Sec. 450-28 of the NEC has some specific provisions that govern modifications to transformer installations. Although the NEC is not a retroactive document, it is specific in establishing requirements where a modification can change the entire context of a particular installation. Transformers are an excellent example of this case.
When modifications are made to a transformer that changes its type (i.e. oil-insulated to less flammable), it must comply with the appropriate requirements for the installation of the new type. The transformer must be marked to show the type of insulating liquid used in the modification. This marking is a critical element for an inspector to determine if the transformer is in compliance with its appropriate installation requirements.
This requirement for a marking and compliance with the installation requirements for the new "type" can work to a user's advantage as well. If buildings are expanded or altered such that they no longer have appropriate distance separation from, for instance, an oil-insulated transformer, then the transformer may be modified with a less-flammable liquid, and the new space separation may now be acceptable.
Transformer installation requirements in the 1996 NEC
Some changes in the requirements for the installation of less-flammable liquid-filled transformers appear in the 1996 NEC. These changes are significant enough to warrant their consideration here.
The Code-Making Panel covering transformers received proposals for Sec. 450-23 to clarify the installation requirements in both indoor and outdoor locations for less-flammable liquid-filled transformers. Per Fig. 7, you can see that one of the permitted installation methods for less-flammable liquid-filled transformers is to comply with the requirements in Sec. 450-26. These requirements are written specifically around oil-filled transformers, and the panel made it clear that the less-flammable liquids are permitted to be installed in situations identical to that for oil-filled. The basic requirement in Sec. 450-26 is to install the transformer in a vault constructed in accordance with Part C of Art. 450, unless one of the following exceptions can be met.
* If the total transformer capacity is 112 1/2 kVA or less, the vault may be constructed of 4-in. reinforced concrete.
* If the nominal voltage is 600V or less, the vault may be omitted if arrangements are made to prevent a transformer oil fire from igniting other materials, and the total transformer capacity does not exceed 10kVA in a section of a building classified as combustible or 75kVA in a section classified as fire-resistant construction.
* Electric furnace transformers can be installed without a vault where the total rating does not exceed 75kVA, and arrangements are made to prevent a transformer oil fire from igniting other materials.
* Transformers are permitted to be installed in a detached building that does not comply with the vault requirements if neither the building nor its contents present a fire hazard to any other building or property, and if the building is used only in supplying electric service, and the interior is accessible only to qualified persons.
* The vault may be omitted for transformers used in portable and mobile mining equipment with additional conditions specified.
Since less-flammable liquids are indeed less of a fire safety hazard than their mineral-oil counterparts, the 1996 NEC clarifies installation requirements for outdoor installations as well.
For installations attached to, adjacent to, or on roofs of Type I or Type II buildings, the installation shall simply comply with all of the restrictions in the listing of the liquid. A fine print note in Sec. 450-23(b)(1) notes that when the transformer is installed adjacent to combustible materials, fire escapes, or door and window openings, additional safeguards may be necessary. The safeguards noted in Sec. 450-27 may be acceptable. Note that in the 1993 NEC, this was part of the actual requirement, and the current status as FPN makes continued enforceability questionable.
For other than Type I or Type II buildings, the installation shall be installed in accordance with the same requirements as oil-filled transformers in Sec. 450-27.
NESC requirements for less-flammable liquids
The NESC is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as ANSI/IEEE C2-1993. The document generally is used by utility companies and provides practical safeguarding of persons during the installation, operation, or maintenance of electric supply and communications lines and their associated equipment. The NESC specifically references the NEC for building utilization wiring requirements.
As the following sections will show, the NESC has very few specific requirements for transformers. This should be considered along with the fact that most utilities have their own operating and installation procedures above and beyond any code or standards requirements.
Although enforcement of the NESC is by the utility companies themselves, engineers and inspectors outside of the utility industry should be aware of NESC requirements for transformers. Since the local authority having jurisdiction is primarily [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] concerned with fire and personnel safety within and around public or private buildings, the location of a transformer, even one owned and maintained by the utility, can become a concern if a building or combustible materials are in close proximity.
The NESC has specific transformer requirements for installations in "electric supply stations." It defines these areas as "any building, room, or separate space within which electric supply equipment is located and the interior of which is accessible, as a rule, only to qualified persons. This includes generating stations and substations, including their associated generator, storage battery, transformer, and switchgear rooms or enclosures, but does not include facilities such as pad-mounted equipment and installations in manholes and vaults."
Outdoor installations. The NESC has language that is much less specific than that provided in the NEC. Sec. 152(A) simply requires that specified methods be used to minimize fire hazards associated with liquid-filled transformers. These specified methods include the following:
* Use of less-flammable liquids;
* Space separation;
* Fire-resistant barriers;
* Automatic extinguishing systems;
* Absorption beds; or
Although the specific requirements to apply these methods are not provided in the NESC, you should consider using some of the methods described in this document, particularly if the transformer is located close to a nonutility building.
Indoor installations. The NESC categorizes transformers located indoors as liquids of flammable, nonflammable, and less-flammable types. Transformers containing flammable liquids (such as mineral oil) and rated above 75kVA must be installed in ventilated rooms or vaults separated from the rest of the building by fire walls. The specific rating of the fire walls are not given in the NESC. As such, you should consider the degree of the fire hazard when determining the rating of these walls. Doorways leading to the room or vault should be constructed with a fire-resistant rating as well. It's also required that the room or vault have a means to contain the liquid of the transformer(s), should a rupture occur.
The NESC specifies that a pressure relief vent of a transformer with a nonbio-degradable liquid, when installed, be provided with a means for absorbing toxic gases. This requirement relates to that discussed in NEC Sec. 450-24 for these transformers.
Less-flammable liquid. NESC requires that less-flammable liquid-filled transformers be installed in a way to minimize fire hazards. You must consider the type of electrical protection, amount of liquid contained, and tank venting when selecting a location for the transformer.
(by Loyd, Richard E)
to be continue...