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How to Choose a Transformer: Dry Type vs.

Oil Cooled
By Larson Electronics on February 14, 2018

Transformers are common and useful devices which take high voltage electricity directly from a
power station and convert it to a lower voltage. This allows the energy to be safely and efficiently
used by machinery and appliances that can only handle low voltage in spaces such as offices,
transportation hubs, schools and factories.

Through this process transformers generate a lot of heat that must be dissipated to keep them
running safely. There are two types of transformers being used in the industry currently: Dry-type
transformers and oil-cooled transformers. Dry-type uses air as a cooling medium, and liquid cooled
uses oil. Although both types have the same end result there are a number of differences between
them worth noting, that will affect which type you choose.

Maintenance: Oil cooled transformers required more maintenance procedures, which must be
performed more often than dry-type. The oil needs to be sampled to test for contamination, whereas
dry type transformers are very resistant to chemical contaminants.

Costs (Initial and Operating): Compared to oil cooled, dry type has a significantly higher
operating loss. Oil filled transformers have a higher standard energy efficiency, and as a result have
a higher lifespan than dry type.
Noise: Oil cooled transformers have a lower operating sound level, thus less noise pollution than
dry-type.

Recyclability: The end of life recycling for dry type is limited, while oil units boast an easier
core/coil reclamation. Oil cooled have superior operating life and maintainability, producing less
waste and requiring less replacements and labor.

Efficiency: Dry type transformers are larger units, limited in voltage and size, making them more
prone to overheating if they experience overload. As a result, they have higher electrical losses, and
it is more expensive to maintain dry type power supply over time. Oil cooled units are smaller and
more efficient. They require less demand and create a smaller environmental footprint.

Voltage Capabilities: Dry type transformers are designed to handle small to medium MVA and
voltage ratings, making them ideal for smaller applications. Oil cooled transformers can handle
heavier loads, so applications that require higher voltages will require oil units.

Location: Location of the transformer will be the biggest determinant for which type you will need.
Dry type is specified for use in buildings and near buildings, simply because they are
environmentally safer. Dry type transformers are less flammable and pose less of a fire risk,
making them ideal for shopping malls, hospitals, residential complexes and other commercial areas.
Oil cooled transformers are used in outdoor installations due to the possibility of oil leakage and
spills which pose a fire risk, but these units are more environmentally friendly.

Taking these variables into account, oil units appear to be the better option overall with higher
energy efficiency, recyclability, low noise pollution, lower operational costs and a small
environmental foot print. However, oil units simply cannot be used in any situation. Dry type is the
best and many times, required option for commercial and indoor operations, because they are safer
units to operate around people and areas where fire hazards may exist.