3 phase plugs

3 Phase Plugs and Sockets Explained

It is often asked “Can I change the plug on my machine to a different rated plug?”

The answer is yes you can change out the plug to a different one however there are some rules around what one is the minimum Amp rating you can install

Here we are talking about Australian & New Zealand plugs and sockets but the concept is the same in most countries. Check your local laws to be sure.

Let’s be clear on the terminology used below so you know what we are talking about.

  • Plug – is the cable end with the pins in it
  • Socket – is the connection you put the plug into it has holes for the pins and could be on the end of an extension lead on a generator or just the wall in a building
  • Neutral – Three phase power lead normally has 3 Phases (L1, L2 & L3) and an Earth (closest to the key on the plug or socket) The three phases are normally all that is required to run portable equipment however sometimes the equipment will require lower voltage for controls. This lower voltage is obtained through the addition of a Neutral pin added in the middle of the plug or socket.
  • 10A, 20A, 32A – These are three most common 3 phase plug and socket sizes used in Australia. “A” refers to the maximum Amps the plug is rated for.
  • 4 Pin, 5 Pin – With each of the 10A 20A 32A options we also have a variant which has a 5th pin added in the centre. This is where the Neutral wire is connected.

Let’s take a Satellite 650 Standard for and example.

By default the Satellite 650 Standard has a 10A, 4 pin plug.

  • The Satellite 650 doesn’t need Neutral so it has a 4 Pin plug. Remember, 5 Pin is only needed if the machine requires a neutral which it does not.
  • Some generators and buildings offer 5 pin sockets but the grinder doesn’t need it so it has a 4 pin plug.
  • A 5 pin plug can be fitted to the Satellite 650, but inside the plug, there will be no wire to the centre pin anyway, so no point.
  • If you need to install a 20A or 32A plug, that’s ok because the machine draws less than these.

Rule of thumb for three phase machines

  • You can always install bigger plugs than the machine draws but not less.
  • You can’t put a 10A plug on a machine rated at 12A.
  • You can’t put a 20A Plug on a machine rated at 21A.
  • You CAN put a 32 A plug on any machine rated at 32A or lower.
  • If the Machine requires a Neutral it will have a cord on it with 5 wires, so use 5 pin plugs when this is the case.
  • If the Machine does not require a Neutral it will only have 4 Wires. You can use a 5 Pin plug but the middle pin will be swaying in the breeze and will prevent you plugging it into a regular point in a building without 5 Pin outlets.

This is the reason why some contractors will fit all their machines with 32A so there is never a issue with connections.

Interesting fact.

  • 10A and 20A plugs are the same size physically all round except the 10A has a slot at the bottom and the 20A has a flat section.
  • This means that a 10A plug can go into a 20A socket but a 20A plug cant go into a 10A Socket.