Transformer Safety: Myths vs. Reality

Transformer Safety: Myths vs. Reality

Transformer Safety: Myths vs. Reality

There’s an electric aura of mystery surrounding transformers that sparks myths and misconceptions. Whether you’re dealing with low voltage or high voltage transformers, it’s essential to understand myth vs. reality so you can stay safe. 

This blog covers 11 common myths about transformer safety and the realities you should be aware of. Keep reading to learn more. 

Myth #1: Transformers are completely safe and pose no risk to the public. 

Reality: While the design of transformers incorporates multiple safety features and redundancies, the risks they pose cannot be entirely eliminated. Respect for safety protocols, regular maintenance, and public education are critical in mitigating the risks transformers pose to the public.

Myth #2: Only high-voltage transformers cause harm.

Reality: Regardless of their voltage level, all transformers are complex pieces of electrical equipment that must be handled with caution. The potential for harm comes from the voltage that a transformer is handling or outputting and from the amount of current it carries, the energy it stores, and various other operational factors. 

Proper safety barriers, regular maintenance, and a healthy respect for the power of all transformers are essential to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of the public.

Myth #3: Transformers are safe to touch if there are no visible sparks.

Reality: The lack of visible sparks does not assure safety when it comes to transformers. They are complex electrical devices that pose several risks, including electric shock, even when they appear dormant. 

The safest practice is to never touch a transformer unless you are a qualified professional equipped with the necessary safety gear and have confirmed the transformer is de-energized and safe to handle. 

Always follow established electrical safety protocols and respect warning signs and barriers designed to prevent contact with electrical equipment.

Myth #4: All transformers make noise, so a quiet transformer is defective.

Reality: The sound level of a transformer does not reliably indicate its health or performance. Transformers can run quietly and still be in perfect working order. 

However, any sudden change in the noise level — whether louder or quieter — should be investigated by maintenance personnel to ensure the transformer is operating as expected. 

It is always important to have regular inspections and maintenance performed by qualified professionals to ensure the continued safe and efficient operation of transformer equipment.

Myth #5: Transformers are able to withstand any weather conditions without issues.

Reality: This myth is particularly dangerous because it overlooks the importance of preventative maintenance to ensure the long-term functionality and safety of transformers. Regular maintenance is essential because equipment ages, transformers are subject to thermal stress, and regulations change, among other reasons. 

Myth #6 In case of a transformer fire douse it with water

Myth #6: In case of a transformer fire, douse it with water.

Reality: Dosing a transformer fire with water is extremely hazardous for several reasons:

  • Electrical conductivity: Water is a conductor of electricity. Using water to extinguish a transformer fire creates a pathway for an electrical current, which could electrocute anyone who touches the water or is nearby.
  • Oil and coolant fires: Many transformers use oil as a coolant, which is flammable. If the transformer is on fire, oil is likely burning, and water could spread the oil fire instead of extinguishing it.
  • High voltage environment: Transformers are high voltage equipment, and introducing water in such an environment is particularly dangerous because it can cause short circuits and flashover events, potentially leading to explosions.
  • Steam explosions: If water is applied to a high-temperature transformer fire, it can instantly turn to steam. The rapid expansion associated with steam generation can create an explosion, propelling burning material and potentially causing structural damage or injury.
  • Transformer design: Transformers are designed with specific fire safety components and protections. Applying water could damage these components, worsening the situation or making the transformer unsalvageable.

Due to these risks, the correct procedure for dealing with a transformer fire involves using fire extinguishers or firefighting agents appropriate for electrical fires. This includes dry chemicals, carbon dioxide, or foam designed for use with oil fires. 

If you can, it is also crucial to quickly disconnect the electrical supply to the transformer and to call professional firefighters with the training and equipment to handle electrical fires.

Myth #7: Birds on power lines or near transformers indicate safety.

Reality: Birds are able to sit on a single power line without getting shocked because they are not creating a path for electricity to ground. Electricity flows along the path of least resistance. The bird’s body doesn’t provide a path to the ground, so it remains unharmed.

Myth #8: Power outages indicate a malfunctioning or unsafe transformer.

Reality: Power outages are a sign of a disruption in the electrical supply, but they are not a reliable indicator of the condition or safety of a transformer. Many outages are due to controlled procedures or external factors rather than a fault within the transformer itself. 

When there is an outage, it’s best to check with the local power utility for the cause. If the issue is with a transformer, qualified personnel will need to address the problem, ensuring that any potential safety issues are managed properly.

Myth #9: Residential transformers are less hazardous than industrial ones. 

Reality: The belief that residential transformers are inherently less harmful than industrial ones can be misleading. While it’s true that residential transformers are typically smaller and have lower voltage and power capacity compared to industrial transformers, this does not mean they are without risk.

Residential transformers still have high voltage, store energy, and house oil and chemicals. All these factors show how dangerous transformers can be and why it’s so important to be careful around them.

Myth #10: It’s safe to build or plant under power lines or near transformers.

Reality: Building or planting under power lines or near transformers is not recommended due to various safety issues, including the risk of electric arcing, interference with maintenance work, fire risks, etc. 

Compliance with safety standards and clearance regulations is critical to maintaining a safe environment for public and utility workers. Always consult with local utility companies and municipal guidelines before building or planting in areas that may be affected by overhead lines or electrical transformers.

Myth #11: Electrical substations with transformers are safe to enter if unlocked. 

Reality: An unlocked electrical substation does not signify a safe or permissible entry point for the general public. These facilities are inherently dangerous due to high voltage equipment and various other hazards. They should only be accessed by authorized, trained professionals. 

The best course of action, if you find an unlocked substation, is to notify the utility company so they can secure the area and prevent anyone from entering and potentially getting hurt.

So, there you have it. 

Those are the most common myths about transformer safety, demystified. 

Transformer Safety With UTB Transformers

Powering our lives, powering our businesses, powering our future — transformers are the silent sentinels of our electrical grid. The safety and reliability of these critical components should never be left to chance or clouded by myth. 

As we’ve navigated through these common misconceptions, it’s clear that expertise and quality engineering are non-negotiable when it comes to transformer solutions.

If you’ve found yourself pondering the safety of your low voltage or high voltage transformers, or if you’re seeking trustworthy advice and state-of-the-art products for your electrical infrastructure, look no further. 

UTB Transformers is at the forefront of delivering top-tier transformer technology backed by a commitment to safety, reliability, and professional excellence.

Whether you need a consultation to dispel doubts or require a dependable transformer solution tailored to your specific needs, our team of knowledgeable professionals is ready to assist.

Don’t let uncertainty be a part of your power equation. Contact UTB Transformers or call us at 855.214.0975 for guidance, service, and support illuminating the path to electrical safety and efficiency.