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Principle of Tan Delta Test

A pure insulator when is connected across line and earth, it behaves as a capacitor. In an ideal insulator, as the
insulating material which acts as dielectric too, is 100 % pure, the electric current passing through the insulator,
only have capacitive component. There is no resistive component of the current, flowing from line to earth
through insulator as in ideal insulating material, there is zero percent impurity. In pure capacitor, the capacitive
electric current leads the applied voltage by 90. In practice, the insulator cannot be made 100% pure. Also due
to the ageing of insulator the impurities like dirt and moisture enter into it. These impurities provide the
conductive path to the current. Consequently, leakage electric current flowing from line earth through insulator
has also resistive component.
Hence, it is needless to say that, for good insulator, this resistive component of leakage electric current is quite
low. In other way the healthiness of an electrical insulator can be determined by ratio of resistive component to
capacitive component. For good insulator this ratio would be quite low. This ratio is commonly known as tan
or tan delta. Sometimes it is also referred as dissipation factor.

In the vector diagram above, the system voltage is

drawn along x-axis. Conductive electric current i.e. resistive component of leakage current, IR will also be along
x-axis. As the capacitive component of leakage electric current IC leads system voltage by 90, it will be drawn
along y-axis. Now, total leakage electric current IL(Ic + IR) makes an angle (say) with y-axis. Now, from the
diagram above, it is cleared, the ratio, IR to IC is nothing but tan or tan delta.

NB: This angle is known as loss angle.

Method of Tan Delta Testing

The cable, winding, current transformer, potential transformer, transformer bushing, on which tan delta test or
dissipation factor test to be conducted, is first isolated from the system. A very low frequency test voltage is
applied across the equipment whose insulation to be tested. First the normal voltage is applied. If the value of
tan delta appears good enough, the applied voltage is raised to 1.5 to 2 times of normal voltage, of the
equipment. The tan delta controller unit takes measurement of tan delta values. A loss angle analyser is
connected with tan delta measuring unit to compare the tan delta values at normal voltage and higher voltages,
and analyse the results. During test it is essential to apply test voltage at very low frequency.

Reason of applying Very Low Frequency

If frequency of applied voltage is high, then capacitive reactance of the insulator becomes low, hence capacitive
component of electric current is high. The resistive component is nearly fixed, it depends upon applied voltage
and conductivity of the insulator. At high frequency as capacitive current, is large, hence, the amplitude of
vector sum of capacitive and resistive components of electric current becomes large too. Therefore, required
apparent power for tan delta test would become high enough which is not practical. So to keep the power
requirement for this dissipation factor test, very low frequency test voltage is required. The frequency range
for tan delta test is generally from 0.1 to 0.01 Hz depending upon size and nature of insulation. There is another
reason for which it is essential to keep the input frequency of the test as low as possible. As we know,

That means, dissipation factor tan 1 / f. Hence, at low frequency, the tan delta number is high, the
measurement becomes easier.

How to predict the Result of Tan Delta Testing

There are two ways to predict the condition of an insulation system during tan delta or dissipation factor test.
First, one is, comparing the results of previous tests to determine, the deterioration of the condition of insulation
due ageing effect. The second one is, determining the condition of insulation from the value of tan, directly.
No requirement of comparing previous results of tan delta test. If the insulation is perfect, the loss factor will be
approximately same for all range of test voltages. But if the insulation is not sufficient, the value of tan delta
increases in the higher range of test voltage.

From the graph, it is clear that the tan&delta number nonlinearly increases with increasing test very lowfrequency voltage. The increasing tan&delta, means, high resistive electric current component, in the insulation.
These results can be compared with the results of previously tested insulators, to take the proper decision
whether the equipment would be replaced or not.