What is an Electrical Transformer?

Temperature, climate and altitude all need to be taken in account in how an electrical transformer operates.

Electricity travels across the country at very high voltages. A power line can be rated anywhere from 400,000 to 750,000 volts. Yet most household appliances don’t need anywhere near that much power. An electrical transformer takes the electricity and transforms it so that it can be used in our homes and businesses.

Electrical Transformer

An electrical transformer works on the very basic fact of electricity creating a magnetic field while it flows through the wire. If a second wire is put next to the first one, the magnetic field will create an electric current in the second wire. By coiling the wire, we can make the first wire bigger or smaller than the second one.

If the first wire has more coils than the second wire, it is a step down transformer. This will reduce the voltage. If the situation is reversed, it is called a step up transformer.

You may have noticed the electrical transformers in your home produce heat. Because they waste heat, they are not as efficient as they could be. On a small product, like a cell phone, this energy loss is not significant. However, this could be problematic in a bigger transformer. The waste of heat can damage the transformer, shorten its life and make it considerably less energy efficient.

Most large transformers have built in cooling systems to eliminate waste heat. These may use hot oil or water which is pumped through the transformer by a heat exchanger which cools down the liquid and the cycle is repeated. Sometimes the liquids move through the transformer by convection. Sometimes there are electric fans that blow through the transformer to cool it.

Electrical Transformer

Electrical transformers can be found everywhere in your home. They are on big appliances like washing machines and dish washers, and much smaller ones can be found on MP3 players and mobile devices. Some are even used for rechargeable batteries, flowing from an electrical outlet. The transformer transforms the electricity to a lower voltage so it will be suited for the battery. Even an electric toothbrush has a transformer! Even though it has no power lead, a different kind of transformer changes the electricity as it runs from a coil in its charger to the coil in its base.

Although they are a pretty high tech product, electrical transformers are available at electrical supply stores ranging from the very smallest to the very largest. Electricians, who install them often, may prefer to buy them at wholesale electrical outlets.

Electrical transformers are amazing products. It’s mind blowing to think of how they work, no matter the size of the transformer, the device they are working on or the amount of voltage they are converting. No matter how technology develops, transformers will be useful for some time to come.