What is the Difference Between Single Phase and Three Phase Transformers?

A transformer is an electrical device that transfers electrical energy between electric circuits without any frequency changes. This transfer of energy mostly takes place with a change of current or voltage. Transformers either decrease or increase AC voltage. They are widely used today to meet various power needs. Transformers come in various sizes as well; some can even be as tall as a two story building, or small enough for you to hold it in the palm of your hand, like those used in charging cradles of a video camera. Whatever their shape and size may be, transformers have the same purpose: transform voltage levels of electrical power within a power network or power grid.

There are so many types of transformers used today. The goal of this article is to help you distinguish two very common types of transformers, single phase and three phase transformers. The difference between these two primarily types lies in the voltage received into each kind of transformer. There are several ways to determine if you have a single phase or three phase transformer. Let’s read more about them below.

Single Phase Transformers

Single phase transformers are made with one primary winding and one secondary winding. These two windings are often used to transform either 240 volt to 480 volts or 120 volts to 240 volts. Two phase circuits mostly exist because of stoves, clothes dryers and water heaters that require these voltage increases to work properly. Most smaller appliances in US homes operate with 120 volts of electricity, which uses only one hot and the neutral wire. The circuit type that uses hot wires and neutral wires is called a split phase circuit. Single phase wires are made up with two hot wires surrounded by red and black insulation. The neutral wire is always white with a green grounding wire in most household wiring schemes.

Three Phase Transformers

Three phase transformers are most often used in industrial and commercial applications. For the most common business applications, heavy duty equipment requires a larger jump in voltage and therefore three windings that are connected in the right order will step up the incoming voltage to the proper voltage while maintaining the proper polarity and phasing. Picture this: a single man pushing a log up an inclined plane is an example of single phase power. Three phase power is like having three man pushing the same load up the inclined plane. The three primary windings are called “Delta” and the second windings are called “Delta “or “Wye” depending on the required output. .

Because many commercial properties use equipment and machinery running off three phase motors, three phase transformers must be used to run the systems. All appliances in residential homes only operate on single phase power like lights, outlets and even appliances that use 240 volts of electricity. Therefore the appliances or equipment you are using to perform tasks in work or home will dictate weather you will need a single phase transformer, a three phase transformer. In some cases, custom made transformers will be the requirement for your equipment to operate at peak performance.

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