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How to hook up an electric motor start or run capacitor:
This article gives electric motor start-run capacitor installation & wiring instructions for electric motor capacitors designed to start & run an electric motor such as an AC compressor, heat pump compressor or a fan motor, and how to wire up a hard-starting air conditioner compressor motor, fan motor, to get an air conditioner, heat pump, refrigerator, or freezer compressor or other electric motor (such as a well pump) going.
This electric motor capacitor article series explains the selection, installation, testing, & use of electric motor starter start and run capacitors used on various electric motors found in or at buildings such as air conditioner compressors, fan motors, some well pumps and some heating equipment.
How to Install and Wire Up an Air Conditioner Compressor, Blower Motor, or Fan Motor Hard Starting Capacitor
Make These Simple A/C Compressor Checks Before Adding a Hard-Start Capacitor
Most electrical problems in air conditioning systems are in the compressors and their relays or motor overload switches.
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]
Watch out: live high voltage may be present at a capacitor, capable of giving a tremendous electrical shock even after electrical power has been disconnected at the equipment. Never work on live electrical equipment. Also
see STARTING CAPACITOR SAFETY
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).
Simple Relay and Hard Start Capacitor Wiring Instructions - Example 1
Relay and hard start capacitors such as the Starter Pow-R-Pak sold by Sealed Unit Parts Co., can be installed with no wiring changes to the original system whatsoever. Quoting from Part No. SPP-5, a relay and hard start capacitor sold by that company:
Connect the two wires from the SPP-5 in parallel with the [existing, already installed] run capacitor (one wire each side) without removing any original wires.
Use special "piggy back" terminal of the SPP-5 if all the run capacitor terminals are being used. [Install only on PSC units equipped with run capacitor.]
Simple Relay and Hard Start Capacitor Wiring Instructions - Example 2
Here are some sample capacitor installation instructions for adding a motor starter capacitor to an air conditioning compressor motor - taken from the product package for a relay and start capacitor intended for use on a refrigerator or freezer. Similar starter capacitors are available for air conditioning compressors.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Remove the power supply cord from the electrical outlet - in other words, be absolutely certain that electrical power has been turned off to the equipment being serviced.
Remove the old starting relay, leaving the old overload protection in place.
Push the wire with the one single pin terminal onto the "start" terminal of the air conditioning compressor. (See the wiring diagram above).
Push the other wire with the pin terminal onto the "run" terminal of the air conditioning compressor.
Connect the line from the old starting relay to the spade terminal on the "run" wire (insulating sleeve).
Restore electrical power
Start / Run Capacitor Mounting Positions
Start/run electric motor capacitors can be mounted in any direction or position. However there are some other capacitor mounting considerations that can affect capacitor life: basically you want to minimize the capacitor's exposure to vibration and heat.
As Afacp points out, ..."the temperature on the surface of the capacitor cannot exceed, even under the worst conditions, the maximum permitted
temperature. It is advisable to make an experimental measurement of the temperature reached by the capacitor under the
working conditions in the final application and after the thermal equilibrium has been achieved."
Watch out: Air Conditioner Motor Starting Capacitor Safety warnings:
When testing a compressor, one must discharge the capacitor first! It'll otherwise have enough power stored on it to be at least very painful. (Author and others have been zapped!)
Some systems will automatically discharge the capacitor, but shorting its leads [to ground] with a screwdriver
(after verifying that the power's off) is a safe way to ensure that you won't get shocked.
Motor starting capacitors can hold a charge for days!
If oil has leaked out of a capacitor:
Don't touch any oil that leaked out: old capacitors may contain PCB oils, an extremely carcinogenic (cancer causing) material
which require special disposal.
Once the capacitor has been discharged (as described just above), then
it can be tested with a multi meter.
Either use the meter's built in capacitor test function, or use this trick:
Charge the capacitor by using the sense current the meter puts out when set to ohms.
You should observe a rapidly rising resistance before the meter indicates over range/infinity.
Disconnect the test leads, and switch over to volts. Then, reconnect the test leads.
