Liquid-Filled Transformers: They’re trying to tell us something, but what are they saying?

By Traci Hopkins

What would you say if I told you transformers not only hum, but they talk too?

You’d probably look at me like I tripped over my own shoelaces.  The fact is transformers can and do talk to us, every day, in fact.  We just haven’t quite deciphered the Rosetta Stone to interpret what they are trying to tell us; but we are getting close.

Now more than ever we have more and more information being communicated to us, not just from the gauges but through online monitors, laboratory analysis, electrical testing, infrared, ultrasound, visual inspections and more.

So, if we have all this talking going on why are they still failing?  One reason is we have not standardized the installation of a dashboard for every transformer.  Think of the automobile industry.  Every single vehicle from basic models to luxury brands have one thing in common, they all have a dashboard with a universal symbol that notifies or indicates to the driver that something abnormal has occurred and they need to take the vehicle in for an inspection and diagnostics.  Unfortunately, the transformer manufacturing industry has not fully embraced this highly desired adaptation.

Every liquid-filled transformer can tell us when an abnormal event has occurred.  Hydrogen gas is produced in every thermal and electrical event in a transformer.  However, unless we sample at the right time, we will not know that something has occurred.  Therefore, installing a hydrogen sensor on your transformer to detect elevated levels of this key gas, is the equivalent of the dashboard in your car, alerting you to inspect, investigate and diagnose your unit before it becomes a major problem and leaves you stranded.

About Traci Hopkins

Traci works with energy companies in Latin America for H2scan, a leading hydrogen sensor manufacturer. She is an advisory board member for Women in Power Systems and was named an IEEE Senior Member in 2022. Before joining H2scan, she served as senior training and education advisor at SDMyers.