Transformer Ratings and Specifications
Transformer size or capacity is most often expressed in kVA. “We require 30 kVA of power for this system” is one example, or “The facility has a 480 VAC feed rated for 112.5 kVA”.
However, reliance upon only kVA rating can result in safety and performance problems when sizing transformers to feed modern electronic equipment. Use of off-the-shelf, general purpose transformers for electronics loads can lead to power quality and siting problems:
- Single phase electronic loads can cause excessive transformer heating.
- Electronic loads draw non-linear currents, resulting in low voltage and output voltage distortion.
- Oversizing for impedance and thermal performance can result in a transformer with a significantly larger footprint.
It is vital for the systems designer to understand all of the factors that affect transformer effectiveness and performance.
Historically, transformers have been developed to supply 60 Hz, linear loads such as lights, motors, and heaters. Electronic loads were a small part of the total connected load. A system designer could be assured that if transformer voltage and current ratings were not exceeded, the transformer would not overheat, and would perform as expected.
A standard transformer is designed and specified with three main parameters: kVA Rating, Impedance, and Temperature Rise.
The transformer voltage and current specification. KVA is simply the load voltage times the load current. A single phase transformer rated for 120 VAC and 20 Amperes would be rated for 120 × 20 = 2400 VA, or 2.4 KVA (thousand VA).