What is a transformer?
Transformers are devices used in lighting systems to help reduce or “step-down” high voltages to lower voltages. Commonly used in homes with track/monorail or landscape lighting systems, transformers convert the standard residential electric current (120 volts) to a lower voltage (12 volts or 24 volts) required by the lamp or lighting system. A variety of other everyday appliances use transformers as well, including low voltage external path lights, under cabinet lighting, door bells and thermostats.
There are two types of transformers: magnetic and electronic. Each have their own benefits and disadvantages. It is important to not mix magnetic and electronic transformers in the same dimming circuit. Learn the differences between each transformer below.
Magnetic low-voltage transformers are most often used in commercial applications. They utilize coils to transform higher voltages into lower volts. There are two coils within a magnetic transformer: the primary and secondary. The primary coil is more tightly wound and carries the input (higher voltage). The secondary coil carries the lower voltage, which is induced by the high voltage in the primary coil. The exact voltage, or output, of the transformer depends on the number of winds in the two coils.
Electronic low-voltage transformers are most often used in residential settings. Within the electronic transformer is an invertor that changes the frequency of the voltage. Typically, the frequency of a 120 volt home power outlet is changed from 50 hertz or 60 hertz to 20,000 hertz. The higher the frequency of the voltage, the smaller the transformer needed to provide the required output.
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