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Transformer Design


  • What are transformer wire leads?

      Some transformers, often smaller control or potted units, will use wire leads for their primary and secondary connections instead of copper pads or terminal blocks. Typically these are insulated multistrand wires which are connected to the rest of the circuit using a terminal block, lugs or wire nuts.

  • What is Parallel Operation?

      Single and three phase transformers may be operated in parallel by connecting similarly marked terminals, provided their ratios, voltages, resistances, reactance and ground connections are designed to permit parallel operation. Current and voltage angular displacements are also required to be the same in the case of three phase transformers.

  • Does HPS have NRTL certification?
  • What is the difference in enclosures for indoor and outdoor non-hazardous applications?
  • What is Dielectric Material in a transformer?
  • Why is the insulation rating for some distribution transformer set at 220°C and for others the rating is 200°C?

      Most standard ventilated distribution transformers use a 220°C insulation system. This insulation system provides a 150°C temperature rise over ambient, a 30°C hot spot and is meant to be installed in a 40°C ambient temperature.

      However, if a transformer is wound using copper wires, a few of the smaller frame sizes (15kVA and 30kVA three phase, 15kVA and 25kVA single phase) utilize a 200°C insulation with a 130°C temperature rise over ambient, a 30°C hot spot and is meant to be installed in a 40°C ambient temperature.

      The differences in these smaller kVA sizes using copper wire are the result of U.L. ratings of the wire’s insulation temperature rating. Copper wire has a significantly smaller diameter than an equivalent ampacity aluminum wire.

      Small copper wire with 220°C insulation is not always available, so insulation systems are limited to 200°C (Note: U.L. does not cover 200°C insulation systems for units greater than 1.2kV, they will use 180°C insulation systems).

      Small control and potted transformers have insulation systems well below 220°C because of the resin used. As a result, transformer manufactures generally rate transformers using copper conductors 30kVA and below as having a 200°C insulation system.

      Manufacturers compensate for this by building the transformers to run cooler at full load and as a result have a lower 130°C temperature rise and can operate in a 40°C environment.

      Because both units can be operated in a 40°C ambient, we say copper transformers 30kVA and below with a 130°C temperature rise are equivalent to larger units with a 150°C temperature rise.

  • What is the difference between impregnation and encapsulation?

      Impregnation is the complete penetration of the process materials (generically called varnish or epoxy) into the windings of the transformers coils. This is often accomplished by using a Vacuum Pressure Impregnation (VPI) cycle.

      Encapsulation is the complete encasement by the process materials (generically called varnish or epoxy) onto the windings of the transformers coils. In simple terms, the process materials have a thicker, more complete coating than an impregnated transformer. Encapsulation can be done by performing two or more VPI cycles or using a higher viscosity process material. Sometimes “potted” will be used for “encapsulated”.  A Cast Coil transformer would be considered to be both impregnated and encapsulated.

      There is not an industry standard for encapsulation. A winding can be encapsulated, it can be impregnated or it can be encapsulated and impregnated.

  • What do I need to specify a neutral grounding transformer?

      Neutral grounding transformers are not sized by kVA. To properly specify a grounding transformer, the following parameters must be known:

      1. System Voltage & System BIL
      2. Continuous Neutral Current
      3. Fault Current & Duration
      4. Impedance
      5. Connection Type: Zig-Zag Autotransformer or Wye-Delta
      6. Enclosure Type
      7. Ambient Temperature
      8. Other Environmental Concerns

  • What are the Advantages and Disadvantages to Using a Fan-Cooled Transformer?


      • Smaller size; fans may add some height but may reduce width and depth
      • Lower costs for larger units (generally above 1000kVA) to add fans instead of conductor and core
      • Potentially better low-load efficiencies



      • Increased complexity and maintenance
      • Increased cost as fan packages may cost more than just adding material in smaller units
      • Additional energy losses and noise when fan motors are operated in higher loads

  • What is a Dielectric System in a transformer?
  • What are Important Specifications for a Marine Duty Transformer?

      Marine Duty is often left to the manufacturer to define.  HPS provides American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) approved transformers which include:

      • Copper or aluminum windings
      • Dry-type convection-cooled
      • Standard NEMA taps
      • 150ºC, 115ºC or 80ºC temperature rise available
      • 220ºC, 200ºC or 180ºC insulation system available
      • VPI Impregnation for salt environments
      • Fungus resistant
      • Braced for marine applications
      • Enclosures:  NEMA 2 or NEMA 3R (per ABS requirements)
      • Stainless steel hardware (on units over 1000kVA)
      • UV protection for outdoor enclosures
      • UL50 frames, channels, etc.
      • CSA, UL and ABS approval (Lloyd’s Register and DNV approval available upon request)

  • How are HPS transformers designed to shield against voltage transients?

