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Testing of Power Transformers

This article is limited in scope to standard testing procedures for transformers prior to installation, with
their general purpose and methodology. Testing of the transformers is done to determine their electrical,
thermal and mechanical suitability for the system where they will be applied or used. Most of the tests
performed on power transformers are defined in national standards created by IEEE, NEMA and ANSI,
whose purpose is to define a uniform set of tests recognized by both the manufacturer and the user.

Categories of Field Testing In general, field testing can be divided into three categories

1. Acceptance tests
2. Periodic tests
3. Tests after failure

Acceptance tests should be performed immediately after the product arrives at the destination. A few
tests can be carried out which are stated below:

 Turns ratio
 Insulation resistance(Winding and core)
 Power factor
 Resistance (winding)
 Polarity and phase relation
 Oil tests (DGA, moisture, dielectrics, etc.)
 Visual inspection

Periodic tests are done after the product is installed in its permanent location. The main purpose of this
test is to monitor the condition of the unit so that any potential trouble may be spotted early before a
failure occurs. Some of these are listed below:

 Turns ratio
 Insulation resistance
 Power factor
 Resistance (winding)
 Oil tests (DGA, moisture, dielectrics, etc.)
 Excitation current test
 Visual inspection

An unscheduled outage and the potential of outright failure can be prevented by following a periodic test
schedule.

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Failure tests, which can be performed, are:

 Turns ratio
 Insulation resistance
 Power factor
 Resistance
 Oil tests
 Excitation current test
 Combustible gas/ gas-in-oil analysis
 Visual inspection (internal)

When a transformer fails, the time of failure tests will decide whether the unit can be repaired at the site
or whether it needs to be returned to the manufacturer, or a specialized center for repair. By comparing
the results of the tests with the established norms, a 'history' of the transformer can be compiled, and the
reasons for failure can be diagnosed. Here is a quick overview of the above mentioned tests:

 Turns Ratio Test (Common to all categories) The Transformer Turns Ratio test (TTR) is used
to make sure that the Turns Ratio between the windings of the transformer is correct. This ratio
decides what the output voltage of the transformer will be with respect to the input voltage. The
ratio is calculated under no-load conditions, with ratios calculated at the tap positions for each
winding and for the winding as a whole.

A voltage is applied to one winding and the voltmeters connected to both low voltage and high
voltage windings are read simultaneously. The transformer ratio is the ratio of the HV voltmeter
and the LV voltmeter readings. When ratio tests are being made on three-phase transformers, the
ratio is taken on one phase at a time, and the measured ratio should be compared with the ratio
calculated using nameplate voltages. Any variation should be within 0.5%.
 Insulation Resistance Test (Common to all categories) the winding insulation resistance test
(also known as the Meggar test) is a measure of quality of insulation within the transformer. It can
vary due to moisture content, cleanliness and the temperature of the insulation parts. All
measurements are corrected to 20'C for comparison purposes. It is recommended that tank and
core are always grounded when this test is performed. Each winding should be short-circuited at
the bushing terminals. Resistances are then measured between each winding and all other
windings and ground (for 2 winding transformer - H-LG, L-HG and HL-G and three winding
transformer H-LTG, L-HTG, T-HLG, HL-TG, HT-LG, LT- HG and HLT-G ).
 vPower Factor (Common to all categories)This test is made to monitor the dryness of
transformer insulation. Power factor is defined as the ratio of the power dissipated divided by the

300 W. Antelope Road, Medford, OR 97503-1089, Ph. No. 541 826 3


input volt-ampere multiplied by 100. The measurement of power factor is made with a
capacitance bridge and the connections are the same as for the insulation resistance tests.
 Resistance (Common to all categories) the resistance of a transformer winding can be
measured after current has not passed through the transformer for several hours, allowing it to
reach the same temperature as its surroundings. Winding resistance is calculated by measuring
the voltage and current simultaneously, with the current as close to the rated current as possible.
Calculating the winding resistance can be helpful as it lets you calculate and compensate for I2R
losses, a major component of load losses as a whole.

Winding resistance measurements can be made to determine if any changes have occurred in
the current carrying path. The winding resistance measurements should be made with a
Wheatstone bridge, Kelvin bridge or similar bridge capable of measuring fractional ohms
accurately. For Wye connected values, measurements should be made between each pair of
bushings, then summed and multiplied by three-halves to get the comparison value.
 Oil Test (Common to all categories) A sample of insulating oil from a transformer in service can
reveal much information about what is taking place inside the transformer. There are three basic
enemies to insulating oil - oxidation, contamination and excessive temperature. The following
tests can be done:
o Acid number
o Dielectric breakdown
o Power factor
o Moisture content
o Interfacial tension

After performing the tests the oil can classified as reusable; reusable with minor reconditioning; or
disposable.

