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Wiring a 220 Volt Air Compressor

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


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Guide to Installing a 220 Volt Air Compressor Circuit
Electrical Question: I am installing an air compressor circuit in my workshop.

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. This electrical project is best performed by a Licensed Electrician or 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

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

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Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

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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.

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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

6 Responses to “Wiring a 220 Volt Air Compressor”
  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.