial, institutional and residential facilities. It has good voltage regulation and operates 24 hrs a day with maximum efficiency at 50% of full load. Instrument transformers include Current Transformers and Potential Transformers, are used to reduce high voltages and current to lesser values which can be measured by conventional instruments.
  • Two Winding Transformers & Auto Transformers - Two Winding Transformers are generally used where ratio between high voltage and low voltage is greater than 2. It is cost effective to use Auto Transformers where the ratio between high voltage and low voltage is less than 2.
  • Oil Cooled & Dry Type Transformers - In oil cooled transformers, the cooling medium is synthetic transformer oil whereas dry-type transformers are air cooled.
  • Core type, Shell Type & Berry Type Transformers - Core type transformers have two vertical legs or limbs with two horizontal sections named yokes. Core type transformers are rectangular in shape with a common magnetic circuit. Cylindrical coils (HV & LV) are placed on both the limbs. Shell type transformers have a central limb and two outer limbs. Both HV, LV coils are placed on the central limb. Double magnetic circuit is present. In Berry type transformers, the core looks like spokes of a wheel. Tightly fitted metal sheet tanks are used for housing this type of transformer with transformer oil filled inside.

Read Our Other Utility Transformer Pages: Padmount Transformer ExplainedPole Mounted Transformers, Transformer Manufacturers, Step Up Transformer, High Voltage Transformers Explained, What is an Auto Transformer? Three Phase Transformers Explained, Power Transformers Explained