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Tan Delta Test for Transformer

In a pure capacitor current leads the voltage by 90 degrees. When a resistor is


introduced in between the current leads an angle less than 90 degrees.

Similarly in a Dielectric material when a cavity or deterioration starts, the life of the
material starts deteriorating, as there is a resistance getting added and hence
leakage current increases.

In tan Delta we find the difference in the angle and periodically note down the pace at which
deterioration takes place.

Tan Delta is also known as the 'loss angle' or 'dissipation factor'.

It is used to test the level of degradation in insulation materials of electrical machines and
power cables.

Tan Delta, also called Loss Angle or Dissipation Factor testing, is a diagnostic method of
testing electrical equipment to determine the integrity of the insulation. This is done to try to
predict the remaining life expectancy of the equipment.

The winding insulation of an electrical machine, or a cable free from defects, will act as a
perfect capacitor, that is, it will only store energy and not dissipate it.

In an ideal capacitor, the voltage and current are out of phase by 90 degrees and the current
flowing through the insulation is purely capacitive Ic.

However, dielectric losses within the insulation due to deterioration or other factors, will result
in the reduction of the resistance in the insulation. This will in turn increase the resistive
current Ir.

The phase angle between the current and voltage is now less than 90 degrees, and the
extent to which this is less than 90 degrees gives the level of degradation in the insulation.

So this 'loss angle' is required to be measured.

If the angle is Delta, then the tangent of Delta can be calculated by dividing is 'opposite over
adjacent', which is Ir/Ic.

There are various methods of how this is tested and industrial standards, such as the IEC
provide acceptable values of Tan-delta for different types of insulation.

Tan Delta, also called Loss Angle or Dissipation Factor testing, is a diagnostic method of
testing electrical equipment to determine the integrity of the insulation. This is done to try to
predict the remaining life expectancy of the equipment.

If the insulation free from defects, it approaches the properties of a perfect capacitor. It is very
similar to a parallel plate capacitor with the conductor and the neutral being the two plates
separated by the insulation material.

In a perfect capacitor, the voltage and current are phase shifted 90 degrees and the current
through the insulation is capacitive. If there are impurities in the insulation,for example,
moisture, the resistance of the insulation decreases, resulting in an increase in resistive
current through the insulation. It is no longer a perfect capacitor. The current and voltage will
no longer be shifted 90 degrees. It will be something less than 90 degrees. The extent to
which the phase shift is less than 90 degrees is indicative of the level of insulation
contamination, hence quality/reliability. This "Loss Angle" is measured and analyzed.

Below is a representation of an insulation. The tangent of the angle δ is measured. This will
indicate the level of resistance in the insulation. By measuring IR/IC (opposite over adjacent –
the tangent), we can determine the quality of the insulation. In a perfect insulation, the angle
would be nearly zero. An increasing angle indicates an increase in the resistive current
through the insulation, meaning contamination. The greater the angle, the worse is the
insulation.

Insulation power factor is the angle 90-δ. If the insulation is excellent, the tan delta or
dissipation factor is equal to the power factor. Essentially, both tan delta and power factor are
just the same.

Method of Testing

The cable or winding whose insulation is to be tested is first disconnected and isolated. The test voltage
is applied from the Very Low Frequency power source and the Tan delta controller takes the
measurements. The test voltage is increased in steps upto the rated voltage of the cable. The readings
are plotted in a graph against the applied voltage and the trend is studied. A healthy insulation would
produce a straight line.

The test should be continued only if the graph is a straight line. A rising trend would indicate weak
insulation which may fail if the test voltage is increased beyond the rated voltage of the cable.

Interpretation of the test data

There are not standard formulae or benchmarks to ascertain the success of a tan delta test. The health
of the insulation which is measured is obtained by observing the nature of the trend which is plotted. A
steady, straight trend would indicate a healthy insulation, while a rising trend would indicate an
insulation that has been contaminated with water and other impurities.