How Single-Phase and Three-Phase Generators Work
Both single- and three-phase generators connect to and produce AC power. Just as the name indicates, single-phase generators deliver one wave of power. That wave, however, varies with the source of the electrical power connected to the generator. The wave’s power level crests and drops to zero at intervals once each cycle. Those drops are so quick that most people don’t notice them when they hit electrical devices — which is why single-phase generator power is usually sufficient for residential use, including household appliances, electronics like TVs and computers, and lighting.
But even a quick drop in power can be a big problem for large facilities or machines that need a significant amount of power to function. Three-phase generators produce power via three waves that overlap and are evenly spaced apart – when one wave rises, the other falls, and so forth. Those successive waves provide an uninterrupted current of power that never dips to zero. And in cases when an exceptionally high-powered load is required, the three phases can be synced to provide concentrated power to one piece of equipment. Three-phase generators can be used for either primary or back-up power in the heavy-duty industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors, as well as for data centers that require enormous power to run scores of servers.