balance load and unbalance load in 3 phase system (explanation, difference, phasor)

In general three-phase loads are considered either “ balanced load ” and “ unbalanced load ”. A 3 phase circuit is considered a balance load circuit if the voltages, currents, and power factors in all 3 phases are identical. Conversely, when any of these parameters are not identical the circuit is classified as an unbalance load circuit. The computations of electrical properties of the balanced load are relatively straightforward and may be performed by simple computations. On the other hand, the calculations of the electrical properties of unbalance three-phase circuits or unbalance load becomes somewhat more complicated.

Types Of Load

Balanced Load Three Phase Circuits

A load which results in equal amount of current flowing through all the phases displaced by 120 degrees in the electric circuit is known as a balanced load.


In the balance circuit ( or balance load), the voltage of each phase should be in the same magnitude, and with the equal phase difference, we can say that circuit is balanced (in balanced load).

If Ir, Iy, and Iz are the currents flowing through the 3 phases system and in is the current flowing through the neutral, if the vector sum of current is zero then the load is balanced load.

Ir + Iy + Iz = 0 , i.e. In = 0

Voltages in Three Phase Circuits – General

Fig 1

It is fair to say a three-phase circuit consists of three separate single-phase voltages. A trace of the three voltages of a 3-phase circuit with time would be similar to that represented in Fig. 1 where the sequence is assumed to be A-B-C, i.e. Vab –Vbc –Vca which is the more popular USA sequence.

Determination of a 3 phase voltage sequence is of particular importance when large motors are involved. In any installation, a motor is intended to rotate in a predetermined direction. If the sequence of the voltage connected to the motor has been inadvertently reversed, the motor will rotate in an unintended direction. Depending on the application, considerable property damage could result when a motor is started and rotates in reverse to the intended direction. A voltage sequence meter is especially valuable in the field to ascertain voltage sequence.

fig: 2 three phase circuit with delta load
fig: 3 three phase wye circuit

A typical three-wire three-phase circuit with a delta load is represented in Fig. 2. Of course, single-phase loads may be taken from any two of the conductors of a three-phase circuit and this is often the case. If there are a large number of single-phase users, then a four-wire three-phase service is more practical. A typical three-phase wye circuit is shown in Fig. 3. Three-phase wye circuits could be three-wire or four-wire. If the circuit is a four-wire circuit, point “d” of Fig. 3 would be connected to the ground. A 480 VAC, four-wire – three-phase service is especially suited for commercial building as the single-phase circuits can be taken for fluorescent lighting without imposing a need for a transformer. The lighting circuits would be at 277 VAC. If a separate 120/240 VAC single-phase circuit is not brought to the building an in-house transformer would be needed to provide a 120/240 VAC single-phase service.

Phasor Diagrams of Three Phase Circuits

fig : 4 three phase volatge phasor

The construction of a phasor diagram for a three-phase circuit essentially follows the rules that are applicable to single-phase circuits. The voltage vectors for the three-phase circuit of Fig. 1, Fig. 2, and Fig. 3 are shown in Fig. 4. As is the case with the single-phase circuit, projections of the three vectors on the ordinate describe the voltages of the three phases. The vectors of Fig. 4, in accordance with the rules for the construction of phasor diagrams.

fig : 5

Unbalance Three Phase Circuits

The unbalanced circuit has at least one phase current that is not equal to the other phase currents. Of course, all three-phase currents could be of unequal magnitude.


when one or two phases circuit’s the current and voltage will not be in equal in magnitude as well as phase difference condition said to be unbalanced. Generally, unbalance conditions may come to the system due to fault.


Once a understands balanced 3 phase circuits and the use of phasor diagrams to visualize the voltages and currents in those circuits, it is an easy transition into the realm of unbalance load or unbalance three-phase circuits. As with balanced circuits, phasor diagrams can be used to present a clear picture of the voltages and currents that are involved. Below, delta circuits are considered first. The wye circuits are considered after the delta circuits. Because of the very large number of possible combinations of loads and phase angles, all of these combinations cannot be treated individually. Rather, the method for calculating line currents is described. With that methodology, a person may then readily calculate currents in any possible, specific combination of unbalance delta and wye circuits.

By definition, an unbalance load (unbalanced circuit) has at least one phase current that is not equal to the other phase currents. Of course, all three-phase currents could be of unequal magnitude. In all cases, line voltages are assumed to be of equal magnitude, separated by 120º of rotation and in the sequence A-B, B-C, C-A. In wye circuits, all three-phase voltages are assumed to be equal and separated by 120º of rotation in case of unbalance load.

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