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When a transformer is to be used in a circuit, more than just the turns ratio must be considered. The voltage, current, and power-handling capabilities of the primary and secondary windings must also be considered.

The maximum voltage that can safely be applied to any winding is determined by the type and thickness of the insulation used. When a better (and thicker) insulation is used between the windings, a higher maximum voltage can be applied to the windings.

The maximum current that can be carried by a transformer winding is determined by the diameter of the wire used for the winding. If current is excessive in a winding, a higher than ordinary amount of power will be dissipated by the winding in the form of heat. This heat may be sufficiently high to cause the insulation around the wire to break down. If this happens, the transformer may be permanently damaged.

The power-handling capacity of a transformer is dependent upon its ability to dissipate heat. If the heat can safely be removed, the power-handling capacity of the transformer can be increased. This is sometimes accomplished by immersing the transformer in oil, or by the use of cooling fins. The power-handling capacity of a transformer is measured in either the volt-ampere unit or the watt unit.

Two common power generator frequencies (60 hertz and 400 hertz) have been mentioned, but the effect of varying frequency has not been discussed.

If the frequency applied to a transformer is increased, the inductive reactance of the windings is increased, causing a greater ac voltage drop across the windings and a lesser voltage drop across the load. However, an increase in the frequency applied to a transformer should not damage it. But, if the frequency applied to the transformer is decreased, the reactance of the windings is decreased and the current through the transformer winding is increased. If the decrease in frequency is enough, the resulting increase in current will damage the transformer. For this reason a transformer may be used at frequencies above its normal operating frequency, but not below that frequency.

Q.25 Why should a transformer designed for 400 hertz operation not be used for 60 hertz operation?


The transformer has many useful applications in an electrical circuit. A brief discussion of some of these applications will help you recognize the importance of the transformer in electricity and electronics.


Power transformers are used to supply voltages to the various circuits in electrical equipment. These transformers have two or more windings wound on a laminated iron core. The number of windings and the turns per winding depend upon the voltages that the transformer is to supply. Their coefficient of coupling is 0.95 or more.

You can usually distinguish between the high-voltage and low-voltage windings in a power transformer by measuring the resistance. The low-voltage winding usually carries the higher current and therefore has the larger diameter wire. This means that its resistance is less than the resistance of the high-voltage winding, which normally carries less current and therefore may be constructed of smaller diameter wire.

So far you have learned about transformers that have but one secondary winding. The typical power transformer has several secondary windings, each providing a different voltage. The schematic symbol for a typical power-supply transformer is shown in figure 5-12. For any given voltage across the primary, the voltage across each of the secondary windings is determined by the number of turns in each secondary. A winding may be center-tapped like the secondary 350 volt winding shown in the figure. To center tap a winding means to connect a wire to the center of the coil, so that between this center tap and either terminal of the winding there appears one-half of the voltage developed across the entire winding. Most power transformers have colored leads so that it is easy to distinguish between the various windings to which they are connected. Carefully examine the figure which also illustrates the color code for a typical power transformer. Usually, red is used to indicate the high-voltage leads, but it is possible for a manufacturer to use some other color(s).

Figure 5-12. - Schematic diagram of a typical power transformer.

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There are many types of power transformers. They range in size from the huge transformers weighing several tons-used in power substations of commercial power companies-to very small ones weighing as little as a few ounces-used in electronic equipment.


It is not necessary in a transformer for the primary and secondary to be separate and distinct windings. Figure 5-13 is a schematic diagram of what is known as an AUTOTRANSFORMER. Note that a single coil of wire is "tapped" to produce what is electrically a primary and secondary winding. The voltage across the secondary winding has the same relationship to the voltage across the primary that it would have if they were two distinct windings. The movable tap in the secondary is used to select a value of output voltage, either higher or lower than E p, within the range of the transformer. That is, when the tap is at point A, Es is less than Ep; when the tap is at point B, Es is greater than E p.

Figure 5-13. - Schematic diagram of an autotransformer.

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Audio-frequency (af) transformers are used in af circuits as coupling devices. Audio-frequency transformers are designed to operate at frequencies in the audio frequency spectrum (generally considered to be 15 Hz to 20kHz).

They consist of a primary and a secondary winding wound on a laminated iron or steel core. Because these transformers are subjected to higher frequencies than are power transformers, special grades of steel such as silicon steel or special alloys of iron that have a very low hysteresis loss must be used for core material. These transformers usually have a greater number of turns in the secondary than in the primary; common step-up ratios being 1 to 2 or 1 to 4. With audio transformers the impedance of the primary and secondary windings is as important as the ratio of turns, since the transformer selected should have its impedance match the circuits to which it is connected.


Radio-frequency (rf) transformers are used to couple circuits to which frequencies above 20,000 Hz are applied. The windings are wound on a tube of nonmagnetic material, have a special powdered-iron core, or contain only air as the core material. In standard broadcast radio receivers, they operate in a frequency range of from 530 kHz to 1550 kHz. In a short-wave receiver, rf transformers are subjected to frequencies up to about 20 MHz - in radar, up to and even above 200 MHz.


For maximum or optimum transfer of power between two circuits, it is necessary for the impedance of one circuit to be matched to that of the other circuit. One common impedance-matching device is the transformer.

To obtain proper matching, you must use a transformer having the correct turns ratio. The number of turns on the primary and secondary windings and the impedance of the transformer have the following mathematical relationship

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Because of this ability to match impedances, the impedance-matching transformer is widely used in electronic equipment.

Q.26 List five different types of transformers according to their applications
Q.27 The leads to the primary and to the high-voltage secondary windings of a power transformer usually are of what color?

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