3 phase air compressors are some of the most popular air compressor types currently available. One of the biggest questions people have regarding 3 phase air compressors is how they differ from other compressors on the market.

A 3 phase air compressor is one of the most powerful air compression units that you can purchase. They have a much higher voltage rating and a longer lifespan than typical single-phase compressors. They use an alternative method for powering the motor that allows them to operate without any drops in power.

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to better understand the differences between 3-phase air compressors and other compressors currently on the market. This can help you decide if a 3 phase air compressor is right for you.

What Is A 3 Phase Air Compressor?

A 3-phase compressor is an extremely high-powered air compression device that is used to power devices and provide air for tools that utilize compressed air. 3 phase air compressors utilize three different power windings housed within one motor.

This allows the compressor to maintain a steady power supply that experiences much less downtime and dropped power than typical single-phase compressors. The electrical current alternates between these three power windings, which provides the equivalent to the power provided by a typical wall outlet.

Because of the three available power supplies located in the motor of the compressor, the machine is able to provide continuous power and air for the most heavy-duty tools and applications. 3-phase air compressors are mostly used in large warehouses and industrial settings.

3-phase air compressors are known for their durability and superior performance under heavy-stress settings. When compared to standard single-phase air compressors, they typically last longer and are cheaper to operate.

How Much Does A 3-Phase Air Compressor Cost?

You can purchase a 5HP 3-phase air compressor for an average cost of $4,500. This may seem expensive but they are some of the most powerful and durable air compressors currently available for purchase.

You can expect to pay more for 3-phase air compressors with a higher HP rating. Generally, the HP rating that you will find for domestic and personal use 3-phase air compressors will top out around 10HP.

This means that you can expect to pay around $9000 for the highest HP 3-phase air compressor that you would be able to purchase from local dealers like Home Depot or Lowes. If you are in an industry where you need a much higher HP 3-phase air compressor, you can expect to pay around $40,000 for a 100HP model.

Because of the extreme price difference between a 3-phase compressor that is suitable for home uses and small projects or workspaces and the large industrial sizes, you should carefully consider what you need the air compressor for and exactly what HP you need to satisfy your needs.

There are very few practical uses for a high HP 3-phase compressor in a home or small business setting. You will likely do better with a powerful single-phase air compressor if you plan to use it for these purposes.

Along with being cheaper, they are also easier to install. This makes a single-phase air compressor a much more economical choice for home and small business use.

The table below contains some of the most popular vendors and their prices for 3-phase air compressors within the 5HP to 10HP range. As previously mentioned, you will need to locate an industrial air compressor manufacturer if you require an air compressor with a higher HP than this.

VendorAvg. 5HP 3-Phase Air Compressor CostAvg. 10HP 3-Phase Air Compressor Cost
Amazon$3200$7000
Walmart$4400$8500
Lowes$2800$6500
Home Depot$3600$7500
Harbor Freight$4000$8800

Who Uses 3-Phase Air Compressors

Large commercial and industrial operations use 3-phase air compressors. They are found commonly in heavy-duty manufacturing plants, cabinet-making shops, and general industrial businesses and workplaces that require a large amount of compression.

They can also commonly be found being used for heavy-duty refrigeration and air conditioning jobs. The larger the area needed to be covered by the air compressor, the more likely you are to need a 3-phase air compressor to keep up with the demand required.

It is unlikely that any home application that you might require a compressor would require a 3-phase compressor of more than 5HP. You should also keep in mind that 3-phase air compressors cannot be plugged into a typical home power outlet.

This makes 3-phase compressors best used in an industrial or commercial environment with power supplies that are compatible with the requirements of the compressor. You should only consider purchasing a high HP 3-phase air compressor if you are sure that you need that much power.

3 Phase Air Compressors Vs Single Phase

A 3-phase air compressor has several major advantages over a single-phase. A 3-phase compressor is much more powerful and energy efficient than a single-phase air compressor. They also typically last longer and operate cheaper than single-phase air compressors.

That being said, if you are planning on using your 3-phase air compressor for your home or small business, you should consider the fact that a 3-phase air compressor is much more expensive and bulkier than the typical single-phase air compressor.

It can also be difficult to properly power your 3-phase compressor in your home or small business setting. This is because you cannot plug a 3-phase compressor into a typical power outlet. You will need to install your 3-phase compressor in an area with an outlet suitable for your compressor.

The different factors that will influence what compressor type is best for you consists of the area you need to utilize the air compressor in, the price range you can afford, and the power outlet compatibility of the area of installation.

Can You Run An Air Compressor On A Phase Converter?

You can run an air compressor on a phase converter as long as you make sure that your phase converter meets your compressor’s requirements. A phase converter can run an air compressor due to the way that it ramps up the motor speed to reduce the starting currents of the compressor.

Phase converters make it possible to run your 3-phase air compressor as a single-phase. To do this, you must ensure that the phase converter can deliver enough torque at low speed to start the motor of the compressor.

This will often involve oversizing the phase converter significantly to compensate for the power needed to properly operate the compressor. Since most compressors are controlled automatically by the pressure detected in the tank,  you will need to install the phase converter directly into the motor leads.

This will allow the phase converter to bypass the factory controls of your compressor. As long as you rewire the controls properly in your compressor and have a phase converter that can start and stop the motor, you will have no issue running your air compressor system with a phase converter.

You will need to choose a phase converter that is rated twice that of your compressor motor. For example, a 5HP air compressor will require a 10HP phase converter to function properly. If the compressor you are using is less than 7HP, it is advised that you use a single-phase motor instead of a phase converter.

Depending on the size of the phase converter you require, you can expect to pay between $700 to $4500 dollars to purchase one. As previously mentioned, when purchasing a phase converter for your air compressor, you should ensure that it is twice the HP as your compressor.

This will ensure your phase converter has the power necessary to enable the single-phase functions of your air compressor. The table below contains the average prices for phase converters at varying HP specifications.

Phase Converter HP SpecificationAvg. Cost
3HP$620
5HP$840
10HP$1250
15HP$1800
20HP$2050
40HP$3200
60HP$4500

Final Thoughts

This guide has provided you with all of the information that you need to better understand the differences between a 3-phase air compressor and a standard single-phase air compressor. Using the information in this guide, you will be able to determine whether or not you need a 3-phase compressor.

As this guide indicates, there are specific circumstances where a 3-phase air compressor will be beneficial. If you need to provide compressed air for a large industrial or commercial area, then you will likely be better suited with a 3-phase air compressor.

If you are simply looking for an air compressor to provide compressed air to your home or small business environment, then you will likely do better with a single-phase air compressor. It is important that you consider all of the factors before making a purchase decision.

This guide can help ensure that you purchase the right type of air compressor for your specific situation. This can be a useful resource when trying to weigh the pros and cons of both air compressor types.