Whether you're working on a commercial building site, a home renovation project or simply running a business, there are many reasons why you might need a generator. To choose the right generator, understanding the difference between a single-phase and a three-phase power supply is top priority. 

How Does A Generator Work?

A generator is basically just a diesel engine that uses an alternator to convert the engine's mechanical energy into alternating current (AC). This electricity is then output through a series of socket fixtures and sent to the appliances that need that power to operate.

What Is Single Phase Power?

Single phase power is used in most homes and domestic situations and has a two-wire AC power circuit. Typically, there is one power wire—the phase wire—and one neutral wire that conducts a single wave of electrical current.

This is the standard method of electrical wiring in homes and even many commercial sites and buildings that don't require the use of large appliances or other electrical equipment.

What Is Three-Phase Power?

Designed for higher electrical capacity, three-phase power uses a three-wire AC power circuit with each phase's AC signal oscillating 120 electrical degrees apart. This allows an even distribution of power throughout each phase, creating a balance.

1 Phase vs 3 Phase

The important difference between three-phase power and single-phase power is the consistency of the delivery of power. Due to the peaks and dips in voltage, a single-phase power supply does not produce the same consistency as a three-phase power supply. A three-phase power supply delivers power at a steady and constant rate. This makes three phase power much more desirable in commercial or industrial settings where any interruption to the power flow could result in entire systems going down, disrupting work and potentially costing earnings.

Three-phase power supplies are also more efficient. A three-phase power supply can transmit three times as much power as a single-phase power supply, while only needing one additional wire (three wires instead of two). Thus, three-phase power supplies, whether they have three wires or four, use less conductor material to transmit a set amount of electrical power than single-phase power supplies do.

What Can I Use A Single-Phase Generator For?

Single phase generators are generally only used when applications require less than 240 kilowatts of power. They're not meant for large scale operations, and they are also not ideal for powering advanced or around-the-clock equipment unless it's buffered by another power source—a battery for example.

Because single-phase generators are best suited to residential use, they are generally only recommended for low-power appliances and equipment, such as:

  • Desktop or laptop computers
  • Individual lighting systems
  • Televisions
  • Modems and routers
  • Backup portable generators

For minimal single phase power needs, you might only need a small unit like the Kubota KD5500 Diesel Single Phase 5.5kVa. However, we have several single phase generators that go all the way up to the KJ-S230 Single Phase Diesel 24kVA. Any of these single phase generators would be ideal for basic residential power needs.

When Do I Need A Three Phase Generator?

You will need one of these generators if it's for commercial or industrial usage. They can withstand longer run times, sustain higher voltages and perform to a much higher degree of stability and reliability.

One of the most common uses of three-phase generators is for backup power. In some industries, a power outage can be extremely costly and potentially dangerous. Having appropriate three-phase generators as backup power can avoid significant lost earnings in the event of a power outage.

You should choose a three-phase generator if your plant or operation relies upon any of the following:

  • Industrial Equipment: Large motors and other heavy-load engines, commercial refrigerators, conveyor systems and industrial fabrication machinery—manual and computerised
  • HVAC Systems: Central air conditioning, commercial or industrial-grade electric boilers, furnaces or baseboards, space heaters and air ventilation—including exhaust, supply or balanced systems
  • Heavy-Duty Agricultural Equipment: Tractor-driven power take-off generators, large engine-driven alternators and open standby units

We stock a range of three-phase generators from the smaller and more compact KJ-T130DX Diesel Three Phase 13kVA that will run for just over nine hours, right through to the SQ3300 Three Phase 30kVA which will run for almost 16 hours. The smaller units could be used for backup power for your business while the bigger generators might be better suited as a main power supply on a work site.

What Are Some Other Advantages Of Three Phase Generators?

  1. They're stronger and more reliable
  2. Lower torque means they suffer less wear and tear and therefore cost less in maintenance
  3. They require less conductive materials to produce the same amount of power at the same level of volts
  4. More powerful

Contact Boya Equipment For More Information

It can be tricky to know exactly how much power you might need from a generator, furthermore, it depends on the application, so if you're unsure which generator is best for you, get in touch with us here and we'll get you sorted with the best generator to suit your needs.