When choosing industrial generators, you might be confused by terms like single-phase and 3-phase generators. Although they seem somewhat similar, picking the wrong generator type for your energy needs can be chaotic.
Both kinds of generators are fit for providing energy in case of a power outage. However, their duration of operation and working mechanism are different.
In this guide, we’ll discuss industrial generator phases and voltage for people who want to purchase a generator to ensure an uninterrupted workflow.
Phases Of A Generator
Picking the wrong generator for your electrical needs can be pretty worrisome since you’ll have to deal with sky-high bills and a weak power supply. That’s why it’s important to learn about the differences between the two.
Similarities Of Single-Phase and 3-Phase Generator
Before getting into the difference, it’s essential to note that both types have several similarities.
First off, both generators use AC or alternating current. It refers to the current type that does not only flow in a continuous line but can also reverse its direction.
Therefore, it’s variable as compared to other current types. However, it provides higher power levels.
Another similarity between both generators is their power cycles. In fact, that’s a characteristic of the AC current. Since it goes in a cyclic form, it has peaks and low points. However, the single-phase generators only have one cycle, while three-phase generators have three.
Mechanism Of A Single-Phase Generator
As evident by the name and mentioned above, single-phase generators only use one AC wave. Since there’s only one cycle at once, the power source isn’t as steady as a three-phase generator.
However, that’s nothing to worry about since the unsteadiness is only noticeable when the generator load has gone over its capacity. That’s why the bulbs don’t flicker when you’re using a single-phase generator.
Here are some characteristics of a single-phase generator:
- Only has one current produced by the voltage
- Expensive maintenance but lower upfront expenditure
- Mainly only has two windings
- Can bear lighter loads, such as appliances and electronics
- Higher susceptibility to disruption in the voltage supply and relatively lower efficiency
Mechanism Of A 3-Phase Generator
While a single-phase generator only has one wave at a time, a three-phase generator has three simultaneous cycles. Due to this, you can expect an uninterrupted supply of power.
Besides being continuous, the power is also stronger, and a three-phase generator can bear the load of more demanding equipment and machinery. It works in a 120-degree motion, which means while one wave is at the lowest point, the other is at its peak.
Due to this complementary positioning of the waves, a three-phase generator provides a stable power source. Such a generator can be used in two ways.
First, it may be used as a whole to power heavier machinery. Second, you can connect three different equipment to each current line, such as different floors in a building.
A three-phase generator has the following features:
- Three current lines go side by side in a 120-degree interval
- Has three windings
- More efficient with lighter and more extensive wiring
- Can bear heavy loads, such as industrial equipment
- Is more reliable, economical, and durable
Single-Phase Or 3-Phase: Which To Choose?
When it comes to choosing between a single or 3-phase generator, you have to consider your requirements. As a rule of thumb, if your power requirements are below 240kW, you should opt for a single-phase generator.
Meanwhile, if you have higher power requirements, a 3-phase generator will be suitable for your needs. Here’s a detailed overview of both generator types:
Choosing Single-Phase Generators
You should pick a single-phase generator if you have lower power requirements. For instance, it can power the lights and other electronic equipment in the house or office.
However, you should not use it to power the main facilities, such as elevators, air ventilation, heating or cooling systems. All these systems won’t run smoothly on a single-phase generator since it won’t offer high output.
Here are some appliances that run easily on a single-phase generator:
- Lighting systems
- Laptops or a few desktops
Choosing 3-Phase Generators
3-phase generators are suitable for commercial use since they run for a longer time and provide more power. If you’re in an industry where a power outage of even a few minutes can cost you thousands in loss or put people’s lives at risk, you need a 3-phase generator.
Here are some uses of a 3-phase generator:
- Industrial equipment, such as conveyors, fridges, or a large number of computers
- HVAC systems, such as air ventilation, air conditioning, exhausts, furnaces, etc
- Agricultural equipment, such as engine-based alternators
Voltages Of Generator Phases
Typically, single-phase generators have the following voltages:
- Dual voltage (120 and 240 both)
On the other hand, three-phase generators have the following voltages, with 480V being the most common in industries.
- Dual voltage – 120 and 208V
How To Choose The Right Voltage?
If you’re buying a generator for your industry or office, you must get in touch with an electrician to determine the correct voltage configuration. You can also use an online calculator, but they’re only for reference.
Here are some key elements to keep in mind:
- The voltage that goes from the main transformer to your building.
- The maximum amperage needed to operate the equipment
- Startup amperage. Some equipment needs a higher amperage for starting as compared to what they operate on. If you’re unfamiliar, you can find this information on the data tag of the motor you want to run on the generator.
- Utility Frequency. 60 Hz is common in some Asian regions and the majority of the US. You can use a frequency converter to change the frequency of the line power, but it’s not feasible with all generators.
Therefore, it’s important to consider all these factors beforehand.
To put it briefly, a single-phase generator provides lesser power and is suitable for less demanding settings, while a 3-phase generator can be used in an industrial setting.
As for the voltage, you can calculate it by using the factors in this guide or consult an electrical contractor.