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ELECTRICAL INSPECTION, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR
AFCIs ARC FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTERS
ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS
AMPS VOLTS DETERMINATION
AMPERAGE MEASUREMENT METHODS
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
BACKUP ELECTRICAL GENERATORS
BACK-WIRED ELECTRICAL DEVICES
BOOKSTORE - ELECTRICAL
CIRCUIT BREAKER SIZE for A/C or HEAT PUMP
DEFINITIONS of ELECTRICAL TERMS
DIRECTORY OF ELECTRICIANS
ELECTRIC METERS & METER BASES
ELECTRIC MOTOR DIAGNOSTIC GUIDE
ELECTRIC PANEL INSPECTION
ELECTRICAL GROUND SYSTEM INSPECTION
ELECTRICAL SERVICE DROP
ELECTRICAL SERVICE ENTRY WIRING
ELECTRICAL SPLICES, HOW TO MAKE
ELECTRICAL WIRING COLOR CODES
FIRE SAFETY Checklist, CPSC
GFCI PROTECTION,Testing GFCIs AFCIs
HEAT TAPE USAGE GUIDE
KNOB & TUBE WIRING
LIGHTING, EXTERIOR GUIDE
LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE
LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS
LOW VOLTAGE BUILDING WIRING
MAIN ELECTRICAL DISCONNECT
PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER SYSTEMS
RUST in ELECTRICAL PANELS
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SE CABLE SIZES vs AMPS
VOLTS / AMPS MEASUREMENT EQUIP
VOLTAGE MEASUREMENT METHODS
How to test an electric motor capacitor: this article gives a description of electric motor capacitor test procedures to determine if a capacitor is damaged or working normally & test procedures to measure the capacitor's capacitance or microfarads, MFD, or uF to determine if it is working within its rated capacitance range.
This article series gives electric motor start-run capacitor and hard-start capacitor installation instructions to get a hard-starting air conditioner compressor motor, fan motor, refrigerator, or freezer compressor or other electric motor (such as a well pump) going.
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Start or Run Capacitor Diagnostic Checks: How to Use a VOM or Multimeter to Test a Motor Starting Capacitor
If an electric motor that uses a starting or run capacitor won't run try replacing the capacitor. If the electric motor runs, check the current draw (AMPS) on both of the capacitor leads. You should see current draw on both leads. If not the capacitor is probably failed. Here are details:
There are two quick indicators of a bad electric motor start capacitor:
Use a VOM in ohms setting to check resistance across the capacitor. If the meter does not move (no current flows) the capacitor is "open". If there is zero resistance the capacitor is shorted.
In the partial wiring diagram at left, the compressor (COMP) is at lower right, and the component labeled SC shows the position of the starting capacitor in the air conditioning equipment's wiring schematic.
Watch out: while you might get lucky by finding that just replacing the starter capacitor fixes an air conditioner compressor, a fan motor, or another electrical motor, a hard-starting motor can be an indication that the more expensive A/C compressor or electrical motor is itself beginning to fail.
Difference Between a Starting Capacitor, a Run Capacitor, and a Dual Run Capacitor
A starting capacitor has the single job of giving a very large voltage boost to a motor to start it spinning. It does not keep at the job once the motor is operating. The rating on a starting capacitor will include a high MFD number and the operating voltage range. Temperature ranges and other data may also be provided on all caps.
A run capacitor has the job of keeping an electric motor spinning. The rating on a run cap will include the MFD rating and voltage range.
Dual run capacitors combine two different capacitor ratings and provide run support for two different motors. In a common air conditioning application these would be the compressor (marked Herm), and the compressor/condenser unit fan (marked F or Fan).
The rating on a dual run cap will include two MFD ratings and a voltage range, such as 45/5/440 which translates as
How to Measure the Capacitance of a Run Capacitor or a Dual Run Capacitor
A standard digital VOM or multimeter that includes a MFD (microfarad) option is set (on its dial or selector) to MFD and with the capacitor disconnected from any other wiring the VOM probes are touched to two terminals on the capacitor.
If the uf/mfd reading on the meter is close to the rating stamped on the capacitor label then the device is in normal condition. For example on a 45MFD (or uf) capacitor your meter should read close to 45.
