Each day millions of Americans start their mornings with coffee, brewed in a coffee maker, and a microwaved breakfast. They flick on the light and exhaust fan before starting their showers and blow dry their hair afterwards. Each of these acts of modern living is a small miracle. And if you’re like most people you can’t see the power plant supplying the power to your modern conveniences from your home, and how the electricity travels from the plant to you isn’t too clear.
Truth is the process of supplying our homes with power isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and the actual transmission of that power isn’t straightforward at all. To begin with, the wires used in power lines are less than perfect conductors of electricity. Along any given length of wire there are all sorts of imperfections in the metal, and these tend to resist the flow of electrical current. These imperfections will always exist to some extent, even with the best manufacturing techniques and quality control, and the longer the power line, the more resistance the power flow will meet. The result is loss of electrical power. If there weren’t some kind of compensatory action at work to rectify this, your morning routine wouldn’t be nearly so smooth. To address the problem of power loss electric utilities use stepup transformers, similar to the one in Figure 1. This enables voltage produced by the generator at the plant to be raised to a higher voltage, in turn enabling it to travel longer distances and remain effective. Figure 1 – Electricity Leaving the Power Plant Goes Through a StepUp Transformer For example, let’s say that an electric generator puts out 12,000 volts, and a stepup transformer raises that to 765,000 volts, enabling transmission to customers far away. If you will recall from last week’s blog, with electrical transformers, there is an inverse relationship between voltage and current. So, when a stepup transformer increases input voltage, it actually results in a lowering of electrical current. So how does this phenomenon aid in power transmission? Simply put, when there is less current flowing through the wires, there is an accompanying reduction in power loss over the long length of the transmission line. Let’s take a look at what happens when the power reaches our homes. Figure 2 shows a simplified distribution route from the power plant. Figure 2 – A StepDown Transformer is Used to Supply Electric Utility Customers First, the higher voltage originating from the stepup transformer at the power plant is decreased by the use of a stepdown transformer located in a substation many miles away at the other end of the transmission line. The use of this intermediary stepdown transformer effectively lowers the voltage and at the same time raises the current at the other end of the line, the end where customers like you and I are waiting to use our hair dryers unimpeded. The path that the power follows is somewhat circuitous, but well planned out, with numerous strategically positioned distribution lines acting as the final leg of delivery. These distribution lines do what their name implies, they weave their way along streets and alleys, finally distributing electricity to customers. A stepdown transformer located in a substation along the power transmission route allows this all to happen. It can readily convert the 765,000 volts being sent by the power plant to the 25,000 volts needed to feed distribution power lines. These, in turn, power individual homes, hospitals, etc. Now you obviously can’t plug a television into a 25,000 volt wall outlet located in your house, so another stepdown transformer is required to temper it into power that’s both usable and safe. The one in our diagram is mounted on a nearby utility pole, and its job is to lower the 25,000 volts which it receives into a more manageable 240 and 120 volts, which is then fed into your home. That wraps up our series on electrical transformers. Perhaps the next time you flip that switch in your home, whether it be on your hair dryer, TV, or what have you, you’ll pause for a moment to reflect on the long path it has followed to make your life just a little bit easier. _____________________________________________

Posts Tagged ‘step down transformer’
Transformers – Electric Utility Power Savers
Sunday, January 2nd, 2011Transformers – The Voltage/Current TradeOff
Sunday, December 26th, 2010
As a child I considered the reindeer Rudolph, with his nose so bright, to be a marvel of engineering. Now an adult, I remain perplexed as to the mystery behind the selfgenerating power source behind his nose. Did it ever overheat? I wondered. Perhaps today’s discussion can shed some light on the matter. During the course of our discussion of electricity certain terms have been tossed about, like voltage and current. For some the distinction between the two may be unclear, and that is what we’ll be addressing today. Electricity is a rather abstract phenomenon, but you may consider the flow of electrical current through a wire to be much like water flowing through a garden hose. The water won’t flow unless there’s sufficient pressure behind it, and that pressure is supplied by pumps, either at your city water works or your personal well. Take away the pressure, and the water stops flowing through the hose. Electricity flows in much the same manner. It requires a pushing pressure to get it on its journey from power plant to home, and that pressure is voltage. Take away voltage, and the current stops flowing through the wire. Voltage is, of course, produced by an electrical generator at the power plant. Last time we saw how an electrical transformer can reduce high voltage to low voltage and how this process also works in reverse. But how can that be? How can low voltage be turned into high? Is it really possible to get “something from nothing”? Let’s take a closer look. When a light bulb burns out in your home, you routinely look at the bulb to see how many watts it is so you can replace it with the same type. But what exactly is a “watt”? It’s a unit of power, and the markings on the bulb tell you how much electrical power it consumes when you use it. Generally speaking, this electrical power is related to voltage and current by this formula: Power = Volts × Electrical Current Knowing this, if I have a 60 watt bulb in a table lamp, and I plug it into a 120 volt wall outlet, then how much electrical current is the lamp going to draw from the outlet? Using the formula above and a little algebra, we get: Electrical Current = Power ÷ Volts Electrical Current = 60 watts ÷ 120 volts = 0.5 amperes And believe it or not, this same formula that’s