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-   -   When a pole transformer goes bad (http://www.diychatroom.com/f18/when-pole-transformer-goes-bad-32669/)

KE2KB 11-26-2008 02:27 PM

When a pole transformer goes bad
 
Hi;
I know that I shouldn't be worrying about such things, but I'm a little concerned about the transformer on the pole nearly in front of our house, because I know that it's more than 50 years old. The wiring on our street is probably closer to 80 years old, being the separate wires, not a twisted cable.

One transformer on the block behind us went a couple of years ago, and it put on quite a show.
I'm just wondering whether there's any truth to rumors that the lids or pieces of these things fly off with great force, and sometimes end up blocks from the pole, or is this just a myth?
I have heard of cars parked near the pole being hit by insulators, but never of anyone or anything being hit by something larger. I guess if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be hit, but the odds of that are much lower than being hit by an errant driver while crossing the street.

More importantly, when a transformer blows, is there likely to be a surge/spike on my wiring?
I'm thinking that if I hear it making funny sounds, or my lights start to flicker, I should run down to the basement and shut off the main breaker to prevent damage to appliances and wiring in my home. Then, I probably won't be at home when it does finally blow<g>

I'm not really worried about this, just looking at it now and again I wonder how much longer it will last, and whether when it does give up, it will go "supernova"!

Do you think I stand a chance of convincing the POCO to replace the transformers and wiring on my block before they fail? I hardly think so, but maybe it's worth a try.

Edit: The transformer I am talking about is the one in my Avitar. I think you can see that it's one of the older ones.

Yoyizit 11-26-2008 02:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KE2KB (Post 190476)
I'm just wondering whether there's any truth to rumors that the lids or pieces of these things fly off with great force, and sometimes end up blocks from the pole, or is this just a myth?

Plus, they throw out hot oil.

More importantly, when a transformer blows, is there likely to be a surge/spike on my wiring?

Probably.

Do you think I stand a chance of convincing the POCO to replace the transformers and wiring on my block before they fail?

No, and neither does your attorney.

A customer of mine had voltage dropouts, so I called PoCo to put a recording voltmeter on the line. Probably it was squirrels meeting their Maker because of bad insulation.

A very angry guy showed up with a meter and said the voltage was fine. I reiterated, "recording voltmeter."
So, PoCo's first line of defense was intimidation.

PoCo hooked it up and after a week said the recorder didn't show any problems (but after that my customers didn't have any more dropouts).
So the second line of defense was probably deception.

The money that is supposed to go to infrastructure goes to the mistresses of the CEOs. :laughing: This shows up occasionally in your newspaper.

I called PoCo once, and before I even asked, the receptionist told me that they are under absolutely no obligation regarding the quality of the power that I am paying for (but they sort of promise 114v to 126v).

Possibly the health of one of these huge transformers can be judged by doing an (unpowered) insulation test. Powering down all your neighbors for this reason probably won't be very well received.

rgsgww 11-26-2008 03:02 PM

The inside wires will breakdown over time, causing a short. At this time, depending on which side is shorting, you may experience dim lights, or extremely high voltage. Soon the oil gets very hot, and starts to boil. At this moment the pressure inside the transformer exceeds a safe amount and a side will open up. Once the hot oil gets out, an arc may ignite it and you will fire and some sparking and arcing. You may hear a loud bang after the thing exploded, this is probably the disconnect/fuse going. But since its so old, it may not. If it doesn't go, you might see some arcing afterwards, until the power is shut off. If power isn't cut, the wires will get hot enough that they pull apart. Once they pull apart, they fall and touch each other. You will see a shower of sparks and it will be over.

Ive seen this before...you will know its getting bad as soon as your gfcis start tripping and resetting themselves.

No, they don't usually don't throw pieces very far, but I would not want to be under it when it happens.

KE2KB 11-26-2008 03:15 PM

Yoyizit; Thanks for your quick reply.
This isn't something I "worry" about, but it's on my mind every now and then, especially when the weather gets bad.
I'm also wondering, since these transformers are so old whether they contain PCB's, and we could have them replaced solely on that issue.
As for the wiring, I'm not as concerned about it as I am of the transformer. At least when the wiring fails, power simply goes out (most of the time), but when a transformer blows, it may be spectacular.

