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Electrical Transformer Failure: Cause and Prevention

An electrical transformer is a device comprised of two or more wire coils which use a magnetic field to convert electrical currents transmitted via power lines to higher or lower power levels. Electrical transformers are an essential component to electrical systems, and they exist in several different forms based on the needs of the system into which they are integrated.

electrical transformer suspended on utility pole

There are two primary types of transformers used commonly in electrical grids:

  • Step Up Transformers - used to boost power at intervals along the transmission lines, to keep power levels constant.
  • Step Down Transformers - convert the voltage from the high level retained in power lines to lower voltage suitable for residential and business use.

Causes of Electrical Transformer Failure

As a necessary component of any electrical system, a transformer must be maintained in excellent condition. Due to the extensive use of transformers and their typical outdoor locations, it is inevitable that they will fail periodically. The best way to prevent electrical transformer failure is to understand the causes so that preventive measures can be taken.

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical failure of a transformer is caused by internal damage to the components of the transformer. Mechanical damage can be caused by rough treatment of the equipment during shipping and installation, extreme weather, or seismic activity. It is impossible to predict seismic activity, but you can avoid mechanical damage due to human error by ensuring that components are properly packed and labeled as "Fragile" for shipping, and that they are handled with care during installation. Thorough observation and testing after installation and during and after extreme events such as hurricanes and earthquakes will ensure that maintenance is completed before any internal damage results in a mechanical failure.

Electrical Failure

Transformer failure due to electrical disturbances has a number of causes, including lightning strikes, insulation degradation, and incursion by animals. Although nobody can predict when lightning strikes, other causes of electrical failure can easily be prevented with the right preventive equipment and maintenance practices. Regular maintenance and testing of the insulation of the transformers can catch any insulation damage or brittleness, before a transformer failure takes place. Critter Guard’s Line Guard and Pole Guard systems are available to protect transformers from squirrels, birds, and other wildlife that can unwittingly damage transformers and power lines. Just one squirrel grounding itself through a transformer from a power line can put a transformer out of commission and result in expensive power delays and repair costs.

Prevention and Maintenance

All in all, preventing damage through maintenance and installation of appropriate equipment will go a long way toward saving time and money. For more information on how Critter Guard’s Line Guard and Pole Guard systems can help simplify the maintenance of your power lines and transformers, contact us today!

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