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Wiring a 220 Volt Air Compressor

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Install a 220 Volt Air Compressor Circuit: Electrical Circuit Requirements, 220 Volt Single Phase and 220 Volt 3 Phase

Guide to Installing a 220 Volt Air Compressor Circuit

Electrical Question: I am installing an air compressor circuit in my workshop.

  • My workshop is setup for 220 volt 3 phase.
  • My Lift and air compressor are wired for single phase 220 volt.
  • How can I make this work? Can I just plug it in or no?

This electrical wiring question came from: Kevin, a Handyman from Sacramento, California.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Kevin.

How to Install a 220 Volt Air Compressor Circuit

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced, Best installed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor. Work in electrical panels is not recommended for homeowners, non-experienced individuals or non-electricians.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, electric drill,  auger bits and extension cord.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and install 220 volt electrical circuit wiring.
Precaution: Identify the main circuit of the panel, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring or installing the 220 volt wiring and circuit breaker.
Notice: Installing an additional 220 volt circuit for a air compressor or other equipment should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

IMPORTANT: Not all 3 Phase Electrical Services are the Same

Three Phase Panels and Voltage Variations

  • There are Several Types of 3 Phase Electrical Services, here are a few typical examples:
    • 120/208 Volt, 3 Phase, 4-Wire.
    • 120/240 Volt, 3 Phase, 4-Wire.
    • 277/480 Volt, 3 Phase, 4-Wire.

If the electrical service to your workshop is 120/240 Volt, 3 phase, 4-Wire, then a single phase 220 volt air compressor and lift will work just fine after the proper circuit has been installed.

NOTE: Most AC type 220 Volt and 240 Volt equipment and electrical circuits are basically the same, only the nomenclature is stated differently.

  1. A separate 2-pole 220 volt circuit will be required for the air compressor and the lift.
  2. The amperage size of the circuit will depend on the motor horsepower which will be specified on the nameplate of the equipment with the installation of the electrical circuit wiring.
  3. Circuit disconnects which are required to conform to the manufacturers installation manual and the local Electrical Codes for your specific area will be required.

Electrical Requirements for an Air Compressor Motor

For this application, the difference between 220 volt single phase and 220 volt three phase is just one circuit wire. It may sound confusing however in this case the 220 volt circuit is made up of two insulated circuit wires for the 220 volts and one equipment ground wire for a total of three wires.

220 Volt Single Phase and 220 Volt 3 Phase

  • If your air compressor was 220 volt three phase then the circuit would be three insulated wires for the 220 volts (which is measured leg to leg) and one equipment ground wire for a total of four wires.
  • The wire gauge or size would be determined by the required circuit amperage, as specified by the equipment.
  • If your workshop is in an industrial area then make sure that the three phase panel does not have what is known as a Stinger Leg, or High Leg.
  • This is where one of the incoming lines of power has 220 volts, instead of 110 volts.
  • These types of services are rare, however they do still exist in some industrial locations.

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Circuit Wiring

Electrical Circuit Wiring

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  • Install and identifying the types and amperage sizes used in most homes.

Electrical Circuit Breakers

Home Electrical Circuit Breakers

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6 Responses to “Wiring a 220 Volt Air Compressor”
  1. Mike C says:

    I am wiring my garage for a 240volt 15.5 amp 3.7 horsepower air compressor.
    What is the correct gauge wire needed to be run from the circuit panel to the wall outlet? The distance is less than 50′.

    Mike C.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Mike,
      The Starting amps, or Lock Rotor Amps should be considered when selecting the electrical wire size. After identifying the starting amps the amperage and wire chart in the electrical wire section will be of assistance for you.
      I hope this helps,

  2. Kenny says:

    I have a Coleman stand up air compressor that I’m replacing the motor. There is a black and white wire coming out of the switch. On the new Smith and Jones 68302 there is not a black and white wire. there is a box on the side of the motor that has wires in it that clock it CCW or CW, but where do I connect the black and white wire from the switch? There is a metal panel on the back of motor, but when I look in there, there is still nothing to connect the wires to.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Kenny,
      The side box with CCW and CW is where the adjustment is made for the direction of rotation.
      The end plate on the motor is where the electrical connection are made. The wiring designations are typically printed on the reverse side of the cover plate or on the specifications label which is attached to the side of the motor. Typically a motor can be wired for either 120 volts or 220 volts, it just depends on the exact motor that you have.

  3. Lawrence Browne says:

    My home is already wired with 220 volt for my compressor. My question is I replaced the 3hp motor on the compressor and I am trying to wire the starter switch to motor and power supply. The confusion is all the wires are black. The compressor is old its a 1988 PUMA pph-30 110, attached to the motor is the switch it has 3 wires one of which is connected to the motor. Then there are 3 wires coming out of the motor (Smith and Jones model# D563S2C S/N 369841148, and of course my two hots coming from power source.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Lawrence,
      It may be helpful to identify one of the wires of the 220 volt circuit with red electrical tape. Make sure the replacement motor may be wired for 220 volt single phase, the same as the existing air compressor circuit, paying close attention to the voltage and amperage which must be within the specs of the circuit. The switch must also be compatible with the circuit specifications as well.


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