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05/18/2011 02:59 AM
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simple circuit overload caused by a surge, this can happen when a transformer or power line is hit by lightning.

What Happens When a Transformer Blows?

Paul Bright has been freelance writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment, mental health and gardens. He writes for various websites. He is also a federal employee in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and is pursuing a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.
By Paul Bright, eHow Contributor

The country's power grid is supported by many high-voltage parts that hold together an intricate web of electricity. Part of distributing that power involves the use of transformers. Transformers are very useful in getting sufficient power into your home. But if one transformer blows, you better watch out for what could happen next.

The Transformer

Electrical transformers are used by power companies to get the correct amount of voltage into your house without burning out its wiring. Power lines hold as much as 765,000 volts at any given time, and will run through miles and miles of power lines. Transformers can step this voltage level down to about 8,000 volts by manipulating the magnetic fields surrounding the electricity. Transformers around your home knock the load down further to around 220 volts, which is typical of household appliances like ovens and refrigerators.
Internal Combustion

Transformers can blow for a number of reasons. If heavy rains leak into the transformer drum, they could short-circuit the coolant system responsible for keeping the copper windings from overheating. Overheating by thousands of volts can cause a transformer to blow. Of course, a lightning strike onto a transformer can also cause a major explosion, due to the amount of extra voltage injected into the transformer. Lightning bolts can contain up to 120 million volts, depending on the length and size.
Your Home

Transformers can also explode if a home's electrical system doesn't properly regulate the incoming energy. For example, an electrical surge that is sent from a home device to the transformer could cause a large build-up of voltage, resulting in an overload. Transformers can also blow if there is external physical damage to power lines.

When a transformer blows, it can potentially knock out power for dozens, if not hundreds, of homes on the electrical grid. If wires are connected solely through the transformer, then a blown transformer is akin to cutting a piece of string in half. Even surrounding power lines can be susceptible to damage from the blown transformer, due to electrical arcing or flying debris.
Collateral Damage

Another major problem with a blown transformer is collateral damage. Any power lines previously connected to the transformer are now live,exposed wires that could still be carrying thousands of volts. During a storm, these wires could cause major arcing and electrical shock should they be submerged in large puddles of water. Electrical arcs from blown transformers could also potentially set telephone poles and nearby trees on fire, especially during dry seasons.

Read more: What Happens When a Transformer Blows? | eHow.com [link to www.ehow.com]