used to assess power of a light bulb also applies to electrical transformers. Basically, the power going into the transformer is equal to the power coming out. To see how this works, consider the example stepup transformer shown in Figure 1, which converts a low voltage to a higher one. By the way, “step up” transformers have all sorts of applications. For example, they are used by electric utilities to raise the voltage produced by a power plant to make it more economical to transmit to far away customers. We’ll get into that in another article. Figure 1 – A StepUp Transformer In this example the input voltage on the primary coil is stepped up from 120 volts to 480 volts on the secondary coil, and this works according to the formula we learned about in last week’s blog: N_{P} ÷ N_{S} = V_{P} ÷ V_{S} where N_{P} and N_{S} are the number of turns of wire in the primary and secondary coils respectively, and V_{P} and V_{S} are the voltages of the primary and secondary coils respectively. Plugging in the numbers we get: 50 turns ÷ 200 turns = 120 volts ÷ V_{S} [(200 turns ÷ 50 turns) × 120 volts] = V_{S} = 480 volts Okay, for the sake of our example let’s say that an electric motor is connected to the 480 volt secondary coil. We have an electric meter hooked up to the primary coil and we measure a 2 ampere (a.k.a. “amps”) electrical current flowing through it. Without having the benefit of another electric meter positioned at the secondary coil, how can we measure how much electrical current is flowing through it? The current flowing through the secondary coil is found by equalizing the power in the primary and secondary coils: Power_{P} = Power_{S} Another way of stating this is to say that electrical power is equal to volts times current, so the equation becomes: V_{P} × I_{P} = V_{S} × I_{S} where I_{P} and I_{S} are the primary coil and secondary coil currents, respectively. Plugging in the numbers and working a little algebra we get the electrical current in the secondary coil: 120 volts × 2 amps = 480 volts × I_{S} I_{S} = (120 volts × 2 amps) ÷ 480 volts = 0.5 amps This shows us that the current flowing in the secondary coil is lower than that of the primary coil. It is therefore obvious that the voltage increase in the secondary coil comes at the expense of electrical current that can flow through the secondary coil. Squeeze down on current, voltage goes up. Squeeze down on voltage, current goes up. The power flowing through the transformer stays the same. Conversely, stepdown transformers reduce the voltage coming in, and thereby produce the reverse effect. There is an actual increase in current that can flow through the secondary coil. This principle exemplifies the tradeoff process which is often present in science and engineering. Next time we’ll explore how both stepup and stepdown transformers are used by electric utilities to transmit power from power plants to its customers tied into the utility grid. As for Rudolph and his power source, that’s still under investigation. _____________________________________________

Transformers – Something To Do With The Flux
Sunday, December 19th, 2010 Aside from the magical manifestation of innumerable top hats and replicate bodies that the movie The Prestige boasts is possible, there are many other fascinating applications of electricity, as we’ll see today.
Last time we learned how George Westinghouse’s chief engineer, William Stanley, developed the first practical transformer for electric utility use. Now let’s see how it works, as illustrated in Figure 1. Figure 1 – The Basic Electrical Transformer What we have here is an alternating current (AC) power source. And much like an electrical generator in a utility power plant, it is connected via power lines to the primary coil wires of a transformer, such as the one which feeds power to your house. The voltage applied by the source, that is, the power plant, to the primary coil is known as V_{P,} and the electrical current flowing through the primary coil is referred to as I_{P}. As we learned last week, the continually varying electrical current flowing through the coil creates lines of magnetic flux, which also continually vary. In our diagram the lines of flux flow around the core of the transformer. The magnetic flux present in the core then induces AC voltage, or V_{S,} and current, or I_{S, }to the secondary coil when its wires are connected to something requiring an electrical load to operate. Some examples would be light bulbs, TV’s, and most appliances found in the average home. As was mentioned last week, the number of wire turns, or loops, in the secondary coil as compared to the primary coil determine how the transformer will change the voltage that is applied to it. An example of this phenomenon can be observed in the power lines supplying electricity to our homes. Voltage from power plants is too high to be introduced into our homes, so transformers convert it to a lower voltage, one which can be used by the myriad of electrical devices we couldn’t live without. To get an idea of how this voltage changing works, let’s consider Figure 2. Figure 2 – Basic Transformer Example We can see that the primary coil has 17 turns of wire and the secondary coil has 8. For purposes of our example and to keep the numbers workable, let’s arbitrarily say that V_{P} = 5 volts AC. By the way, the power initially coming into the transformer feeding your home is typically measured in the thousands of volts. Now it’s time to do some math. Based on this input voltage and the number of wire turns in each coil, what would the voltage be on the secondary coil? As William Stanley discovered, it’s a matter of ratios and algebra, and it works according to this formula: N_{P} ÷ N_{S} = V_{P} ÷ V_{S} Here N_{P} and N_{S} are the number of turns of wire in the primary and secondary coils, respectively. So plugging in the numbers we get: 17 turns ÷ 8 turns = 5 volts ÷ V_{S} [(8 turns ÷ 17 turns) x 5 volts] = V_{S} = 2.3 volts This tells us that the transformer in our example reduces, or “steps down” 5 volts AC to just under half the voltage. So the transformer changed a higher voltage to a lower voltage. By the same token, a large utility transformer can be used to reduce transmission line voltage to one which can be used safely within our homes. Like magic, this mechanism also works in reverse. For example, you can apply 2.3volts AC to the 8 turn coil and you will get 5 volts AC out of the 17 turn coil, resulting in a “stepping up” of voltage. But wait a minute. How can you possibly get more voltage out than you put in? Next time we’ll find out. _____________________________________________ 