Advantages of AutoTransformers vs Isolation Transformers

Dr. Transformer: Let’s get basic: in an Auto Transformers (versus an Isolation Transformers), the input and output windings are one continuous electrical circuit (see diagram); which is to say that the primary and secondary circuits are not isolated.

Auto Transformer Diagram

Auto Transformer Diagram

Docta Reacta: You jumped right into it, huh? Let me a least welcome the Power Magnetics Institute readers!  Welcome!

Dr. Transformer: Let me get on with the show!  So, compared to an Isolation Transformer of the same rating, they are physically smaller (weigh less), have lower loss and are more economical.  They also have lower impedance and better regulation.  That’s a lot of advantages, right?

Auto transformers get smaller as Vlow / Vhigh (ratio of transformation) approaches unity (‘1’); and they are not recommended if Vlow / Vhigh < .5.

Three Phase Auto Transformers are typically ‘WYE’ connected, and should only be used for balanced loads.

Because they are smaller and more economical than Isolation Transformers, there are many applications where Auto Transformers are an attractive alternate such is in induction heater applications.

So there you have it friends!  Hopefully the elucidation was sufficiently brief but informative to be of value in your design considerations.

Please contact me at Power Magnetics Institute for any questions or just leave a comment below!


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  • tecmax

    The isolation transformers are paramount for supplying the prerequisite amount of power in the electronic devices. They are being used on large scale for residential and industrial purposes.

  • charan

    why we were using autotransformer in electrical labs rather than a normal transformer even though varible voltage can be applied with normal transformer?

    • The advantage of the autotransformer is size, weight and cost, depending on how close the input and output voltages are. What you are losing is the isolation between primary and secondary. If the application allows for an autotransformer, then there are advantages to using it. We hope this answers your questions. Thank you for visiting our blog!

  • IA Recycling Inc.

    We are installing a machine that has a 3 phase, 75HP, 460v motor. The machine is controlled by PLC. Should we go with an Auto Transformer or an Isolation Transformer? Please help!