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220 240 Volt Air Compressor Wiring

How to Wire a 220 Volt Air Compressor and Control Switch: Wiring a standard 240 volt motor for equipment such as an air compressor there are only two insulated wires for the 220/240 volts and one separate wire for the ground.


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Understanding Ground Wires for 220/240 Volt Circuits
Electrical Question: Where should I connect the white neutral wire in the sub panel for my 220 volt air compressor?

My specific question is:

I thought if something bad happened the neutral would be the safer bet, but I’m getting mixed answers from other sources.
Thanks for your help, Brad.

This electrical wiring question came from: Brad, a Handyman from Endicott, New York.

Additional Comments: Awesome.

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

How to Wire a 220 Volt Air Compressor

Application: Electric Circuit for a 220 Volt Air Compressor with Three Wires.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced. This electrical wiring project is best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor or Certified Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the available access to the air compressor circuit and electrical connection box.
Precaution: Identify the air compressor circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the 220 volt air compressor wiring.

Circuit Wiring for a 240 Volt Air Compressor

The Neutral Wire and 220/240 volt Equipment Circuit

air compressor switch 20amp double-pole
Part Reference: Air Compressor Switch: 220Volt 20Amp 2-Pole
I have found for example, that a 20 Amp 220Volt Double-Pole Switch works very well as an On / Off switch for Air Compressors as described in this electrical project.

See More about Electric Wiring for a 220 Volt Air Compressor

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This article looks at common 120 volt and 240 volt house electrical wiring circuits and the circuit breakers that are installed identifying the types and amperage sizes used in most homes.

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Electrical Wire for the Home
Complete listing of electrical wire types and parts used for home projects with electrical wiring code information serves as selection guidelines.

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Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.

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A guide to home electrical circuit breakers and how they work to protect your electrical wiring. When properly installed, your home electrical wiring is protected by a circuit protection device.

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Home Electrical Codes

Electrical Code Directory covering electrical codes for wiring an electrical circuit for an air compressor.

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Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book

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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handy Women, and Electricians
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Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
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Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

15 Responses to “220 240 Volt Air Compressor Wiring”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Greg,
    Here are a few things that should assist you when wiring a 240volt air compressor and circuit wiring:
    Most 240volt air compressors in the U.S.A. do not require a neutral wire.
    A “white wire” is typically used as a neutral wire with 120volt circuits.
    If a air compressor can be wired for 120 or 240 volts this will be stated on the specification label or in the owners manual.
    The default voltage of the air compressor must be identified so the circuit wiring may be configured properly.
    The cord wiring to the connection terminals inside the motor must be identified to verify the existing voltage configuration, and then changes made if needed.
    Important: If a new air compressor comes from the factory with a cord that includes a white wire then the motor is most likely wired for 120volts, however this should be verified.
    Make sure the power circuit voltage and amperage is verified and meets the air compressors manufacturers specifications.
    I hope this helps you,

  2. Greg says:

    I have a new Sanborn 80 Gal 240volt single phase 5.2 hp air compressor. In my house (new House) the electrician put in a 40 amp with 6gauge wire and a 30 amp with 8 gauge wiring, both, Black,Red,White and ground. The Compressor takes 26 amps and multiple more on start. I am thinking of using the 40 amp, but the Compressor only has a white and black along with ground, no red. It also has the connectors there and they say they must be used, connecting black and white. Question is, do I just go white to white, and black to black and ground to ground and cap the red? Thanks.

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Guy,
    Yes, there are 4wire to 3wire cord adapters available. Be sure the voltage and amperage matches the specifications for your specific air compressor.
    Be Safe,

  4. guy kemling says:

    I have a 4 wire plug outlet, and a new air compressor with a 3 wire plug. Is there an adapter that will let me use it without changing wires?

  5. Joe Bernard says:

    I have a 2 Stage Air compressor that I am hooking up in my garage. It is a single phase 240 volt continuous duty motor, 3450 RPM, 23 amp, 60 hz. The Wiring is 10/2 with ground, connected to a double pole 30 amp breaker.
    My question is about the circuit voltage. I checked the voltage with a Klein Multimeter, and it showed that I have 221 volts at the plug. Will the 240 volt motor work with the 220 volts residential power available?

