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Single and Three Phase Power Explained

Author Aidan
Posted On 20th August 2019

3 Phase Single Phase Power Supply

When choosing commercial catering equipment, one of the most important factors to consider is the power requirements needed to run said piece of equipment.

When dealing with electricity, there are three possible electrical connections; Standard plug fitting for anything that requires less than 13 amps of power, 1PH (single phase) or 3PH (three phase) for heavy duty applications where the load requirements are much higher. Where it is stated that a piece of equipment requirement is ‘Hardwired’, or ‘1PH’ or ‘3PH’ power, these units need to be installed by a qualified commercial electrician as they need to be wired directly into the electrical supply for the building.

Plug-in items are self-explanatory, and most people use plug-in electrical items in their domestic setting, so here we will look in more depth at the requirements for 1PH and 3PH connections:

Single Phase

As standard, most homes and businesses are fitted with a single phase electrical supply.

At home, most ovens and hobs are hardwired on a single phase supply or fitted with a 16a or 32a socket. This is also the most common supply fitted to a business. If an item is listed as requiring a ‘Single Phase Hardwired’ connection, it needs to be installed by a qualified commercial electrician directly into the electrical board, and cannot be fitted with a standard 3 pin plug.

Top Tip: Single Phase power is sometimes labelled as 1PH or 1N on some products.

Three Phase

A Three Phase supply uses three separate sources of alternating current that are arranged so that the voltage flows in a regular, repeating pattern. This means that the high power needed to run this equipment is shared over three separate connections. These three cables operate at a lower voltage, but when combined offer a much more powerful output.

These three power supplies are balanced, with each phase operating at a different degree – the result being a more stable, balanced load of electricity across the power supply.

Catering equipment that requires a constant, high electrical supply, such as a six-ring oven range often uses a three phase power supply. Electricity is needed to fuel both the oven and hob for extended periods of time, and a 1PH connection simply would not have enough electrical power to run a piece of equipment of this size.

Not all buildings have a three phase supply fitted as standard, and this can be costly to install, so it is always wise to check the connection and costs before you begin.

Top Tip: Three Phase power is sometimes labelled as 3PH or 3N on some products.

Getting the right equipment

It’s crucial to purchase the correct type of equipment to suit your power supply. Some electrical appliances are Multiphase, which means that they can run on either 13A, 1PH or 3PH supply, and just need to be connected in the right configuration. Most appliances, however, will only run on their specified power supply. Be sure to check a product for its power requirement before purchasing to ensure you have equipment that you can connect and use.

Unsure about your power supply?

If you’re unsure about what type of power supply you have, it’s worth seeking advice from a qualified electrician to ensure you have the provisions available for the equipment you need before purchasing.