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Power Supply: 110-Volt vs 208-Volt

cartoon gif of electricity

Lighting is one of the largest consumers of electricity in the entertainment world. Part of our job in preparing for a production or trade show is to manage the power needs for the lighting rig. To do so, we have to look at each moving part within the rig, and manage our power needs according to how we are using power.

In the early days of rock and roll and theatre, most electrical devices utilized 110-volt power supplies for the lighting fixtures, and this would limit each circuit to 20amps of power, and the power would use either Edison or Stage-pin style plugs.

The popularity of moving lights in the eighties and nineties required a push for 208-volt power as the fixtures utilized a higher-power light source, and often these fixtures were produced in countries that utilized 208-volt power more consistently than 110v.

In today’s world, we utilize 110v or 208v based on the fixtures being used, and a large percentage of our inventory will accept either 110v or 208v.


What are the differences in how power is handled at these voltages?

power formula

Power = Voltage x Current

With this in mind, a 110v circuit will handle a 20amp power load much differently than a 208v circuit. To achieve 1000 watts of power on a 110v circuit, you would require roughly 9 amps of power; conversely, a 208v circuit would require roughly 4.8 amps of power. By utilizing 208v power, you can supply power to more equipment in your production. We tend to lean towards 110v power in the US as a safety measure – standard power in all homes has a three-pronged plug with a hot, neutral, and ground wire attached. This decreases the amount of voltage should any electrical accidents occur. The standard 208v plug we use is called a “twist-lock”, and it’s design is incompatible with a 110v Edison plug. Another major advantage to 208v power is the decrease in electrical consumption. With this in mind, 208v allows for a smaller-gauge cable than 110v as it produces less heat than 110v. This can decrease overall cable weight for larger lighting rigs and LED walls. Today’s newer fixtures have an auto-sensor built in that will switch the fixture internally between 110v and 208v, depending on the power supply. This allows us to send the same equipment to any show site, large or small, and utilize either power option.

power fixture

power fixture



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