 Polarity (Acceptance test) the polarity of a transformer is either additive or subtractive. In order
to find out the polarity of a transformer, a voltage is applied between the primary bushings. If the
resultant voltage between the secondary bushings is greater than the applied voltage that means
that the transformer has additive polarity. If it is lower, the transformer has subtractive polarity.
Polarity is not important for a single connected distribution transformer, but it is a vital concern if
transformers are to be paralleled or bank connected. Three phase transformers are also checked
for polarity by the same means.
 Phase Relation (Acceptance test) a phase relation test is carried out for polyphase (for
instance, three-phase) transformers to make sure that they have been connected in such a way
that their phase relationship is correct. A phase relation test calculates the angular displacement
and relative phase sequence of the transformer, and can be carried out in conjunction with ratio
300 W. Antelope Road, Medford, OR 97503-1089, Ph. No. 541 826 4
and polarity tests. The voltages of the phase of primary and secondary can be recorded and
comparisons made to get the phase relation.
 Visual Inspection (Periodic and Failure tests) this may reveal either present or potential
problems that may not be picked up by diagnostic testing. For example, deteriorating gaskets, low
oil level or chipped bushing skirts. A standard list of check points should be established for each
unit and then a record of each inspection maintained.
 Gas/ Gas-in-Oil Test (Failure test): A study of gases either dissolved in the oil or from the gas
above the oil can also show abnormal conditions within the transformers, such as incipient faults.

Three considerations are very important:


o The total percentage of combustible gas
o The percentage of each gas component
o The rate of change in combustible gas content
o If the percentage of combustible gases is above 5%, then immediate action is required
 Excitation Current Test (Periodic and Failure tests) the excitation current is the minimum
amount of current needed to maintain the core in a state of magnetic excitation. It is measured at
the rated voltage, and usually given as a percentage of the rated current.

The test is performed with a single phase supply with, preferably, a voltage rated at
approximately 10% of the phase voltage of the winding to which the supply is to be connected,
although lower voltages can be used. There are 2 methods that can be used: the first is to
connect a single-phase supply to any available winding with an ammeter in the circuit to monitor
the exciting current. Three such single-phase tests are necessary for a three-phase transformer.
The relationship between the single phase readings is important; it should be as follows:

 The readings taken on phase A and C should be within 5% of each other.


 The reading on phase B should be between 65 and 90% of the readings on phase A and C.

Readings that fall outside of the relationships given above may be indicators of a winding fault. In the
other method, the same voltage level and ammeter requirements apply except the following connections
should be made:

 Short one winding on phase C and apply voltage and read the exciting current on phase A.
 Short one winding on phase A and apply voltage and read the exciting current on phase C.
 Short one winding on phase B and apply voltage and read the exciting current on phase A or
phase C.

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Other Tests
Other tests which can be performed are:

 Core Loss Test


Under no-load conditions, a transformer will continue to drain sources of electrical energy. The
chief source of this drain is core loss, which occurs in the magnetic core through a combination of
hysteresis and eddy current loss, among others. Core-loss is calculated by applying the rated
voltage and frequency to a transformer under no-load conditions. The resultant current is then
measured, from which the loss of energy can be extrapolated.
 Load Loss Test
Load loss is a combination of I2R losses, stray losses and eddy losses, all of which contribute to
the loss of electrical energy that is seen as current transferred from one winding to another. Load
loss changes with the magnitude of the load: that is to say, higher loads see higher rates of loss.
The load loss is therefore generally calculated for the rated load, while the transformer is under
full-load conditions. It can be measured by applying a voltage to one winding while the other
winding is short-circuited. The voltage is adjusted until the current flowing through the circuit is
the same as the rated current. The power loss measured at this time is the load loss.
 Impedance Test
Impedance is a measure of the resistance that leads to the loss of electrical energy in a
transformer at full load, causing the ratio of the input and output voltages to differ from the Turns
Ratio. It can be measured at the same time as load loss. Impedance is found by measuring the
voltage required to pass the rated current through one winding of the transformer, while the other
winding is short-circuited. This voltage is called the impedance voltage.
 Applied Potential Test
The applied potential test is used to see how well the transformer's insulation deals with voltages
higher than the rated voltage, for given periods of time. The applied potential test checks the
insulation between individual windings; and between windings and ground by applying voltages to
each of these areas.
 Induced Potential Test
The induced potential test is used to test the quality of the transformer's insulation, as with the
applied potential test above. It tests the insulation of the individual windings of the transformer by
applying voltages between turns, between layers and between lines.
 Quality control impulse test
Quality control impulse tests are made on transformers in order to simulate lightning; to see how
well they withstand such high bursts of voltage. The electric impulses applied here can include
reduced full-wave tests, chopped-wave tests and front-of-wave tests, to simulate a range of
extreme voltage situations.

300 W. Antelope Road, Medford, OR 97503-1089, Ph. No. 541 826 6


 Pressure Leak Test
A transformer can be checked for pressure leaks by pressurizing the tank and then leaving it
alone for several hours. If the pressure drops during the intervening time, or if there are signs of
liquid leakage, than a leak is present. Otherwise, the transformer is leakage free.

While learning about and overseeing the standard testing procedures of your transformer can be a
laborious task, it definitely helps better your understanding of the transformer's operation, minimizes
hazard to life and property, reduces downtime, minimizes the chance of sudden failure and thus allows
optimum use of the transformer.

300 W. Antelope Road, Medford, OR 97503-1089, Ph. No. 541 826 7