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American 220V for a computer?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
As we all know, the US uses 110V for most appliances. There's a hot, a neutral (0V reference), and an optional ground. Because most wiring is limited to 15A, only 1650W can be drawn.

However, some high-power appliances like electric clothes dryers need more power. This is accomplished with a special 220V outlet. It has one hot, a second hot a half-phase out of sync, and a neutral 0V reference/ground. That way the difference between them is twice the difference between just one hot and one neutral, allowing a higher voltage.

(If any of that is wrong, please correct me.)

My question: is this method of achieving 220V significantly different than, say, Europe's method of just using a higher voltage to start? Does the waveform differ, and could I stick 2.5kW of processor on one of these outlets? Are power supplies designed to take this kind of waveform? If I understand it correctly they actually run more efficiently at the higher voltage. Is safety an issue, assuming this could work? I can't imagine it being too much different than a normal setup, just with different plugs.
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post #2 of 19
Like you said one phase is out of sync. So yes it's either 2 phase or 3 phase AC.
It'd probably be easier to use two power supplies, you can look up some people who have done that on OC.net.
Edited by SanguineDrone - 11/1/15 at 5:21pm
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Ah, right, three phase could be an issue, couldn't it? I'm not sure what the waveform for that would be but it doesn't seem like it would be a sine wave, does it?

I meant pulling a ton of power from one breaker, though not enough to trip it every time you turn on Crysis or something. thumb.gif Well, I was actually thinking compute cluster more than gaming rig. But the requirements are the same, right?
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post #4 of 19
Well. I suppose you don't quite understand 3 phase AC. All three phases would be normal 60hz sine waves, but they're 120* out of phase of each other... and yes that would be a problem. If you want to some serious graphics compute, you'd be better off using a secondary power supply in tandem.
post #5 of 19
I thought UK was on 50hz.
In the US I'm pretty sure the transformer drops down to 220v on 2 hot wires which goes to 2 different busses in the breaker box. Picking up one side yields 110v and both yields 220v. If you need 3 phase, you need a different transformer (or another one or something).

As far as the wave type, I know we run on a flat wave (sine) but there are different kinds used for different things so I just don't know.

Subbed. I'm curious already...


I reread. There is no problem pulling 2.5kw off of a 100A box. It's only 11A.
Edited by white owl - 11/1/15 at 5:49pm
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post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Frequency is frequency. It would be unrelated to the shape of the wave. As long as 60Hz 220V is possible and it's 2-phase, it should be fine...?
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post #7 of 19
U.S. 240v is accomplished using "split-phase" (not technically 2 phase), as you mentioned. The secondary of the utility transformer is center-tapped, so it has 3 outputs: 120 volts - 0 volts - 120 volts. The 120 volt taps are 180 degrees out-of-phase with each other, so you get 240v across them.

The effective waveform is exactly the same as that of straight single-phase 230v. There are efficiency gains to be had by using it, but it's unlikely to offset the cost of installing a 230v outlet in your PC room.
post #8 of 19
Err.. ah that's right, but you could check to see if your house already has a split phase outlet installed, they're not that rare. If you do I suppose you're good to go after getting it checked out with an electrician. I think you'd also need to use a different plug.
Again... secondary power supplies have been done on OC.net...
post #9 of 19
Ok, let's see how much of this we can clarify.

First off, let's get the terminology right. You can have a single phase or three phases, there's no such thing as two phase. A phase is measured between 2 lines (hot wires).
Now, I'm not sure if you live in a house or condo/apartment, so I'll cover both scenarios.

In a house, the utility takes street voltage, which varies depending on region but can easily be 4000V, and runs a center tap transformer off each phase of their 3-phase service. Let's say the transformer feeding your house is off lines A and B, through the magic of magnetism, the 4000V changes to 240V and they take a third line off the center of transformer (hence center tap). So the difference between the ends of the coil is 240V and from each to the center line is 120V. All three of these are run to your house and connected to the panel and the line coming off the center is grounded at your panel. The 2 hots are 180 degrees out of phase (math term, not electrical) with each other.

If you're in a condo, the service run to your panel is stepped down in the main electrical room of the building to 3 phase 120/208V and you'll have 2 of those lines in your room. Its 208V because the hot lines are 120 degrees out of phase with each other. This means that any appliance you run in your unit that needs 240V will be running under voltage. Its not normally an issue, but its worth mentioning.

In europe, they run 230V from hot to neutral. Its still AC, so if you want to run it hot to hot in north america, it should work. That brings us to the issue of actually delivering that power to the unit.




You see here, on the left, your standard house plug. Its one hot one neutral, fed from a single breaker/fuse in your panel, and isn't going to cut it. What you want is the center one, and I'll be very surprised if you find one anywhere on your street let alone in your house. Can you install one? Absolutely. You'll need a double-pole 15A breaker and you'll need to run a new line from the panel to feed one of those plugs. Both sides are hot, the bottom pin is ground, as usual. If you're not an electrician, I'd advise strongly against attempting this yourself.

If you get that far, your PSU will need a male end on the cord to match the above plug.

Since someone mentioned dual PSUs, I'll touch on that too. If you're maxing out 2 1000W PSUs on a single 15A plug, you're obviously exceeding the 1800W that is the maximum for that circuit. So the breaker/fuse will trip. What's more, if you plan on running your computer full bore for long periods of time, now it constitutes a continuous load, which means your 15A plug is now rated for 12A instead. That's 1440W instead of 1800. Basically heat creep becomes an issue for the circuit. The solution here is to use a separate circuit for the second PSU. Unfortunately, they're not normally side by side.

TL;DR It's too complicated to be worthwhile.
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post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Firehawk, you're on my good list. thumb.gif 2-phase is uncommon and largely deprecated but apparently is a thing. It's two phases 90 degrees out of sync. Split phase is 180 degrees. And 3-phase, assuming some sort of voltage adder could be constructed, could provide the necessary voltage difference. The sum of any two phases' voltages are equal in magnitude and opposite in sign to the third phase.

With all that said, that means it is 100% possible - feasible even - but mostly impractical. It might be worth looking into for some sort of dedicated setup though.

But that's a great explanation of how it works, thanks.
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