How Do Power Company Transformers Work

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Intro to Power Company Transformers

  • Most people don't think about the electricity that powers their homes. Flipping a switch and having appliances jump to life is an assumption in the modern world. Inexpensive electric power is easy to take for granted, but it isn't easy to provide. Power companies have to do more than just transport the power from their production plants to the home of the consumers. The power has to be safely regulated and transformed from raw energy to a usable product.

Why transformers are necessary

  • Power companies employ transformers as the best outlet for power. While transformers are common in everyday appliances in the home, the power company has to use several transformers between the generation facility and the end-user. When the power leaves the production facility, it is between 250,000 and 750,000 volts. This extremely high voltage allows the utility company to transmit power over long distances. At lower voltages, the power would be severely degraded by the time it reached the users at the far end of the network.

How a transformer works

  • The transformers that handle these step-downs are massive. By wrapping copper wire around a highly magnetic iron core, the electric utility can change the voltage to a usable level. The average home is wired for 220 volt electrical current. Since high-tension power lines running through most neighborhoods carry roughly 7,000 volts, household electrical systems would burn out the first time they were connected to the grid. For this reason, step-down transformers are used.

    Transformers consist of both primary and secondary coils. These coils change the current, while keeping the frequency static. As the power enters the transformer, it enters the primary coil, which produces a strong magnetic field that wraps around the magnetic core. Because of the nature of the copper wrapping, this produces an alternating current. In turn, this creates an alternating current in the secondary coils. The more times the copper wire is wrapped around the magnetic core, the more the voltage is reduced.

    The larger power company transformers may have dozens or hundreds of secondary coils in order to reduce the voltage to the 7,200 volts carried by power lines in your neighborhood. At each power pole, the voltage is further stepped down by using the pole-mounted transformers, which reduces it further to 220 volt.

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