Low-voltage dry-type transformers (LVDT) are generally used inside buildings to reduce voltage to the values necessary to power appliances, lighting and other products. Unlike liquid-immersed transformers, these are generally owned by the building owner. The customer purchases electricity at a voltage level that must be stepped down for use. "Dry-type" is a reference to the type of insulation medium, which means that the core and coil is cooled and insulated by air, as opposed to "liquid immersed" transformers that use oil as the coolant/insulant. “Low-voltage” means that it has an input voltage of 600 volts or less.
Initial standards for low-voltage dry type transformers were set in EPAct 2005 and became effective in 2007. In March 2010, DOE began a new rulemaking to update standards for the three main categories of distribution transformers: liquid-immersed, low-voltage dry-type and medium-voltage dry-type. In February 2012, DOE proposed a very modest increase in efficiency for LVDT, below the level agreed to by manufacturers in 2011 transformer negotiations facilitated by DOE. However, in the final rule published in April 2013, DOE improved the standard, reducing electrical losses by about 18 percent compared to products meeting the current standard. The standard for dry-type transformers is based on a voluntary industry level called “NEMA Premium”, developed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.The standards went into effect on January 1, 2016. DOE plans to monitor the LVDT market and by no later than 2016, determine whether market conditions justify re-evaluating the efficiency standards.
In June 2019, DOE published a Request for Information to collect data to determine whether to amend the current energy efficiency standards for distribution transformers. In May, 2019, DOE published a proposed rule for the distribution transformer test procedure.
Transformers are generally very efficient — electricity losses are usually below 1 or 2%. However, since all power generated goes through one or more transformers, even small improvements can yield very large national savings benefits. In general, transformers can be made more efficient by using better quality windings (which can be aluminum or copper) and through improved core designs, material (electrical grade steel), and construction. Amorphous core material offers the biggest step up in efficiency.