What are Electrical Transformers?

Sherry Holetzky

Electrical transformers are used to transform electrical energy. How they do so is by altering voltage, generally from high to low. Voltage is simply the measurement of electrons, how many or how strong, in the flow. Electricity can then be transported more easily and efficiently over long distances.

Microwaves contain small electrical transformers.
Microwaves contain small electrical transformers.

While power line electrical transformers are commonly recognized, there are other various types and sizes as well. They range from huge, multi-ton units like those at power plants, to intermediate, such as the type used on electric poles, and others can be quite small. Those used in equipment or appliances in your home or place of business are smaller transformers and there are also tiny ones used in items like microphones and other electronics.

Power travels through the coils on electrical transformers.
Power travels through the coils on electrical transformers.

Probably the most common and perhaps the most necessary use of various electrical transformers is the transportation of electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. Because power often has to travel long distances, it is transformed first into a more manageable state. It is then transformed again and again, or “stepped down,” repeatedly as it gets closer to its destination.

When the power leaves the plant, it is usually of high voltage. When it reaches the substation the voltage is lowered. When it reaches a smaller transformer, the type found on top of electric poles, it is stepped down again. It is a continuous process, which repeats until the power is at a usable level.

You have likely seen the type of electrical transformers that sit on top of electric poles. These contain coils or windings that are wrapped around a core. The power travels through the coils. The more coils, the higher the voltage. On the other hand, fewer coils mean lower voltage.

Electrical transformers have changed industry. Electric power distribution is now more efficient than ever. Transformers have made it possible to transfer power near and far, in a timely, efficient, and more economical manner. Since many people do not wish to live in close proximity to a power plant, there is the added benefit of making it possible for homes and businesses that are quite a distance from power plants to obtain dependable, affordable electricity.

Electrical transformers are commonly used to reduce electricity flow to devices such as laptops.
Electrical transformers are commonly used to reduce electricity flow to devices such as laptops.

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Discussion Comments


I live directly underneath a transformer. When I take an electrical tester (which beeps when it encounters electric current)with me as I walk around my yard, it goes crazy! I am concerned about the EMF and the health risks that are linked to it.

All who live in the home get terrible migraine headaches and several in the immediate community have been diagnosed with cancer. Could the electromagnetic field cause us health problems?


What are taps and when are they used in Electrical Transformers?


what do electrical transformers do in relation to overall power supply?


wow this is just so simple and easy to understand. thank you wisegeek.


we have a power transformer outside our home. is this a health risk to my family? also why do they need to put these things in front of houses? can't they have them in an area where they can't be of any harm to anyone? --mtww


Thank you for the excellent explanation. We have a power company transformer right outside our home. One of our electric water timers is at the front of our house and goes erratic and won't work. None of the others cause problems. Does this mean the transformer could be a health risk to us as well?

Thanks, GB


How and why does increased ambient temperature and increased local power consumption affect the efficiency of electric pole transformers?


A Simple and to-the-point explanation, easy to understand and digest...

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