Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Rest assured that 95% of people also shopping for a solar power system, unless advised, wouldn’t know either. If you don’t work with electricity, knowing the difference between single phase or 3-phase power is not something you’re expected to know.
Considering many homes are wired differently, there are always going to be completely different ways of identifying a single or 3-phase electricity supply. Listed below are different (simplified) ways to identify whether you have single or 3-phase power to 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 above image is an example of SINGLE PHASE written on the meter face, it has a tendency 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’s some examples:
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 which contains all the information required to verify for 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 (see below). 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.
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Service fuse identification is potentially the easiest visual assessment, if available. 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)? 1st: Try posting your snapshot to your social media feed proposing the single phase or 3-phase question? 2nd: Try submitting your image below for the Solar Review community to assist.
Existing 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.
Did we miss something?
Do you know of a more straightforward way to identify a single or 3-phase electricity supply without compromising an unqualified individuals safety? If so, share your exceptional knowledge below!