You buy your dream home in France, everything goes well and then you discover you have a 3 phase electricity supply. What does it mean? Is there a problem? English electrician in France Paul Wilkins says “don’t be phased” as he explains what it’s all about…
It is not unusual to find that you have a 3 phase electrical supply in a French property. It is common particularly in farms or buildings with industrial use, buildings that might once have been those things but are now residential buildings or where you will need high current.
The majority of new installations [new builds and rewires] are now supplied in single phase.
Single phase supply circuits can be freely assigned, ideally by a qualified electrician and this is the most suitable system for domestic use. Please bear in mind that you need the appropriate kVA supply (a KVA is simply 1,000 volt amps) for the size of your dwelling. You need to work out which is most appropriate for your home by listing the electrical appliances you use and working out how much electricity you will need at maximum capacity. The most common units of supply are: 6kVA, 9kVA and 12kVA.
EDF (Electricité de France) will happily help you to resolve this question (they have an English speaking helpline), or ask your electrician for help. The current supply you choose can only be assigned by EDF. This unit of supply determines the tariff you are charged. 6kVA-9kVA is usual for most houses, the lower the kVA, the lower the standing charge for electricity supply. If you do not choose the correct tariff but go too low, you’ll find appliances tripping out on a daily basis so be wary of trying to save costs by going for a lower kVA supply than you need.
3 phase in simple terms means that you have 3 live terminals and 1 neutral at the meter supplied by EDF and the fuse board is a lot bigger. It also means that you will also pay a high standing charge for your electricity since the supply enters at a higher kVA i.e. 15kVA. What this actually means is that there are 3 lots of 5kVA [25A] on each phase.
You need to ensure that the current that is drawn must be balanced on each phase as overloading on one phase will potentially cause nuisance tripping. High voltage items like cookers that are installed on a 3 phase system need to be installed correctly for 3 phase usage.
If you have 3 phase electricity and want to have this changed to single phase – call EDF, they will arrange for the system to be reviewed and amended. Your electricity bill will confirm what tariff you are on or give EDF a call.
Details for calling EDF in each region or their English speaking helpline.
Paul Wilkins is known as the Electricien Anglais En France. Paul moved to France in August 2012 having been a self-employed fully qualified electrician in the UK. He is registered with the Chambre de Metier, Artisan level electrician.