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Static and dynamic testing of onload

tapchangers of power transformers
by Dr. Michael Krger, Omicron Electronics and Alexander Dierks, Alectrix
The failure of onload tapchangers (OLTC) contributes considerably to the failure statistics of power transformers as a whole. Static winding
resistance tests yield a good measure of the state of the selector as well as diverter switches. Dynamic winding resistance tests indicate if the
tap transition process from one tap to the next is smooth and continuous

The purpose of a tapchanger is to boost (or buck) the voltage on the

LV side of a transformer for a low (or high) voltage condition on the
HV side, or to allow for increased losses in the transformer and the
surrounding power system due to loading which results in a decreased
voltage overall.
Both offload and onload tapchangers reduce a specific number of
windings from the HV side of the transformer to boost the LV voltage
and vice versa. Offload tapchangers may only be operated with the
transformer being switched off. Onload tapchangers the tapchanger
may be operated while the transformer is in operation and supplying
a load.
A typical onload tapchanger is shown in Fig. 1. To change from tap1
to tap 2, the tap selector switch on the right needs to be moved to
tap 2. The diverter switch then starts moving from position A towards
position B. Firstly a diverter resistor is switched in series with tap 1, then
tap 1 and tap 2 are shorted via two diverter resistors in series, then
only the diverter resistor of tap 2 is in series with tap 2 and ultimately
tap 2 is directly connected. The transition from tap 1 to tap 2 must
be completely continuous without any interruptions, as this causes
arcing, which apart from resulting in a voltage interruption on the LV
side will contaminate the transformer oil. Furthermore the contacts
of the tap selector switch as well as the diverter switch have to be
as perfect as possible, i.e. any carbon or similar build up will result in
additional resistance to the circuit resulting in additional losses and
heat generation. A typical diverter switch is shown in Fig. 2. To maintain
such an onload tapchanger, it is important that the contacts of both
the tap selector switch as well as the diverter switch are tested, and
that the continuity of the tapchange process is verified for tapping
both upwards and downwards.

Static winding resistance measurement

Winding resistances are measured in the field to check for loose
connections, broken strands as well as high contact resistance in
tap changers.A winding resistance test is carried out by injecting a
DC current of approximately 1% of the rated current and measuring
the DC voltage drop across the winding after the measurement has
stabilized. Special care must be taken when conducting this test to
not interrupt the test leads at any time during the test, to allow the
core to be magnetized by the DC current injected resulting in unstable
voltage measurements as well as allowing the core to discharge all
the energy at the end of a test by discharging such energy to ground
before touching any of the test leads. Note that opening any of the
test lead connections during a DC winding resistance test may result
in very high voltages appearing across the open leads which can
be dangerous, if not lethal, to both the operator as well as the test
equipment. A typical test system with connections is shown in Fig. 3.
The winding resistance measurement described above needs to
be performed for each tap of the tapchanger. Plotting the winding
resistance against the tap number, should give a linear relationship
as shown in Fig. 4 for a healthy normal tapchanger, and Fig. 5 for a
tapchanger with tap winding reversal.

Fig. 2: Typical diverter switch.

Fig. 1: Typical onload tapchanger.

Fig. 3: Test system for winding resistance measurement.

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Fig. 6: New voltage selector contact.

Fig. 4: Healthy tapchanger.

Fig. 5: Healthy tapchanger with tap winding reversal

Fig. 7: Faulty voltage selector contact.

Fig. 6 shows a new silver plated voltage selector contact. Fig. 7 shows
a faulty voltage selector contact with a lot of carbon build up, resulting
in additional contact resistance between these contacts.
A transformer under test (220 kV/110 kV, 100 MVA) was found to
have conspicuously high quantities of gas in the oil, from which the
conclusion was drawn of inner overheating. Except for the middle
tap, all taps showed a significant increase compared to the original
measured values. The differences were more than 10% or, in absolute
values, up to 70 m (Fig. 8).
The deviations between switching upwards and switching downwards
are likewise clearly visible. This indicates high contact resistances
caused by the contacts of the tap selector switches. No silver plated
contacts were used and the copper contact surfaces were coated
with oil carbon. After a full maintenance of the tap selector, no
significant difference to the values originally measured at the factory
in 1954 could be observed. To examine the results in more detail, it
is recommended to view the difference between "up" and "down"
values (Fig. 9). The difference before contact maintenance was up
to 30 m (or 5%) and after it was below 1 m (or 0,18%).
Dynamic behaviour of the diverter switch
To date, only the static behaviour of the contact resistances has been
taken into account in maintenance testing. With a dynamic resistance
measurement, the dynamic behaviour of the diverter switch can be
analyzed (Fig. 10).
Process of tapchanging from Tap A to Tap B:
Diverter switch commutes from the first tap to the first commutation
The second commutation resistor is switched in parallel
Commutation to the second tap (direct contact)
Regulation back to the set current value

Fig. 8: C Phase winding resistance measurement: Absolute [m]

Comparison to "fingerprint" results, which were taken when the item

was in a known (good) condition and to the other phases, allows an
efficient analysis. A glitch detector measures the peak of the ripple
(Imax - Imin) and the slope (di/dt) of the measuring current, as these
are important criteria for correct switching. If the switching process is
interrupted, even for less than 500 s, the ripple and the slope of the
current change dramatically.
For tap changers in good condition the ripple and slope measurements
for all three phases tapping up should be similar as well as those for
tapping down should be similar. Fig. 11 shows the ripple measurement,
and Fig. 12 the slope measurement for a diverter switch in a good
Fig. 13 shows the ripple measurements for the three phases of an
aged diverter switch. The differences of the ripple values were due
to the advanced aging of the switch contacts (Fig. 14), which proves
the sensitivity of the measurement principle to changes of the contact

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Fig. 12: Slope measurement of a good diverter switch

Fig. 9: A phase winding resistance measurement:

Difference ("Up" "Down") [m].

Fig. 13: Ripple measurement of an aged diverter switch

Fig. 10: Dynamic resistance measurement for analysis of the

diverter switch
Fig. 14: Aged diverter switch contacts

the selector as well as diverter contacts can be analyzed. The dynamic

winding resistance test from one tap to the next yields a ripple and
slope measurement, which will highlight any unwanted interruptions in
the switching process of one tap to the next.

Fig. 11: Ripple measurement of a good diverter switch



Seitz, V: Vorbeugende Instandhaltung an Leistungstransformatoren

Betriebsbegleitende Messungen an Stufenschaltern and Durchfuhrungen,
OMICRON Anwendertagung 2003, Friedrichshafen


Cigre WG 12 05: An international survey on failures in large power

transformers in service, Electra No. 88 1983, S. 21 48


Hensler Th, Kaufmann R, Klapper U, Kruger M, Schreiner S, 2003, Portable

testing device, US Patent 6608493


Omicron CPC 100 Reference Manual, Omicron Electronics Gmbh,



With advancing age, transformers require regular checks. Hence it

becomes important to perform meaningful maintenance to avoid
sudden and/or total failure. The state and health of onload tapchangers
can successfully be assessed by performing static and dynamic winding
resistance tests for each tap. Comparing the static winding resistance for
each tap against the values measured at commissioning, the state of

This paper was presented at the ABB University of South Africa and
ABB School of Maintenance Power Transformer Health Monitoring and
Maintenance Symposium 2008, and is published with permission.
Contact: Alexander Dierks, Alectrix, Tel 021 790-1665, v

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