ANSI/IEEE C57.12.90 specifies the method for measuring the average sound level of a transformer. The measured sound level is the arithmetic average of a number of readings taken around the periphery of the unit. For transformers with a tank height of less than 8 ft, measurements are taken at one-half tank height.

For taller transformers, measurements are taken at one-third and two-thirds tank height. Readings are taken at 3-ft intervals around the string periphery of the transformer, with the microphone located 1 ft from the string periphery and 6 ft from fan-cooled surfaces.

The ambient must be at least 5 and preferably 10 dB below that of the unit being measured. There should be no acoustically reflecting surface, other than ground, within 10 ft of the transformer. The A weighting network is used for all standard transformer measurements regardless of sound level.

NEMA Publication TR 1 contains tables of standard sound levels. For oil-filled transformers, from, 1000 to 100,000 kVA, self-cooled (400,000 kVA, forced-oil-cooled) standard levels are given approximately by

Equation L = 10 log E K

where E equivalent two-winding, self-cooled kVA (for forced-oil-forced-air-cooled units, use 0.6  kVA), K constant, from Table 10-3, and L = decibel sound level.

Example. A transformer rated 50,000 kVA self-cooled, 66,667 kVA forced-air-cooled, 83,333 kVA forced-oil-forced-air-cooled, at 825 kV BIL, would have standard sound levels of 78, 80, and 81 dB on its respective ratings.

Public Response to Transformer Sound.
The basic objective of a transformer noise specification is to avoid annoyance. In a particular application, the NEMA Standard level may or may not be suitable, but in order to determine whether it is, some criteria must be available.

One such criterion is that of audibility in the presence of background noise. A sound which is just barely audible should cause no complaint.

Studies of the human ear indicate that it behaves like a narrowband analyzer, comparing the energy of a single frequency tone with the total energy of the ambient sound in a critical band of frequencies centered on that of the pure tone. If the energy in the single-frequency tone does not exceed the energy in the critical band of the ambient sound, it will not be significantly audible.

This requirement should be considered separately for each of the frequencies generated by the transformer core. The width of the ear-critical band is about 40 Hz for the principal transformer harmonics. The ambient sound energy in this band is 40 times the energy in a 1-Hz-wide band.

The sound level for a 1-Hz bandwidth is known as the “spectrum level” and is used as a reference. The sound level of the 40-Hz band is 16 dB (10 log 40) greater than the sound level of the 1-Hz band. Thus, a pure tone must be raised 16 dB above the ambient spectrum level to be barely audible.

The transformer sound should be measured at the standard NEMA positions with a narrow-band analyzer. If only the 120- and 240-Hz components are significant, an octave-band analyzer can be used, since the 75- to 150-Hz and 150- to 300-Hz octave bands each contain only one transformer frequency. The attenuation to the position of the observer can be determined.

The ambient sound should be measured at the observer’s position. For each transformer frequency component, the ambient spectrum level should be determined. An octave-band reading of ambient sound can be converted to spectrum level by the equation

S = B - 10 log C

where B decibels octave-band reading, C hertz octave bandwidth, and S decibels spectrum level.

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