A transformer is a device designed to reduce high voltages, such as in lighting systems. This transition from high to low voltage is referred to as “step-down.” Transformers are often used in homes with monorail/track and landscape lighting systems. They convert 120 volts to 24 volts or 12 volts, whichever the lighting system requires. While 120 volts is the standard residential electric current, many systems need lower voltage to function. Many household items also use transformers, such as doorbells, thermostats, external path lights, and under-cabinet lighting. It’s important to consider the specific requirements of the system being installed.
There are two transformer types: electronic and magnetic. Both varieties have unique applications, advantages, and disadvantages. With a high-voltage counterpart, like lighting, a low-voltage transformer is less costly. Installation is also likely to be far easier and it may not even need the help of a professional. This is because the voltage is either 12 or 24 volts, meaning it’s relatively harmless. Additionally, wiring can be buried under the surface or laid right on top of the ground. However, electronic and magnetic transformers shouldn’t be mixed in the same dimming circuits.
Electronic transformers are usually utilized for residential contexts. An inverter inside an electronic transformer changes the voltage’s frequency. It’s most common for a 120 V or 220 V home power outlet’s frequency to change to 50 or 60 to 20,000 Hertz. The higher a voltage’s frequency, the smaller the transformer must be to give the necessary output. They’re lighter, smaller, and easier to conceal than their magnetic counterparts. Often, electronic transformers can be built straight into appliances. They’re also less costly and much more versatile. Since they’re smaller, they can fit into tighter spaces, as well as be between 6 and 8 feet away from the light source they power.
However, electronic transformers have a much shorter life span than magnetic transformers, usually only about 5 years. Another thing is that electronic transformers are sensitive to heat, which means that warmer environments can drastically reduce their life spans. They can also be quite noisy, and while they can be placed up to 8 feet away from light sources, they need more support when used for longer runs.
There are two kinds of magnetic transformers: toroidal and stack laminated. Stack laminated transformers are square, while toroidal transformers are shaped like a donut. Stack-laminated transformers have long life spans, often up to 20 years. However, toroidal transformers can last even longer than this and they’re also much quieter than electronic or stack-laminated magnetic transformers. Both magnetic transformers have a higher operating temperature than their electronic counterparts. They’re usually used in commercial applications. These transformers use coils to transform higher voltages into lower voltages. They have two coils within them: a primary and a secondary coil. Primary coils are tightly wound and carry the higher voltage or input.
Secondary coils carry the lowered voltage, which is induced by the higher voltage within the primary coil. The output or exact voltage of the transformer is dependent on the number of winds in the coils. Using the primary coil, the transformer is able to create a magnetic flow, which then induces a current in the secondary coil. These transformers have many important benefits, such as having long life spans, often lasting for more than 15 years. They’re also rated for operation at higher temperatures than electronic alternatives and they provide a higher capacity to support circuits. However, magnetic transformers are bigger, heavier, and tough to conceal. They also need to be close to lighting systems, in order to provide enough energy to the necessary lamps.
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