Watch out: do not attempt to touch or measure equipment with power on and wires in place. You could be injured or killed or could cause a fire or explosion. Watch out that capacitors can store energy and deliver a shock even after power has been turned off.
General advice: Electrical Tests to Check HVAC Blower Fan Motor or Outdoor Compressor Fan Motor Winding on Heating or Cooling Equipment or on Other Electrical Motors
Example: testing a blower fan motor winding: referring to the electrical diagram for your equipment, unplug electrical connectors at the fan motor. Measure the resistance between each lead wire with a multimeter or VOM. The multimeter should be set in the X1 range. For accuracy, don't measure when the fan motor is hot, allow it to cool off.
When the resistance between each lead wire are those listed in the specifications for your equipment the fan motor should be normal. Zero resistance or infinite resistance are indicators of a problem.
More examples of checking wiring:
also TIGHT or SEIZED AC COMPRESSORS for more details about old or failed compressor motors.
In a single phase (common residential A/C) compressor you can verify with an ohmmeter whether or not the A/C compressor is bad.
[click to enlarge the image at left]
A fractional horsepower electrical motor should show different electrical resistance between the three terminals (Start, Run, and Common) as we illustrate just below.
Find the two highest resistance terminals.
The third one will be the common terminal.
Our example is for a Frigidaire compressor motor.
In our capacitor testing and wiring sketch at left, you note we use the letters S, C, and R to identify the usual terminals to which a start/run capacitor is wired. On many systems these terminals may be labeled so that the three leads on a start/run capacitor can be wired correctly:
Electric Motor run speed side note: Incidentally while most electric motors are marked with a data tag indicating the motor run speed (in RPMs) it's worth noting that the number of run coils is what determines the run speed of the motor. Two-coils marks a motor that runs at 3450 rpm (3600 rpm "nominal"), while 4 coils marks a 1725 rpm motor. (120V, 60 cycle/sec x 60 sec/min = 3600 rpm).
Article Series Contents
Continue reading at HOW to CHOOSE a START / RUN CAPACITOR or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
(Feb 21, 2014) Anonymous said:
is it possible to rebuild a submersible well pump
Yes ... maybe; it depends on the condition of the pump casing, parts, an in my opinion, an accurate diagnosis of the trouble; at some point rebuilding is not cost effective. Indeed there are specialists (H Shreck in Poughkeepsie used to be one of them) who rebuild electric motors of all kinds.
So to answer your question, I dunno - it depends on what's broken.
Question: fan will start but won't keep running.
(June 1, 2014) Anonymous said:
The fan on my Conquest 80 will not stay on (interior fan). It starts and then stops after a few seconds. It was installed in 2005. Help.
The start capacitor is for getting a motor started, not keeping it running.
Often motors have two windings, a start winding and a run winding. Your motor's run winding may be damaged.
Or your fan motor may require a dual capacitor (start and run) or a separate run capacitor to keep it spinning.
Or your system may have a faulty control.
Question: will a hard start capacitor reduce current drawn and stop tripping a breaker
(June 7, 2014) Joel said:
I have a commercial hood & exhaust fan (120v) running in a food truck that is used for catering. We occasionally need to run off a generator (3000w) and we've found that the fan cause the generator overload to trip. The fan has been tested and observed to draw 8 amps running at full speed. Given this, would it be possible to add a hard start kit, such as SUPCO SPP4E? Will need to confirm the motor size, just wondering if this would help.
The total draw of all items is less than 20 amps and the generator is capable of supplying 25 amps constant.
Thanks for the advice.
Joel I think the problem lies elsewhere and needs some further diagnostics. I suspect that your total current draw is exceeding the ability of the generator - you may be running more than the fan, such as lighting, a cooler, toasters, other electrical appliances. If it were just the fan, drawing 8A, it has no business tripping the breaker.
Put another way if the problem is the fan and there are NO other appliances running, then there is a failing fan motor drawing high current, or an electrical short circuit or other unsafe condition to find and fix.
A start capacitor or a run capacitor won't change the current drawn by the motor.
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