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Transformer tap changer

Q:
We are frequently changing tap position of Unit station transformer due to voltage problem. What are the impacts on transformer life and is there any solution to minimize this?

A:
Having more tap changing per week is not bad, but it wears out the tap changer faster and does require more maintenance. We set our bandwidth at 1.5 volts, 0.75 up and 0.75 down, with a minimum timer of 30 seconds (voltage has to be out of bandwidth for more than 30 seconds for tap changer to move). Voltage for the OLTC controller is based on a 120V base. This normally worked well for our city loads, but perhaps your loads vary even more. I have used a bandwidth of 2 volts maximum with good success to keep the OLTC from tapping more than I liked (250 taps per week, and naturally if your loads swing more than what we had then your taps per week are going to be higher). The 250 count per week maximum is just a goal we set to try and maximize the life of our tap changers and minimize our maintenance. Looking at your timer and bandwidth may help reduce the taps per week. When the tap count per week jumps up suddenly you can suspect the controller might be bad. One more thing, I never use the X setting, just the R. I would draw the voltage "curve" versus the current and figure out my maximum voltage based on the maximum current. This worked well for me for my 23 years of utility work (again, these are city loads, base power factor during the summer was 85%). The power factor would be higher in the winter and lower in the summer (summer at 85% and winter was over 95% because in the winter we had no air conditioning loads). That is why I did not use the X setting (one setting year round).

Since it appears that you are talking about OLTC, then 250 taps per week is the maximum level that is reasonable in my opinion for a transformer serving varying loads, such as a city. I worked for electric utilities in the US for 23 years and looked at load tap changing counts every week for over 450 MW of transformers (15 MVA to 46 MVA all serving city loads). This count is the top end we would allow. The average count was in the 125-150 range per week (summer loads, with wide varying loads each day, winter loads caused less tapping per week). Oil does not degrade rapidly in the OLTC (that is operating properly) even with a maximum of 250 counts per week, but we would take oil samples every year of the OLTC and the transformer to keep tabs on their overall health. If the oil in the OLTC does degrade rapidly, then there is a good chance that the alignment of the taps is improper and arcing may be occurring during the tap changing.

OLTC has little or no effect on the life of the transformer. Also, there are two separate oil compartments, one for the OLTC and one for the transformer.

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