What Is Cheaper 3 Phase Or Single Phase?

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By Tristan Cameron

Most Australian residences operate on single phase power, and while it can satisfactorily meet their needs, it’s not always enough. Upgrading to three phase may be a viable option.

As for which is cheaper? In the long run, three phase is, and we’ll get to the reasons why a little later.

Here’s a look at the differences between single and three phase and which one is right for you.

Single Phase vs Three Phase

The power that is supplied to a building is referred to as either single or three phase. While their function is the same, the amount of power they provide is different.

Single Phase

Single phase power is connected in most homes. It’s a two-wire system. The first wire is the live one, where the power flows to the property, and the other is the neutral wire, where the power flows back. This power level is suitable for operating lights and heat—however, the more devices that are plugged in, the lower the level gets.

A challenge with single phase power is that it’s not a steady load; it peaks and troughs as the power is used. 

Three Phase

Commercial and industrial connections commonly use three phase power. This contains four wires: three live ones that provide a steady load and one neutral to return the power. As there is much more capacity with a three phase system, it can accommodate much higher loads, in essence, three times as much.

Should you Upgrade to Three Phase?

We get asked a lot if residential properties should upgrade to three phase, and while it never hurts to have more power than less, there are significant benefits to making the change.

With the advances in technology and more devices being used in the home, this puts a strain on the existing power. While single phase is adequate for light and heating, consoles, home entertainment systems, and air conditioning require a considerable amount of additional power.

Main Reasons to Upgrade to Three Phase

As well as being a personal choice, upgrading has some advantages, and sometimes it’s necessary or convenient. For example, if you’re rewiring your entire home, it’s a perfect opportunity to go up to three phase.

Here are some other times when it’s worth upgrading to three phase:

  • Replacing old appliances like ovens, washing machines and refrigerators with modern three phase models
  • Upgrading your switchboard: it’s a straightforward task for an electrician to upgrade it to three phase
  • Installing an air conditioning system
  • Adding a state-of-the-art home entertainment system
  • If you’ve received an energy default notice from any of the energy providers in Sydney

Benefits of Upgrading to Three Phase

Three phase systems have better power control, which means they last longer, and have fewer maintenance issues. 

They’re made from modern materials, have fewer components and are cheaper to run. Over time, they use less power than single phase, lowering electricity bills.

When a single phase system encounters an issue, it can drop the power supply to zero. A three phase system controls the power more efficiently and will never do that, ensuring electricity is always available.

Installation and Cost of a Three Phase Upgrade

If you’re considering upgrading your switchboard to a three phase one, the first step is to contact your energy provider to determine that three phase is available in your area.

A single phase system has 24V of power, while a three-phase system can have around 400V. As this is a lot of electricity, this isn’t a task for a DIYer. It needs to be performed by a level 2 electrician.

Call us at North Shore Electricians, and we’ll send a level 2 electrician to your premises. They’ll remove the existing switchboard — if there is one — and replace it with a new, modern, three phase one. There’ll be some rewiring that’ll need to be done to ensure that nothing will hinder the flow of energy.

They’ll then test every component to ensure it’s in perfect working order and meets all of the Australian standards.

After installing the three phase switchboard, we’ll provide you with a Certificate of Compliance of Electrical Work (CCEW). We’ll also ensure a copy is given to your energy provider.

How Much Does a Three Phase Upgrade Cost?

You can expect to pay anything from $2,500 to $6,000. The following scenarios will boost that amount: 

Modern homes usually require additional safety switches and circuit breakers. If the switchboard is in a hard-to-access location or additional cabling is needed, this can impact the cost

You may decide, at the same time, to switch to underground cabling or install a private power pole. These tasks can all be performed with the switchboard upgrade.

We can provide you with a complete quote detailing materials and labour once we’ve inspected the site.

North Shore Electricians for Your Three Phase Upgrade

We’ve been looking after Sydney’s electrical needs for over 20 years. We’ve noticed the increase in devices and the strain that’s putting on many switchboards.

Provided it’s available in your area, upgrading to a three phase system makes sense. You get modern, updated technology, and you’ll notice an immediate reduction in your energy bill. At the outset, the initial cost may deter some, but it’s worth doing for your family’s safety and long-term savings.

We’re familiar with the quirks of Sydney’s residential properties and come fully prepared for what we might find. The switchboards of the last century can be a hotbed of danger.

Contact us today, and we’ll inspect your site, give you a quote, and when given the go-ahead, we’ll complete the task.

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