Understanding Low-Voltage Transformers

by | Sep 28, 2015 | Electrical

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Modern homeowners are eager to install various pendants that hang off their ceiling, mood creating under-cabinet lighting and outside path lights that illuminate the front yard. However, what they may not realize is the inner workings of these lights and the fact that none of the fixtures will work properly if they are not connected to an LED transformer. This is a type of low-voltage transformer that takes the higher voltage electricity that is pumping through a home and then steps it down by about 12 to 24 volts so that it is able to safely run through the fixtures described above.

However, the question remains, how does a homeowner know what type of low-voltage transformer to purchase?

Magnetic vs. Electronic

One of the first things to consider is the fact that there are two main types of low-voltage transformers available: magnetic and electronic. While most people are familiar with the electronic transformers, they are typically not the right choice for this application. The biggest appeal of this option is that they are usually extremely small and cost less.

However, the electronic transformer is also heat sensitive, which means that if you place them in a fixture made of metal that has a canopy and the fixture becomes hotter than the recommended temperature, then the lifespan of the transformer will be minimized. In fact, for each five degrees Celsius that the transformer gets over its ideal temperature, the lifespan is reduced by half. Since these only start out with a five or six year lifespan when in proper operating conditions, it means that the lifespan is even shorter.

Additionally, the electronic transformer is also well known for being loud when operating, with many homeowners complaining of the humming or buzzing sound produced.

Toroidal and Stack Laminated Transformers

There are two types of magnetic transformers, which are typically the better choice when it comes to home lighting fixtures: toroidal transformers or stack-laminated transformers.

Much like the electronic transformers, the stack-laminated transformer is less costly and has a longer lifespan, but it only operates at 85 percent efficiency. These can also be noisy. The ideal option for lighting is the toroidal transformers, which have about 95 percent efficiency and can last for as many as 25 years. Also referred to as the LED transformer, these provide the highest level of efficiency for the longest period of time. The main disadvantage of these is that they are not as affordable as the other options available.

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