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Dave,
    The size of the wire for your air compressor will depend on the HP horsepower rating of the motor. This information is provided on the air compressor motor, and the instruction manual will describe the circuit size that is required. When this information is identified then the circuit size and wire size may be determined. Please see the Electrical Wire page of the website for the Table which describes the wire sizes and circuit sizes.
    Thanks for sharing your air compressor project with us,

  7. dave may says:

    What size of wire should be used to wire a 240 volt air compressor and what does it look like at the breaker box?

  8. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Eric,
    Converting an unused 220 volt circuit as you are describing is OK as long as the circuit wiring has been identified and relabeled at the panel for the new intended use. The circuit breaker must be resized for the air compressor as well, so be sure to get the amp specs off of the motor label, which will state that the 7.5 hp 220 volt motor will require a 40 amp circuit, or the actual specs. The length of the cord for a portable air compressor should be no more than 20 feet long, and it would be best to locate the receptacle or point of attachment close to the air compressor.
    I hope this helps,

  9. Eric Neufeld says:

    I have a 7.5 HP single phase IR compressor in the garage that I am trying to get power to. Unfortunately, the garage doesn’t have 220v and the general terrain around the garage would require some major expense and creativity to get a line there. I do have an old hot tub hookup on a double 50 amp circuit coming from the house that is unused. My thought was to add a weather tight box with a receptacle at the end of the old hot tub line, and then use a 6/3 industrial cable extension cord to reach to compressor and only plug it in when needed. As I know this is not an ideal solution, would it be an acceptable one?
    Any advice will be appreciated.
    Thank you.

  10. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Bob,
    I understand what you are asking, but lets consider everything involved.
    First, we know that the dryer circuit is typically 240 volt 30 amps.
    But what I don’t know is how large the air compressor is. If the air compressor requires a 30 amp circuit, then you could conceivably install a male plug on the end of the air compressor cord and use the dryer plug. However keep in mind that the outlet for the compressor should be readily accessible, and the cord length should be 12 feet or shorter. With this type of setup you will be able to operate one appliance at a time, either the dryer, or the air compressor, but never together at the same time.
    If you find that the air compressor does not require a 30 amp circuit then you should not use the dryer circuit.
    The best solution is to always install a separate dedicated circuit for the air compressor, this way you can run your appliances independently, have the correct electrical circuit protection and every one will be happy – (we hope!)
    The 30 amp receptacle wiring connections for a dryer can be seen here.
    I hope this helps you,

  11. Bob Becker says:

    I have a 4-wire cable with red, black, white and bare copper wires coming from the breaker that are used to power a dryer. Can I use this wire to power a 220 outlet for an air compressor? The outlet has two brass screws and one green. How would this be wired?
    Thanks, Bob

  12. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi John,
    The standard 220 volt wiring for an air compressor includes no polarity for the red and the black wire, so you cannot wire them backwards. The disconnect switch should be a 220 volt 2 pole type for both circuit wires. Green earth ground is bonded throughout at the enclosures and the motor. I will make sure to create a wiring diagram soon.
    I hope this helps you get your air compressor motor working.

  13. john says:

    Was looking for a wiring diagram to re-hook up my compressor in my shop at home. I disconnected the wires from the pony panel( with the on /off switch on the side) There is a black and a red wire going into the connection box for the compressor ( 220 30 amp single phase ) Reconnected the ground wire to the compressor box. Now it doesn’t work. The motor was just rebuilt as it had stopped before this time and now I am trying to get it running again. If you can help with a simple wire diagram so I can try and see what I may have done wrong it would be e great help to me.


  14. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Keith,
    Yes, installing a switch to control a compressor is typically done using a 2-pole switch matching the amperage of the circuit, wiring the LINE and LOAD appropriately. As for the compressor not starting I would check to make sure it does not have high head pressure where it is starting too soon, but rather adjust the limit switch so the start pressure is allowed to be lower.

  15. Keith says:

    I am wanting to wire my compressor up on a on off switch. I have a heavy duty 30 amp switch. I know how to break contact on 120volt is it the same on 240volt? I tried to do it that way but the compressor will not come on. I have 240volt on both sides of the switch but I believe my problem is where it is regulated on the compressor can you help me out? Thanks for your time.