Every year there are transformer explosions that you experience yourself in your city or read about one in the news. According to Mark Roemer Oakland, while there may be numerous transformer failures every year, most of them don’t end up with an explosion. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the reasons for transformer explosions.
1. What is a transformer – A transformer is an essential part of a power grid that controls the level of voltage flowing through any point of the grid. It usually works to decrease the voltage to acceptable levels for residential and commercial use when electricity is transferred from power lines.
Think of the power grid as a circuit of a river that flows through a water park. The electricity flows from the power plant, goes through the river, different slides, and rides, and returns back to the power plant. There are several circuits that work at different voltages. For instance, residential buildings usually have a lower voltage requirement compared to factories. For the water park analogy, think of it as different rides with different requirements for volume and rate of flow. You can’t go on a ride of shallow water on a float that was meant for shallow water. That’s where transformers come in, to regulate the voltage.
2. Reasons for transformer failure – When a slide in the water park gets flooded with too much water, you may not be able to ride it anymore. In the worst scenario, the extra weight and volume of water may cause the metal and plastic tubes that make the slide to burst open. Similarly, too much electricity can cause sudden surges and can cause the transformer to fail or explode. There are numerous reasons for transformer failures. It may be caused due to overloading, lightning strikes, power surges, high moisture content in the air, and more.
3. Technical limitations – Most transformers can detect energy spikes and have been programmed to shut down automatically. However, the shutdown takes around 60 milliseconds. This speed is impressive when you think that it’s the typical camera shutter speed. However, that may be too slow to stop an electrical overload.
4. Reasons for transformer explosion – Transformers have large cylinders of mineral oil that keep the transformer cool. However, during an electrical overload, the circuits start to meltdown and create a tremendous amount of heat and several showers of spark. This can light the mineral oil on fire and with that comes a catastrophic change in temperature and pressure. That results in an explosion with a large fireball, metal shrapnel, and a big plume of smoke that can be seen from a long distance.
Mark Roemer Oakland suggests that you don’t approach a transformer explosion and alert the authorities by dialing 911. While a distribution transformer can be replaced within a few hours, it takes a lot of time to repair any widespread damage. So, you should have a backup generator or battery solutions in place if you don’t want to experience long hours of darkness.
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