      Electrostatically shielded transformers may help minimize or limit the effects of voltage transients. Common Mode noise is measured from line to ground and is usually the most troublesome. Transverse Mode noise is measured from line to line. Attenuation is the difference of an incoming transient on the primary of the transformer to the secondary side.

      An electrostatic or Faraday shield is simply a thin piece of grounded non ferrous metal (generally copper foil) placed between the primary and secondary windings of a transformer. The shield extends from the top to the bottom of the windings. Some manufactures use shields that don’t extend the full length of the coil face. While less expensive, they will not offer as much protection as a full shield.

      There is no national standard that gives test methods for measuring CMNA and TMNA. Hence, in the industry, various companies have different claims that they have succeeded in getting into customer or consultant specifications. A lot of the confusion for shielded transformers results from differing claims made by various manufacturers and experts. Some recent reports indicate that and electrostatic shield may have little to no benefit where the secondary is grounded which is in most applications. The difference in the claims results from many variables:

      1. Standard single shielded distribution and drive isolation transformers may theoretically provide typical values of CMNA =60 dB and TMNA = 10 dB.
      2. A single shielded transformer with a low capacitive coupling of less than 30 pF may theoretically provide typical values of CMNA = 100 dB and TMNA = 40 dB.

      A manufacturer should be willing to share their testing procedures and test circuit to verify their

      Note attenuation ratings vary by frequency. As the frequency increases, dB ratings go down. The ratings given above may be best case for a wide range of frequencies from 100Hz to 1MHz. Actual attenuation might be significantly higher at the lower frequencies. Some manufactures may claim higher dB’s attenuation by using much lower frequency ranges.

      There may be a large difference between calculated dB and actual dB due to real-life inconsistencies in material and manufacturing. Manufacturers should have actual test data to back up their attenuation claims.

  • What are the types of shielded isolation transformers?

      Shielded Isolation Transformers with Single Electrostatic Shield

      This is the simplest type of shielded transformer with one grounded shield extending from top to bottom between the primary and secondary windings. This will typically supply 60dB of common mode noise attenuation from 100Hz through 1MHz. Up to 100dB of TMNA and 40dB at 1000kHz of CMNA can be obtained with effective close coupling and low capacitance.


      Shielded Isolation Transformer with Double Electrostatic Shields

      This has two grounded shields extending top to bottom between the primary and secondary windings and between the secondary windings and the core. This will typically supply 60-80dB of common mode noise attenuation from 100Hz through 1MHz.


      Shielded Isolation Transformer with Triple Electrostatic Shields

      This has three grounded shields extending top to bottom between the primary and secondary windings and between the secondary windings and core and covering the outer winding. Little benefit is gained by having the third shield. This will typically supply 65-80dB of common mode noise attenuation from 100Hz through 1MHz.


      Note that recent testing may indicate that electrostatic shields have little to no benefit in typical applications where the secondary is grounded.

  • Can transformers be operated above a 1000m/3300′ altitude?

      There are two main considerations for operating transformers at altitudes above 1000m/3300′. Current standards state designs must be valid to these heights. Above this height, the density of air no longer works as effectively to remove heat. As a result the functional kVA of the transformer must be reduced at higher altitudes, typically about .3% for every 100m/330′. The second issue is the dielectric constant of air is reduced at higher altitudes. Dry type transformers use air gaps as an important component of the electrical insulation properties. At higher altitudes, this lower insulation values, typically in medium voltage BIL levels. Ideally, if transformers will be installed above 1000m, inform the manufacturer and the design can be adjusted to meet all requirements at the higher altitudes.

  • What is the maximum surface temperature of a transformers enclosure?

      Per NEMA ST-20 (2014):

      • Transformers <= 10 kVA can be up to 65C above ambient with a typical maximum ambient of 25C.
      • Transformers > 10 kVA can be up to 50C above ambient with a typical maximum ambient of 40C.
      • Transformers with lower than standard temperature rises will have lower maximum enclosure temperatures.

  • Can I increase the kVA rating of an existing transformer?

