In what circumstances is a step-down transformer more advantageous than a step-up transformer and vice versa?
The transformer moves power from the primary circuit to the secondary circuit, almost without waste. The main reason for using a transformer is to change the relationship between voltage and current. Whenever you need a large current of low energy, low voltage charges, you probably want a step-down transformer. Whenever you need a small current of high energy, high voltage charges, you probably want a step-up transformer. I have already described the issues in power distribution, but transformers are used in many other devices. Step-down transformers are used to power small electronic devices instead of batteries (those little black boxes you plug into the wall socket contain transformers and some electronics to convert the resulting low voltage AC into low voltage DC). Step-up transformers are used in neon signs and bug-zappers.