Restaurant Education: Preparing Your Restaurant for High Voltage Appliances

High_VoltageWith the exception of a clothes dryer or oven, most household appliances only require 120 electrical volts, whereas commercial restaurant equipment and appliances run at higher voltages (208 volts to 240 volts).  If you’re opening a new foodservice establishment, or remodeling your existing restaurant, coffee shop, or bar, you will be buying equipment and acting as a middle man between your electrician and your equipment dealer. Read on to understand the basics you’ll need to understand to be comfortable talking directly to your electrician and ensuring your establishment is properly wired.

Standard 120 Volt household appliances generally have the same standard plugs on the ends of their power cords, and those plugs can be plugged into any standard household outlet. This is not true of high voltage commercial appliances. There are different kinds of plugs and different kinds of outlets for high voltage appliances.

Most people realize the plug on the end of your appliance’s power cord needs to fit the outlet. For this reason, many commercial appliances are shipped without a plug at the end of the power cord. The person doing the installation first looks at the outlet, and then provides a compatible plug which they put on the end of the power cord as part of the installation procedure.

The main reason for having different plugs is to ensure that the appliance does not exceed the current limit of the wiring in the wall. For high voltage outlets, you will typically see 20 Ampere sockets, 30 Ampere sockets.

Make sure that the circuit that your electrician installs will comfortably handle the current that your appliance will pull. Consider putting in a 30 Ampere circuit for a 20 Ampere appliance to ensure you’re not regularly tripping the circuit breaker. If you intend to plug more than one appliance into the same circuit, make sure you add up the currents from all of the appliances (this should be available on the equipment’s spec sheet). Ask your electrician to install a circuit that can handle the total current.

Finally, look for plugs that lock into the socket. This will prevent the plug from being dislodged accidentally. Some zoning boards will require this as a “safety feature.” They are concerned that if someone trips over the cord, the plug will get pulled out, and there could be a small spark that would cause any nearby volatile gasses to explode.

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