Transformers must be well designed in order to achieve acceptable power coupling, tight voltage regulation, and low exciting current distortion. Also, transformers must be designed to carry the expected values of primary and secondary winding current without any trouble. This means the winding conductors must be made of the proper gauge wire to avoid any heating problems.
An ideal transformer would have perfect coupling (no leakage inductance), perfect voltage regulation, perfectly sinusoidal exciting current, no hysteresis or eddy current losses, and wire thick enough to handle any amount of current. Unfortunately, the ideal transformer would have to be infinitely large and heavy to meet these design goals. Thus, in the business of practical transformer design, compromises must be made.
Additionally, winding conductor insulation is a concern where high voltages are encountered, as they often are in step-up and step-down power distribution transformers. Not only do the windings have to be well insulated from the iron core, but each winding has to be sufficiently insulated from the other in order to maintain electrical isolation between windings.
Respecting these limitations, transformers are rated for certain levels of primary and secondary winding voltage and current, though the current rating is usually derived from a volt-amp (VA) rating assigned to the transformer. For example, take a step-down transformer with a primary voltage rating of 120 volts, a secondary voltage rating of 48 volts, and a VA rating of 1 kVA (1000 VA). The maximum winding currents can be determined as such:
Sometimes windings will bear current ratings in amps, but this is typically seen on small transformers. Large transformers are almost always rated in terms of winding voltage and VA or kVA.
Article extracted from: Lesson in Electric Circuits AC Volume Tony R Kuphaldt under Design Science License.