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Tool Talk Discussion Forum

Re: Different 3-phase question

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Brad Buchanan

04-21-2013 13:55:21

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Hey guys,

Didn't mean to cause trouble but a machine is for sale at a good price and I was curious.

It is military surplus diesel powered 15kw and according to the id plate can be wired for either 120/208 V 400HZ 3-phase or 240/416 V 400HZ 3-phase.

Also states that it is type 1 class 1 mode 2 size 15.

Would this indicate that there are three hots and a neutral?

Thanks for the informative responses,


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Mark - IN.

04-22-2013 18:39:31

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 Re: Different 3-phase question in reply to Brad Buchanan, 04-21-2013 13:55:21  
Hey Brad, grab it.

When I mentioned that typical small generators sold in say Menards or Lowes aren't setup for 3 phase, I was going to mention military generators that are setup to do either single or three phase. When I was in the Army, we had a wide variety of gen sets that were capable of doing both, starting with the 10K gasoline sets, and of course our 15K, 30K, and 60K diesel sets did as well...single phase were L1 and L2 to nuetral for 110, or 220 across L1 and L2. That is all that you will need for residential. That will get you 110, 110, 220 single phase. L3 and L4 in conjunction with L1 and L2 will get you three phase across L1 and L2, L2 and L3, and L3 and L4...which you will not need.

My mistake Brad. I thought that you were talking about motors and commercial grade appliances. If I had known that you were looking at a 15K military Gen set, probably diesel, I would have told you to jump all over it and here is why. Those old diesel military gen sets needed to run somewhere between 60 and 80 percent draw to keep from tearing them up, which meant that we had to tie in load banks across the loads. In tactical maintenance, which I was, we generally used 30K and 60K gen sets because we at times had that much stuff hooked up to them, but at times not...and on the latter occasions, may have fired up huge gen sets in the field, and had only say like 10K draw on them of equipment shelters in being maintained. On those occasions, we would have to dial in the load banks across our coils to increase the draw to as I recall a minimum of 60 percent (36K) a typical maximum of 80 percent (48K) on a 60K gen set, or 18K to 24K on a 30K gen set.

Brad, from what you are saying as I understand it, you have the opportunity to purchase an old 15K military gen set, I assume diesel because thats what we used, and if that;s the case and its in good shape, jump all over it. With a 15K,you won't have to worry about a load bank to make up the difference in load draw, and those old Continental diesels ran a real consistent speed once you dialed them up to the correct speed (cycles/hertz) and locked the dial in. Whereas the smaller 10K gasoline units used governors that had tendencies to float nominal speeds all over the place, which gen sets are known for, dirty power. With our diesels, we would dial them in, walk away and come back in an hour after the engines were warmed up, fine tune the speeds, relock the dials, and they would run error free all day and night. Out in the field, we always rotated two gen sets. One day one, next day the other, and so on.

Brad, you have a chance to buy and old diesel 15K in good shape? Grab it. It will do single and three phase, will give you 110, 110, 220 single phase. Grab it, grab it, grab it...or I will. You won't find anything out on the market new that will keep up with it without paying mega $$$. Grab it.

Good luck Brad.


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Mark - IN.

04-22-2013 19:10:30

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 Re: Different 3-phase question in reply to Mark - IN., 04-22-2013 18:39:31  
And by the way Brad, 15K, 30K, 60K diesel military gen sets...5 wires. Hots on L1, L2, L3, L4, and a nuetral. You will NOT use five. You WILL USE ONLY 3...L1, L2, and Nuetral. L1 to Nuetral...110, L2 to Nuetral...110, across L1 and L2...220. Actually, I should be saying 120/240 since thats what they are supposed to be.

My first exposure to three phase out in the field was because I was repair for microwave line of site, troposcatter, and satellite radio repair. There was this site where they had several comm vans hooked up to a 60K gen set, and someone hooked the five wire cables to the vans incorrectly across its coils. They got the color codes wrong at the coils, which meant they were wrong at the recepticals at the shelters. They had nuetral on a hot coil, hot on Nuetral, and at the equipment it got worse because someone tied ground to Nuetral on one van, which they didn't ground like they were supposed to, so when they fired it up everything that was ground was hot, and since it wasn't grounded and was separated from ground by the big rubber tires, the soldiers that walked up and grabbed the rails while standing in wet mud, became the fuses to ground and were getting knocked on their butts. Then someone did the same, but drove a ground rod like they should have, but when they hooked it up, shut down the 60k gen set because they were running a hot leg directly to ground. I got sent out because the entire site was down, like 20 or so communication vans off line and that was a big deal, and that site was the hub to all of the remote sites. That was my introduction to three phase...tracing cable connections through a huge load center back to the coils on a 60K gen set in the dark of night, me, a generator mechanic, a flashlite, a volt meter and some serious brass standing over our shoulders yelling at us in what turned out to be their operators mistakes.

Good luck.


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04-21-2013 14:21:31

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 Re: Different 3-phase question in reply to Brad Buchanan, 04-21-2013 13:55:21  
Brad, you have the answer about that generator.

I use a 3 phase PTO generator for my emergency power here, and for powering a couple of very large stationary tools that I bought after I ran inadequate wire to the outbuilding. Works great for both the 3 phase tools and the house, electronics included.

You do need to know what to connect to what however. My generator I got cheap from a country store whose "electrician" hooked up his cash registers wrong and fried them. Not once, but twice. A $3 Harbor Freight volt meter would have solved the problem if his "electrician" had a clue, but I didn"t tell him.

If you have a cheap opportunity for a different generator, come back and ask. Just "hots and a neutral" isn"t enough to go by. That"s how I came by my generator cheap.

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John T

04-21-2013 14:10:50

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 Re: Different 3-phase question in reply to Brad Buchanan, 04-21-2013 13:55:21  
NO TROUBLE Brad, just a good question and a FUN discussion.


The mathmetical imperitave that 120 x the square root of three is 208 and since you state 120/208 three phase or 240/416 YEP ITS THREE PHASE Y

John T

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04-21-2013 14:05:45

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 Re: Different 3-phase question in reply to Brad Buchanan, 04-21-2013 13:55:21  
400Hz will rule out any electric motors that you have.

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