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De-energized tap changers

Author: Douglas. M. Getson Document updated: 2002-11-06 e-mail:


A de-energized tap changer is a switch, which is connected to the winding taps of the transformer. When the tap changer is moved from one position to another, the amount of the tap winding connected into the circuit is changed. This permits the voltage ratio of the transformer to be adjusted to suit the voltage requirements at the transformers installation site. The de-energized tap changer is usually installed into the high voltage circuit of the transformer and, most of the time, it is used to adjust the primary voltage of the transformer within a 10 percent range in 5 steps. De-energized tap changers must be operated only when the transformer is completely de-energized. Operation when the transformer is energized is highly dangerous.

De-energized tap changer design Electrical switching can be performed either by zig-zag or linear methods, depending on the design of the transformer. Zig-zag switching
Rotary mechanical operation

Zig-Zag switching or bridging is used mostly in North America. A rotary mechanical design is shown in Fig 1A, with the corresponding zig-zag electrical design in Figure 1B. In this example, the initial position would be tap position A connected to D. The next position would be tap position B connected to D, then B to E, and so on. The Type DTW is a switch that mechanically operates in a rotary motion for electrical zig-zag switching.

Type DTW

Figure 1A. Rotary mechanical design.

Figure 1B. Zig-zag electrical switching design corresponding to a rotary mechanical design.


Linear mechanical operation

Zig-zag switching can also be accomplished in a switch that operates mechanically in a linear versus rotary motion. The mechanical design is linear as shown in Fig 2A with the zig-zag electrical design in Fig 2B. In this example, the initial position is tap position 6 connected to 1. The next position would be tap position 1 connected to 5, then 5 to 2, and so on. The Type DTU is a switch that mechanically operates in a linear motion for zig-zag electrical switching.

Figure 2A. Linear mechanical design.

Type DTU

Figure 2B. Zig-zag electrial switching corresponding to a linear mechanical design.


Linear switching
Linear mechanical operation

Linear switching is more common outside of North America. Our Type LO is both a mechanically and electrically linear switch. In this example the initial position is shown as tap connection 2, then position 3, then 4, and so on

Standards Both the IEC and ANSI/IEEE transformer committees are working on the first ever de-energized tap changer standard. ABB is an active participant in these working committees and will assist in the development of such a standard.

Linear switching using both mechanically and electrically linear designs.

Type LO.

Options There are a variety of standard configurations available such as one or two decks per phase, right or left hand drives, drives at ground level or high on the tank, and a variety of positions. Special switches for serial/parallel or delta/star switching are also available.