A Day With A Lineman #13 ~ A Little Snow & A Bad Transformer

in The Man Cave3 months ago

Welp, here I am again giving all you Hivers a little insight as the what goes on when your lights go out. We don’t just go flip a switch and the lights come back on, I wish it was that easy sometimes. Equipment failure doesn’t happen too often, but in this next edition of A Day With A Lineman a transformer decided to call it quits. Looks like this transformer is gonna have to get removed from service sent in to get a rebuild.

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Some of the white stuff has decided to fall from the sky. It’s pretty warm so the snow is really heavy and wet. As Lineman we always have a little fun trying to guess the outage. It’s just a habit of some sort. Even while driving by myself I am playing all sort of scenarios in my head. Taking what little info we get and try our best to guess what happened. My first guess was a branch broke and tore down this old tap that fed 2 houses. Looking at the map and having only those 2 out of power made perfect sense. Or it could be a broken jumper, or.... nevermind.

When I pulled up to the tap I saw the wire was still in the air. I grabbed my binoculars and took a look at the take-off pole in hopes of seeing a burnt/broken jumper.... nope. Well huh... let’s drive into where the transformer pole is and see what in the wide world of sports is going on.

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looking behind me after I drove in

Well this is interesting, the fuse protecting the transformer isn’t blown but both of the house meters are off... Time to slap on the harness and fly up to do some voltage checks and take a closer look at things. Just then the other Lineman on standby pulls down the driveway.

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Well isn’t that neat!! There is zero voltage coming out the secondary side of the transformer. Now I know the primary side is energized because the neighbor one span of wire away has power and their transformer is working but this one... not so much.

Now there are basically 2 types of overhead transformers. A conventional and CSP(completely self protected). The CSP has an internal circuit breaker and the conventional uses and external fuse for protection. Slowly the CSP transformers have been getting phased out over the years. The internal switches fail and can’t be trusted, you don’t have a visual open point to verify if the transformer’s secondary side is indeed open or off. The external fuse makes troubleshooting a lot easier. “Oh look, the fuse door is hanging down, must be something wrong”. With a CSP there is a little switch on the side operated by putting a hotstick tool in the ring and pulling it down or pushing up.


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Stamped on the handle is a little arrow and also stamped on the switch is O (open) R (Reset) CL (closed). With such little movement in the handle there is really no way to tell if it is open from the ground. Even 2 feet away you can barely see the stamped letters. Plus without using a volt meter to check the secondary you don’t truly know it is de-energized. You could be pulling the primary side jumper off under load which may or may not be fun. :wink:wink

Okay enough of this educational talk... This transformer is a CSP but it has been fused also. The fuse isn’t blown, so I know it has 7,200 volts going into the transformer. So after flying up and visually inspecting everything I operate the CSP handle on the side. Click it to Reset the Close... Welp still no lights... So I operate it a few more times with a little more force. Give it the ol’ What-have-ya.... still nothing!! So the internal switch went bad, how nice. Better make some phone calls and get the Linetruck and a new transformer coming our way. Except the closest guy isn’t home and it would be faster for us to run back to the yard, drop one of our bucket trucks off and grab the Linetruck and transformer ourselves. Time to hit the road...

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After about a 1/2 hour drive of spraying the slush off the road, we arrived at the shop. Fired up the forklift and Linetruck, then loaded a new transformer on the deck of the Linertruck.

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Honestly I couldn’t come close to giving you an estimate on how many transformers I have changed out in my 15 year career as a lineman. So this transformer swap is like tying my boots.

First install protective covering on the primary phase, then disconnect everything from the transformer. I removed the fused cutout to make room for the Linetruck winch, plus I am going to locate it on the road side of the pole for ease of use. Next just rig up the Linetruck, get a little tension on the winch and loosen up the bolts holding the transformer to the pole.

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Land the old piece of junk transformer on the deck of the Linetruck, pick up the new one and land it on the bolts on the road side of the pole. This again will make things easier if/when this transformer needs to be changed out, or if the pole needs changed.

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After getting everything reconnected, except the service to these two houses, I energize the transformer and checked voltage. With the voltage good, I open up the fuse, de-energizing the transformer, then reconnect the house services and re-energize. Now they have lights once again.

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Off to the service center to drop off the Linetruck and unload the bad transformer. We went old school and used the stationary crane to unload the transformer off of the Linetruck. It’s always fun to do things a little different instead of the same way every time.

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Well, that wraps up another episode of A Day With A Lineman. I hope you all learned a little sumpin’ sumpin’ about what goes On when the lights go Out. Now I need to get my grub on... Hawaiian Tacos please... 5 Please...

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Is it true theres a shortage of available transformers in the US?

I heard someone say if we had a bad solar storm and wiped out a bunch of transformers we may be without power for months waiting for more transformers to be imported?

Not that I know of. We place orders all the time to replenish our stock and a semi load comes. We send 20-30 transformer out to get refurbished every few months and the company I work for in very small. Now when it comes to the big Power transformers at the substations that may be a different story. Due to them being so massive a place could run you of room really fast. Lol.

Oh okay good to know.. Yeah maybe the substation transformers is what is more concerning. From what I heard transformers come from China and that kind of sucks. If we ever got into a war with them we would need to start making our own.

Hoping my solar rig helps me if the shit really hits the fan, though its not EMP hardened so it may break too when it all goes wrong.. haha

I know my company tries to stay with as much made in the USA stuff as possible. Most of our transformers sport the American flag. 😉 Buy that doesn't mean that the internals parts come from elsewhere.

Sometimes I miss it my brother. Then I think about what I'm doing and suddenly I don't miss it so much anymore. 🤔 I'm so glad I never had to work in that weather.

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I miss it.... No, No I don’t

I do believe winter is upon us here in the PNW. A little breeze and some moisture in the air make for some good frost.
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Brrr

Good morning @splatts.
You write such though descriptions, even someone like me ( with my blonde moments), can understand what the heck you are talking about. Interesting work you do.
We had a power outage on New Year's eve one time, and I could not believe how quickly they showed up at our place, had us up in running in no time. Even with crappy weather just like you had.
We had a packed house that weekend, so I really wanted to kiss the guys that showed up on the Holiday to get us power.
Good post, enjoy the day!

Believe it or not Lineman like to play jokes on people too.
“Why is the power out?”
“We ran out of power and are waiting for a shipment to come in”
Or
“Your Flux Capacitor went out” (The Back to the Future joke gets them every time)

I am happy to hear that making these posts helps you to understand how things work out there on the Power Lines

Love your sense of humor.
"Waiting for a shipment to come in", please, people buy that?
Just so you know my "flux capacitor" never goes out here on our farm.
😅😂✌

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