- by Todd Benadum
- June 13, 2019
- Blog, Transformer Repair, Warranty
To repair, or replace? That is often the question when dealing with transformers. While ELSCO is home to many skilled repair technicians, more often than not, we will advocate for the replacement of a transformer, as it tends to be the most cost-efficient solution for resolving transformer-based problems. However, the decision ultimately isn’t up to us, so we’ve made it our mission to be an informative resource to help guide you towards the right transformer solutions. So, let’s talk about oil-filled transformers.
How Long Do Oil-Filled Transformers Usually Last?
The typical lifespan of an oil-filled transformer is around 20-30 years, but some high-voltage models that are kept in pristine conditions can last 50 or 60 years! Most of the time, these transformers will outlast the career of the person who ordered or installed them.
As you may have guessed, one of the best ways to improve the lifespan of a transformer is to minimize harsh operating conditions and stay up-to-date with maintenance requirements.
How Do You Replace an Oil-Filled Transformer?
Replacing an oil-filled transformer is no simple task. Oil-filled transformers have to abide by many requirements from insurance, the National Electric Code, local codes and more, which is understandable considering the high level of risk to people, property and business operations. They require strong engineering expertise to evaluate correct positioning with minimal risk, especially where building combustion is a concern. Many installations require fire-resistant barriers, automatic extinguishing systems and other mechanisms to reduce risk.
There are many different factors that go into transformer replacement — these factors require evaluation from highly trained professionals. Transformer replacement is not an area in which to cut corners. For non-professionals, the best and only way to replace an oil-filled transformer is to work with a team of experts. If your transformer has failed and you need an immediate replacement, reach out to our emergency replacement team.
6 Signs You Need to Replace Your Oil-Filled Transformer
Oil-filled transformers are a popular transformer type, and like all transformers, they will eventually need to be replaced. If you’re in possession of an oil-filled transformer, there are a few key tells and tests that you can use to determine if it is time to start looking for a replacement. Some of them are fairly common sense, but others you may not have thought of.
1. DGA Oil Tests
A dissolved gas oil test, or DGA test, is a test that reveals the dissolved gasses in transformer oil. Gases within a transformer can be the result of a breakdown of the materials the transformer is made up of. This can provide valuable insight into the health of your transformer. Depending on which gases within your transformer are revealed to be high, it may be time to replace your transformer.
2. Infrared Scans
Much like an X-ray at the doctor’s office can illustrate problems in your body, a scan of your transformer can provide similar, analogous information. An infrared scan of your transformer can allow you to take note of any bushing or connections that might be running hot. You can use this information to determine if the weak points in your transformer are repairable, or if it’s time for a replacement.
Leaks can usually be repaired, but sometimes, an onslaught of leaks can be indicative of a larger problem at play. If you are consistently spending money repairing leaks in your transformer, it may be a sign that a larger failure is on its way. You can avoid the massive financial loss of a transformer failure by replacing it before it’s too late.
4. Noise & Vibration
Transformers are similar to cars in that if they sound broken, that’s a safe bet that it’s worth looking at. Sound as a performance indicator is more relevant to dry-type transformers, however, if your oil-filled transformer is one of the loudest noisemakers of your infrastructure, you should investigate its health and performance.
5. Old, Flaking Paint
Believe it or not, this simple cosmetic indicator could be a sign that your transformer is on its last leg. A transformer that is near failure and needs to be replaced will often run hot. A symptom of this is that it may warp the exterior paint, or cause it to start to flake. Now, if you have a 25-year-old transformer with a few paint chips, don’t be too alarmed, but if consistent paint damage is happening alongside other warning signs, it may be time to reach out for a replacement.
Look at the color of the oil your transformer contains. If it is black or dark in color, that is a sign that it took a hit or surge. If your transformer underwent this level of strain, it’s a safe bet that it is simply limping along, and looking into a replacement might will you avoid total failure.
Contact ELSCO for New Oil-Filled Transformers
A transformer failure is no small ordeal. It can incur a massive amount of time and financial loss. That’s why it is always better to be proactive about the health of your transformer. If you are debating replacing your transformer, call ELSCO transformers before it becomes an emergency situation. We can advise you on the amount of time your transformer might have left, and if you decide a replacement is the right move for you and your business, we can provide you with a top-performing machine that will last for decades, so that worrying about your transformer health can be a thing of the past. Get in touch today.