Amps, Volts, Watts, Phase: Restaurant Equipment Electrical Explained

Purchasing a new piece of equipment for your restaurant’s commercial kitchen can be an intimidating task. Not only do you have to make sure it is the type of machine you need and will fit where you want it to fit, but even after you have gotten all of that figured out, you still have to deal with figuring out the amps, volts, watts, phase, and so on. With so much money going into a commercial equipment purchase you want to be sure that you don’t end up spending even more money on fixing a mistake.
The path to figuring out what electrical specs you need does not have to be a rocky one. Let us guide you through the process starting with the two different basic scenarios: replacing an existing machine and purchasing a brand new one.

Replacing an Existing Machine

Do you work in a restaurant that’s convection oven has just given out? Were you not there when it was originally purchased, nor was it done in anyone else’s recent memory? Have no fear, this is the easiest scenario to start with when figuring out the electrical specs of your new piece of equipment.
If the new machine will be going in the exact same spot, wired in the exact same way, and the previous machine met all of your output needs, then all we need to do is figure out the specs of the current machine. We can use the same specs on your new machine with no major wiring changes required.

Check the Data Plate

The first place to look for the specs is the data plate; all commercial equipment comes with one. It is usually located on the side or back of the machine and will contain the voltage, phase, amperage, watts, horsepower, or whatever other information pertains to that piece of equipment. If the data plate was damaged or you simply can’t find it though, the outlet and plug (if your machine has one) will contain the NEMA number which can be used to figure out all of the electrical specs. This number will begin with R- on the socket or P- on the plug. This is the type of socket or plug it is and a quick google search can tell you the specs.

Need a Little More Power?

What if you are not satisfied with your machine’s performance and you feel like you need a more power on the next one? Or maybe you are upping the size of your ice machine and they only come in a higher voltage? In these cases, your kitchen might require some re-wiring if you are switching to a different voltage than your existing machine. It is best to consult with your electrician to figure out what your building can handle and what new voltage you can shop for your new equipment in.

Purchasing a New Machine in a New Location

So there are two reasons why you might be putting a brand new machine in an untouched space. Either you have a new need, such as a reach-in refrigerator you’d like to add by the waitress station, or you are building a new restaurant kitchen.

Check the Breaker Box

If you are putting a new piece of equipment in a spot that has not had equipment in before, the first step is to find your breaker box and check what kind of power you have coming in. That will let you know what your building is wired for. The second step is to see if the area you are putting the new unit has wiring leading to it. If you are not sure you will want to get an electrician involved. You might need some new wiring to be done before you can get rolling with your new machine.

Ask Your Electrician

If you are working on a new kitchen and need to figure out your electrical specs are, ask the electrician or contractor. They can let you know what the wiring will be so you can start to purchase your equipment. You may even be able to work with them to do any specific wiring to different parts of the restaurant to make sure you can get the right pieces where you want them to go.

Electrical Terms

Familiarity with electrical terms will help you understand your existing equipment and how to buy new equipment that will work in your space. Remember that buying a machine with specs different from existing wiring will need the consultation and work of an electrician.

Voltage (V)

Voltage is the potential to cause an electrical current. A good way to think of it is as the pressure of water coming through a pipe.
Typical North American Voltages:

  • 110v, 115v, 120v- all the same thing. This is a typical wall outlet.
  • 208v/1ph
  • 230v, 240v- same thing as 1 phase, also called 208/230v
  • 208v/ 3PH
  • 480v/ 3PH

Amperage (Amps)

Amperage is the volume of electricity flowing past a point at a given time. Amps determine a circuit size. It is the amount of power that a piece of equipment draws out of an outlet. It can be compared to the volume of water going through a pipe.

Phase (PH)

Phase is the number of wires needed to carry the voltage. Almost all commercial power is 208v/3ph. It can be compared to the size of the pipe carry water, it has to be the right size to get the proper flow.

Wattage (W or KW)

The wattage is the amount of “work” a piece of equipment creates. Elements and lights are rated in watts.
Watts = volts x amps.

Don’t fret about the technical details next time you are purchasing commercial kitchen equipment. There are simple steps to take to make sure you are getting a unit that will work seamlessly in your space!


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