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Condition Monitoring of Transformers (on photo: distributive tranformer
Condition Monitoring of Transformers (on photo: distributive tranformer; by Gazoogleheimer via Flickr)

Detecting early signs of deterioration

It is possible to provide transformers with measuring devices to detect early signs of degradation in various components and provide warning to the operator in order to avoid a lengthy and expensive outage due to failure.

The technique, which can be applied to other plant as well as transformers, is called condition monitoring, as the intent is to provide the operator with regular information on the condition of the transformer.

By reviewing the trends in the information provided, the operator can make a better judgement as to the frequency of maintenance, and detect early signs of deterioration that, if ignored, would lead to an internal fault occurring.

Such techniques are an enhancement to, but are not a replacement for, the protection applied to a transformer.

The extent to which condition monitoring is applied to transformers on a system will depend on many factors, amongst which will be the policy of the asset owner, the suitability of the design (existing transformers may require modifications involving a period out of service – this may be costly and not justified), the importance of the asset to system operation, and the general record of reliability.

Therefore, it should not be expected that all transformers would be, or need to be, so fitted.

A typical condition monitoring system for an oil immersed transformer is capable of monitoring the condition of various transformer components (bushings, tank, tap changer, coolers and conservators) as shown in Table 1 below.

Condition monitoring for transformers
Table 1 – condition monitoring for transformers

There can be some overlap with the measurements available from a digital/numerical relay.

By the use of software to store and perform trend analysis of the measured data, the operator can be presented with information on the state of health of the transformer, and alarms raised when measured values exceed appropriate limits. This will normally provide the operator with early warning of degradation within one or more components of the transformer, enabling maintenance to be scheduled to correct the problem prior to failure occurring.

The maintenance can obviously be planned to suit system conditions, provided the rate of degradation is not excessive.

As asset owners become more conscious of the costs of an unplanned outage, and electric supply networks are utilised closer to capacity for long periods of time, the usefulness of this technique can be expected to grow.

Reference: Network Protection & Automation Guide – Areva

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Pieter de Wet
    Oct 25, 2016


    Im interested in monitoring
    Tap changes
    The Active part

    The question is , what instruments do you use to do this. and it must have 4-20mA outputs so that I can monitor it, I’m also going to measure structural vibration as well as cooling fans bearings & winding vibration with fibr optice accelerometers

  2. Martin Energy
    Feb 21, 2014

    Maintenance concepts and condition monitoring ensure efficient processes.
    You can finde more infos hier:

    Jul 21, 2013

    EEP is very useful tool for electrical engineers.

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