      The most common way to increase the available kVA rating of an existing transformer is to add additional fan cooling. This typically requires modifications including raising the transformers core, adding fans and fan brackets, a motor power supply and controls to start fan cooling when the transformer’s components reach a preset temperature. Fans should never be added without contacting and following specific instructions from the manufacturer. Low temperature rise transformers (115C and 80C rise with 220C insulation) can maintain higher loads in lower ambient transformers. Always follow proper ventilation and clearance instructions.

  • What salt spray rating test have Hammond’s painted enclosures passed?
  • What is a Low Voltage General Purpose Transformer?

      HPS’s low voltage general-purpose transformers provide a safe, long lasting, highly reliable power source. They are designed for general lighting and other low voltage applications. They are UL listed and CSA certified.

  • Do dry-type, potted or cast resin transformers contain PCB’s?
  • What are some of the solutions to Dirty Power?

      The solutions are as wide ranging as the problems. So are the prices. This Table summarizes some solutions and their price ranges.

      Table for dirty power

      Unfiltered Surge Fuses are very inexpensive, and may provide damage protection from lightning strikes or other surges, but they do not filter out adverse noise.

      Filtered Surge Suppressors are inexpensive solutions to noise suppression and surge protection. The better units inhibit surges above 5000 volts, 200 amps. They should also provide noise filtration of 10dB or more to cover average power disturbances.

      Computer Regulators or Line Voltage Conditioners protect equipment from both noise and voltage fluctuations. They are an inexpensive solution, available in both portable and hardwired models. They provide ideal protection in high noise areas where voltage fluctuations exceed the regulating range of the computers power supply.

      Super Isolation Transformers provide inexpensive protection against frequency variation or noise related disturbances. This is adequate where voltage fluctuations are not a serious problem. Most high-end computers have built-in voltage regulation, but still require protection from line noise.

      U.P.S. Systems are in effect self-contained power centers. They provide backup power for a period of time when utility power is interrupted. Most U.P.S. systems also provide noise filtration and surge suppression.

  • How do you calculate the Total Losses in a transformer?

      It is the transformer electrical losses, which include no-load losses (core losses) and load losses (winding losses). There is not a specific formula to calculate total losses since they vary by size and manufacturer. Manufacturers will often provide charts that show losses at one or more load points.

      HPS does offer an efficiency calculator for distribution transformers.

      HPS Efficiency Calculator

  • What Seismic ratings Does HPS Use?

      HPS units meet Risk Category IV (Ip=1.5) for Sds=2.0 per ASCE 7-16 (and equivalent factors in NBCC 2015) for ground-level installations only (z/h=0) for all locations in North America.

      HPS units can be designed to meet California OSHPD (Office of Statewide health Planning and Development) requirements. Please see the California OSHPD site for a listing of HPS transformers which have been tested and certified.

  • What is the maximum surface temperature of a transformers terminals wire leads or connections points?

      Per NEMA ST-20 (2014):

      • Transformers <= 10 kVA can be up to 50C above ambient with a typical maximum ambient of 25C.
      • Transformers > 10 kVA can be up to 35C above ambient with a typical maximum ambient of 40C.
      • Transformers with lower than standard temperature rises will have lower maximum connection point temperatures.

  • What is the ambient temperature specs for a standard transformer?

      A standard transformer with 220°C insulation and a 150°C temperature rise, will be rated to run full load in an average 30°C ambient environment over 24 hours with a maximum 40°C ambient temperature.

      Other magnetics may have lower or higher ambient ratings depending on the design and application.

  • How do you choose the correct, most cost-effective Clean Power Solution?

      Not everyone has the same power problem. Finding the most cost-effective solution requires some analysis of your equipment, the power system and the available solutions in the market. The table below lists causes and effects of many common power problems. You or your electrician can determine the most likely cause of power problems based on knowledge of your location, the kinds of equipment you operate in that location, and the kind of power distribution system in your building.

      The following table lists the types of Clean Power products available from HPS to solve your power problems.

      Table for clean power


      HPS offers the following products for clean power solutions:


  • What are High Voltage and Low Voltage windings?
  • What is a Rectifier Transformer?
  • What is the difference between an Air Core Reactor and an Iron Core Reactor?

      Air Core:

      They are used primarily as current or voltage limiting devices, particularly where large currents can enter a system that uses small amounts of power. An example is the telephone system, which uses very small voltages where the current in a fault condition needs to be kept to a minimum.

      Iron Core:

      An iron core reactor provides the same current or voltage control on a system as its air core counterpart. Iron core units tend to be used on smaller applications where the variables need greater or more sensitive control.