As for the POCO and their attitude, there was an incident this past summer in our town involving a house that exploded due to leaking gas. Several residents had reported a gas odor for weeks prior to the incident, but the POCO came, and left, saying they didn't find anything. Their last visit had been only hours before the explosion.
Then all of a sudden, the house explodes, nearly killing a couple of people who just happened to be walking nearby.

I still haven't heard about where the gas was leaking from. It was probably inside the house, but still, shouldn't the company have asked the resident for permission to check out his house. The guy was killed in the explosion! I'm always asking myself why he didn't report the gas odor himself. There's something wrong with that whole story.


After that incident, the company has been very careful, and attentive to gas leaks. One night, a month or so ago, they were digging up the street not far from our house during the night because someone had smelled gas. It never got so bad that I caught any of it, but I'm sure the POCO isn't taking any chances.

You talk about the nasty disposition of the POCO worker. That seems to be the norm for people like that, doesn't it. After that explosion, there were several follow-up articles in our local newspaper with residents stating how poorly the POCO had reacted to their complaints on that issue, and others.
I recall once when I was about 13 years old, I was riding my bicycle up and down our block, and smelled gas at a certain location. My mom called the gas co (which is also the electric co) and reported it. The next morning (not the same day) a guy comes by early in the morning, acting as though I had brought him out here on his day off or something (very nasty) and demanded that I show him where I smelled the gas.
Later in the day, a crew was digging and repairing the leak. Then the guy (probably not the same one as in the morning) told me that I should come to work with them with my super-sensitive nose <g>

Back to the transformer issue: I did send an e-mail to a general address (very hard to find one that's not specifically designed for reporting a street light out, or move-in move-out request). I mentioned PCB's when I told them about the transformer.
It is possible, though not probably that I can have all of the transformers in town replaced by law, if we passed anything about PCB's in these transformers.

It's probably a very long shot to have anything done on on a pre-emptive basis, but I guess it never hurts to make someone aware.
My next step would be to write an article for our local paper. If they like it, and start to spin it, we could have all new transformers by next spring

Now if I really believe that, I'll commit myself to the "funny farm".:jester:
Sorry for being so long, and straying a bit off the original subject, but it seems to have created a torrent of thoughts from my mind.

KE2KB 11-26-2008 03:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rgsgww (Post 190485)
The inside wires will breakdown over time, causing a short. At this time, depending on which side is shorting, you may experience dim lights, or extremely high voltage. Soon the oil gets very hot, and starts to boil. At this moment the pressure inside the transformer exceeds a safe amount and a side will open up. Once the hot oil gets out, an arc may ignite it and you will fire and some sparking and arcing. You may hear a loud bang after the thing exploded, this is probably the disconnect/fuse going. But since its so old, it may not. If it doesn't go, you might see some arcing afterwards, until the power is shut off. If power isn't cut, the wires will get hot enough that they pull apart. Once they pull apart, they fall and touch each other. You will see a shower of sparks and it will be over.

Ive seen this before...you will know its getting bad as soon as your gfcis start tripping and resetting themselves.

No, they don't usually don't throw pieces very far, but I would not want to be under it when it happens.

Thanks for that info. I'll look out for GFCI's tripping without reason (especially if more than one trip at once).

rgsgww 11-26-2008 03:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KE2KB (Post 190490)
Thanks for that info. I'll look out for GFCI's tripping without reason (especially if more than one trip at once).


I think the mov (metal oxide varistor) the gfcis surge suppressing device, was diverting a surge, they were hot! I was very lucky that I unplugged all of my equiptment before it happened. There was a storm with 90-100 mph wind, so I unplugged my stuff beforehand.

The gfcis will trip like that when something is very wrong. I tested the volts-it was changing so fast that the meter couldn't get a reading.

It took the poco about 4 hours to reconnect 1 wire...

Yoyizit 11-26-2008 04:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rgsgww (Post 190494)
I think the mov (metal oxide varistor) the gfcis surge suppressing device, was diverting a surge, they were hot!

Electricians in our building hooked up something wrong and stunk up the whole place by frying all the surge suppressors; MOVs can only handle transients, not continuous overvoltage.

Yoyizit 11-26-2008 04:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KE2KB (Post 190488)
As for the POCO and their attitude, there was an incident this past summer in our town involving a house that exploded due to leaking gas. Several residents had reported a gas odor for weeks prior to the incident, but the POCO came, and left, saying they didn't find anything.

