Don’t worry; you’re not alone. If you don’t work with electricity, knowing the difference between a single phase or 3-phase power supply is not something you’re expected to know. Rest assured that 95% of people also shopping for a solar energy system, unless advised, wouldn’t know either.
Considering many homes are configured differently, there will always be completely different ways of identifying a single phase or 3-phase electricity supply. Listed below are six different (simplified) methods to determine whether you have single phase or 3-phase power supplying your home.
It’s written. Try to locate your electricity supply meter. More often than not, it’s written on the face of the meter. The below image is an example of “SINGLE PHASE” written on the meter face, which tends to get a little lost in the surrounding text; see if you can spot it. Consider though, what is written may vary on your meter. Here are some examples of what may appear:
Single-Phase text variations: Single Phase, Mono-phase, 1-Phase.
Three-phase text variations: Tri-Phase, Polyphase. 3-Phase.
A phone call. Without getting over technical and to save you the effort of looking at your electrical switchboard, there is someone who will know instantly—your electricity supply company. The good news, they’re only a phone call away and free to ask. For ease of reference, ensure you have a copy of your latest electricity bill on hand, containing all the information required to verify your account details.
The electrical switchboard visual assessment. What you need to identify is the MAIN SWITCH. In most instances, the main switch will either be what is referred to as 1-pole wide or 3-poles wide. If your Main Switch is 1-pole wide, then you have a single phase power supply. Alternatively, if your Main Switch is 3-poles wide, then you have a 3-phase power supply.
Tip: A “pole” is often similar in size to a finger width (18mm/ 0.7″ approx). Three poles would then be similar to three fingers together (54mm/ 2.1″ approx).
Service fuse identification is potentially the most straightforward visual assessment, if available. The fact is that many service fuses are not always conveniently located below the electricity meter. Therefore, this method may not be ideal. Below are some examples of a single phase or 3-phase service fuse identification.
Above: Single-Phase service fuse example.
Above: Three-Phase service fuse example.
Point, click, send. The camera on your smartphone is a wonderful tool. Take a photo of either your:
- Electrical switchboard/ fuse box.
- OR electricity meter.
- Even better, both of the above.
Send it to a knowledgeable professional within your region. Electrical characteristics of a single phase or 3-phase power supplies are common within areas.
Extra assistance: Struggling to find someone to ask (or send the image to)? Try posting your snapshot to your social media feed proposing the single phase or 3-phase question.
Existing appliance identity. Identify if you have any existing 3-phase appliances in your house. If your home possesses an extra powerful 3-phase air conditioner or a 3-phase pump of some kind, then the only way these fixed appliances will operate is with a 3-phase power supply. Therefore, you have 3-phase power.
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What was the best method for you?
Do you know of a better way to identify a single phase or 3-phase electricity supply without compromising an unqualified individuals safety? If so, share your knowledge below in the comments section of this post below.