What Is Single-Phase Electric Power?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2019
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Single-phase electric power is a type of power supply that is used in the deployment of power to various recipients when each of the voltages transferred to the recipients are different, even though the transfer to all points is taking place simultaneously. Utilized in situations when the primary power functions include supplying power for lighting, cooling, or heating, this approach is often ideal for residential customers. Business that operate heavy machinery which includes the use of motors will normally make use of a different type of power supply known as three-phase electric power.

The use of single-phase electric power is not unusual in rural areas, where the demand for power is somewhat lower and the potential for larger of manufacturing plans or other facilities to be present in the communities is minimized. Since an area that is primarily composed of residences is highly unlikely to require loads that are best supplied with multi-phase electrical solutions, power companies can manage operational costs to better advantage, which in turn helps the provider to keep residential rates in the community a little lower. Even if there are smaller businesses located within the area, there is a good chance that single-phase electric power will suffice, since smaller offices, retail shops and similar businesses do not require some type of high voltage power solutions.


Standards set in different countries help to define whether or not a single-phase electric power approach is used within a certain community. Just about every nation will use this type of distribution approach for residential areas and even smaller towns that are not home to a great deal of industrial and manufacturing plants. Communities with larger shopping malls, business districts that include multiple office buildings with a number of stories, and similar areas with higher power usage are more likely to be structured for multi-phase power loads. There are also some countries that make use of single-phase electric power for public transit systems that use electrical current, such as mass transit or subway systems.

As with any type of electrical power system, a single-phase electric power distribution system will include fail-safe features that allow for the flow of power to be shut down in an emergency situation. In many cases, a system will include a combination of manual overrides as well as automated functions that detect anomalies and trigger specific responses as a means of protecting the system. Typically, the standards for implementing these safety measures are determined by regulations set by governmental agencies that oversee the function of utility providers within a jurisdiction.


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