I had a problem with the gas company, so I wrote them a letter along the lines of
"Can you imagine sitting in a Board of Inquiry explaining that there was a gas explosion because you didn't feel like looking through nine years of old records regarding this gas line hookup?"

They fixed the problem.

Then, incredibly, they tried to invite me to defraud them (so they could nail me later). They didn't have anything on me so they tried to get something on me.

jerryh3 11-26-2008 05:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Yoyizit (Post 190498)
I had a problem with the gas company, so I wrote them a letter along the lines of
"Can you imagine sitting in a Board of Inquiry explaining that there was a gas explosion because you didn't feel like looking through nine years of old records regarding this gas line hookup?"

They fixed the problem.

Then, incredibly, they tried to invite me to defraud them (so they could nail me later). They didn't have anything on me so they tried to get something on me.

So your employer has been out to get you, the electric company has been out to get you, the gas company has been out to get you... you may want to look out your windows for some black helicopters..

KE2KB 11-26-2008 05:51 PM

Well, at least if (when) the pole transformer goes, I can say "I told you so":)
That of course means diddly, since the POCO has a policy of fix when it's broke, right?
It would probably make the Guinnes Book if they did replace a transformer before failure on my part!

But I'll be sure to have my Nikon aimed at the thing while it's exploding! With the 300mm tele I just bought, I should be able to do it at a safe distance<g>

rgsgww 11-26-2008 06:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KE2KB (Post 190540)
Well, at least if (when) the pole transformer goes, I can say "I told you so":)
That of course means diddly, since the POCO has a policy of fix when it's broke, right?
It would probably make the Guinnes Book if they did replace a transformer before failure on my part!

But I'll be sure to have my Nikon aimed at the thing while it's exploding! With the 300mm tele I just bought, I should be able to do it at a safe distance<g>


Yeah it seems that way...

I remember you saying about the old wires...If they did short, the power would still be flowing. Those transformers only have a fuse before them.

When it does, I'd love to see the pics.

HandyPete 11-26-2008 06:57 PM

Dude, open yourself a micro brew and relax. I'm a POCO electrician and have seen hundred of these pop-tops explode. So far everything that's been said is true (especially the hot oil).

Don't do anything, buy anything, say anything, change anything, heck, think anything! honestly, in my opinion your OK.

-pete

Yoyizit 11-26-2008 08:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jerryh3 (Post 190512)
So your employer has been out to get you, the electric company has been out to get you, the gas company has been out to get you... you may want to look out your windows for some black helicopters..

The Men in Black have already been by with that flashy thingy. . .so I don't remember making those posts.:laughing:

KE2KB 11-26-2008 08:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HandyPete (Post 190571)
Dude, open yourself a micro brew and relax. I'm a POCO electrician and have seen hundred of these pop-tops explode. So far everything that's been said is true (especially the hot oil).

Don't do anything, buy anything, say anything, change anything, heck, think anything! honestly, in my opinion your OK.

-pete

I have to have something to worry about<g> If I didn't, the things I didn't worry about would happen without my having worried about them, and I would be telling myself that if I had worried about them, they wouldn't have happened, because it's usually the things you don't worry about that happen, while the ones you do worry about never happen!:jester:

Now you must really think I'm gone nuts! I think you're right!

edit: That microbrew is starting to sound real good right now, but all I've got is warm:( Maybe stick it in the freezer for an hour and it'll be cold enough:)

WFO 11-26-2008 11:16 PM

Yes, your transformer can explode. On the other hand, you can get hit by a meteor.
When a transformer fails (and they do fail) 99.44% of the time they blow their fuse. You hear a POP and the lights go out. Very little drama unless there are 30 seconds left in the Super Bowl with the score tied when the TV goes off.
Yes, older transformers can contain PCB's. If you don't cook with PCB's (like the Japanese that had so many birth defects), you'll be OK.
Transformers have no moving parts so there's not much to wear out. Cellulose insulation in an oil bath can last an awful long time if not abused (i.e., overheated/overloaded). It would be like trading in your car at 100,000 miles. Is it worn out? Only if its been abused....otherwise, it's good to go for another 100,000.
And contrary to popular belief, POCO employees are not perverted, drug snorting pedophiles looking to screw over their customers.

Living in fear of your transformer ranks up there with being abducted by aliens, getting swallowed by a python, and winning the Power Ball Lottery. Don't hold your breath:thumbsup:


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