How to check transformer operational

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by nothingeverworks, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. nothingeverworks

    nothingeverworks New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Florida
    okay i admit it: i'm a total knob.

    i'm trying to figure out if it's the transformer or the component that is not operational. I disconnected the transformer. how do i check to see if it's the culprit before spending money on a new transformer?

    thanks
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,997
    Location:
    New England
    Well, if it is entirely out of the circuit, the easiest thing you can check is the input windings and the output windings. A transformer is two coils of wire, insulated from each other, wrapped around a (typically) iron core. The exact shape of the core and how the wires are wrapped will vary, but all are the same. The input windings current causes voltage to be induced in the output windings as the magnetic fields change with the a/c signal. The ratio of input to output depends on the amount of loops relative to the input vs output. So, you can make the output voltage higher or lower depending on which side has more windings. The amount of current it can handle is dependent on the size of the wire, the amount of windings, the core, and heat disipation capacity.

    With an ohmmeter, the input windings should show continuity from one lead to the other. The output windings should show continuity between them. There should not be any continuity from the input windings to the output windings. Now, exactly what those readings will be will depend on the current capacity and whether it is a step-up or step-down transformer. If it is more than say 20-30 ohms, (usually much less but depends on the design) there may be a problem.

    Typically, a transformer is pretty stable item. If it doesn't smell from having been overheated, and it has continuity in the windings, it is probably okay.

    Note, this only applies to a real transformer...some, for low-voltage supplies use an electronic equivalent which has active circuitry in it...this simple test won't work.
  3. nothingeverworks

    nothingeverworks New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Florida
    thanks for the reply. i'll see if i can figure it out from there.

    cheers
    j
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Before you charge off....how about more description of what you are doing? What equipment is this transformer in? In its most basic application, a transformer has a certain AC voltage input on one winding(primary), and a smaller(step down) or larger ( step up) AC voltage appears at the secondary winding.

    It can get complicated from there, so how about more info?
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  5. nothingeverworks

    nothingeverworks New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Florida
    jimbo-

    (you sound like my dad. lol.)

    have you heard the saying about reaching the level of one's incompetency?... i got the friendly folks at ********* (yep, HD) to check it for me. i know a cop out.

    thanks
  6. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,534
    Location:
    North Carolina
    None the less this is a good topic to discuss.

    Both Jim D. and Jimbo have made some good points.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,626
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    transformer

    The easiest way to check a transformer it to see if it has power going to it, and if so, check for any, or the proper, output voltage.
  8. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,534
    Location:
    North Carolina
    The prefect answer
  9. Also , if the transformer have nameplate infomation like primary voltage and secondary voltage and when you test the voltage it should be right on the number as what the nameplate will say on it.

    But becarefull of transformer there are quite few transformer have live connections so please do it safe.

    If the transformer went bad for some rereason you have to replace the transformer with the same size as the exsting transformer

    Like example 5KVA = 5,000 watts transformer
    120P 24S = 120 volts primary , 24 Volts secondary

    majorty of the transformer will have a nameplate info there. If part of the equment you may have to check the equment manufacter spec for the correct size

    Merci, Marc
  10. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    Depending on what the issue is, would depend on how you proceed.

    We would test the transformer in the following way.

    1. Perform a TTR test (Transformer Turns Ratio) to verify the winding ratios.
    2. Megger the transformer, primary to secondary, primary to ground, secondary to ground (with the secondary X/O neutral Ground bond lifted).
    3. With the load lifted from the secondary energize the transformer and measure out put voltage, I would do this utilizing a variac. Starting at "0" volts, measuring primary and secondary voltage simultaneously to verify operation as I dialed up the voltage, this minimizes inrush issues and gives you multiple readings to verify rartio and operation.

    Few contractors are going to own a TTR, that is why I included item 3.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,626
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    transformer

    By the time you have done all that, you will have expended enough funds for labor to have bought a new transformer, since I assume this is a small transformer for a device, not a main power transformer.
  12. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    Depends on the size of the transformer, small control meg it and if bad trash it, 500 KVA transformer, well that is worth expending the effort noted. It depends on the situation.

  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,626
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    transformer

    I think anyone working on a 500kva transformer would have enough experience that they would not be coming to this site to decide if it was working or not. And if they did not have the knowledge, then they should not even be working on it.
  14. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    You'd be surprised, how often this very question comes up on forums, and on projects, that's why technicians come to these sites.
  15. bykviking

    bykviking New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    California
    Please help, I'm trying to discern if a transformer from my oven is faulty and therefore the reason for my woes. Your test parameters are one of the most informative and specific to my question that I have found, I'm just hoping you can clarify something for me.

    Checking the Ohms on the transformer in question (PRI: 120V 60Hz 3/16" tab / SEC: 23V 11.5VA 1/4" tab) gives me some readings I don't understand based on your comments. My multimeter reads 0.4-.6 Ohms just crossing the leads. Sitting on my desk not hooked up to a power source, the transformer's SEC gave me a nice low 2.4ish reading, but the PRI was closer to 57.4ish Ohms which is higher than your 20-30 range. There is no reading (or maybe it was Overlimit) across PRI and SEC leads in any combo so I know that a crossing of the windings shouldn't be the culprit.

    Does this help or is it too ambiguous, would more info help? My next step unless you can help is to strip a 120V power cable, hook it up and measure the SEC output to see if it jives. I just don't want to cut up a power cord if I do not have to. Thanks in advance!
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,997
    Location:
    New England
    The transformer is probably okay. There should not be any continuity between the primary and the secondary on a normal transformer. Raw resistance only gives a rough idea of the viability of a transformer...the real measure is inductance, but that takes other tools to measure. I think you need to look for something else to figure out what's going on. Even if you input the 120vac, the output would unlikely be the 11.5 unless it was under load - it would likely be somewhere near 15-18vac with no load, but that's dependent on the core design. Transformers are often used as inputs to a power supply. Without a schematic, it's hard to know what's going on.
  17. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    What I would typically do if something is not working is measure the voltage at the primary for 120 VAC with a multimeter.

    Then measure the voltage at the secondary.

    Then go from there.

    Very rarely have I ever needed to replace a transformer for a non-working electronic power supply. Usually no main power, fuse blown on the electronic circuit board, capacitor, or voltage regulation components (main power regulating transistor).

    What is the problem you are having?
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