A voltage reading should be observed, approaching zero.
If the capacitor doesn't hold a charge, or the resistance reading never approaches infinity, it probably needs replacement.
Also, the capacitor may be defective if the compressor hums but does not start. Visual inspection may reveal it to be bulged, or have a blown out safety plug.
Start & Run & Dual Capacitor Specification References
At left is a simple two-terminal run capacitor.
Essex, Brown: "Motor Repair Supplies" (Catalog), Essex Group, Inc., 1601 Wall St., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801, Tel: 219-461-4633, Website: www.superioressex.com, retrieved 6/20/14, original source: http://www.essexbrownell.com/uploadedFiles/ Content/Products/MR%20Supplies%20Catalog-s.pdf - see pp. 86-89.
Sealed Unit Parts Co., Inc., PO Box 21, 2230 Landmark Place, Allenwood NJ 08720, USA, Tel: 732-223-6644, Website: www.supco.com, Email: info@supcocom, Supco Catalog, retrieved 6/20/14, original source: http://www.economicelectricmotors.com/cdrom/catalogs/Supco_catalog.pdf - see pp. 2-6.
van Roon, Tony, "Capacitors", [online article], retrieved 6/20/14, original source: http://www.sentex.ca/~mec1995/gadgets/caps/caps.html, gives a very detailed history of the invention and history of electrical capcitors beginning with van Musschenbroek's Leyden jar in 1745. This article includes
"Capacitor Nomenclature" by Dean Huster.
Kaiser, Cletus J., The Capacitor Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide For Correct Component Selection In All Circuit Applications. Know What To Use When And Where, 2d Ed., [at Amazon.com] C.J. Publishing (2011), ISBN-10: 0962852538, ISBN-13: 978-0962852534 - product description This book provides practical guidance and application information when using capacitors in electronics and electrical circuit design. This easy-to-use book covers the following capacitor types: Ceramic, Plastic Film, Aluminum Electrolytic, Tantalum, Glass, Mica, and others. This book also has a very comprehensive Glossary and Index. The Selection Guidelines and the Symbols and Equations sections have the answers to all of your daily application questions. This book is one in a series of component handbooks.
Examples & Sources of Start / Run Motor Capacitors
Packard 370V 45+5 MFD Round Run Capacitor
Supco™ 30+5 MFD 440V 440 Volt 50/60 Hz Round Motor Capacitor (typical application for Amana, Carrier, Rheem, Trane equipment)
Supco™ 45+5 MFD 440V 440 Vol 50/60 Hz Round Motor Capacitor (typical application for Amana, Carrier, Rheem, Trane equipment)
Supco HS6 (SPP6) Hard Start Relay Capacitor (230V) gives a starting torque boost of up to 500%. Quoting from product sales literature: The SUPCO SPP6 Super Boost hard start capacitor increases starting torque up to 500%. Features: Installs in seconds across run capacitor terminals Contains specially designed relay and large start capacitor for severe hard start problems. Applications: Room A/C units, Residential and commercial PSC A/C units and heat pumps, For all PSC A/C units from 4,000 thru 120,000 BTU's (1/2 thru 10 H.P.) Can be used on 120 thru 288 VAC units, For severe low voltage and hard starting compressors. SPP6 Specifications: Voltage: 115V - 230V. Increased Torque: 390 ounce inches. - retrieved 6/16/14 Amazon.com sales
Supco™ Universal (broad application) Capacitor, 10 MFD at 370V
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(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.
There are also many water pumps whose design makes it quite reasonable to replace pump impellers.
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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Supco, Sealed Unit Parts Company, PO Box 21, 2230 Landmark Place, Allenwood, New Jersey, 08720, Tel: 732-223-6644, 201-449-3300, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, provided the compressor starting capacitor and packaging information (purchased by the author from an air conditioning parts supplier in New York) - our example uses a Sealed Unit Parts Company Solid State part No. RSC 10 115V starting capacitor which was designed for installation on refrigerators and freezers. See www.supco.com/
 "The E Class Advantage", Supco (op cit), describes the company's advanced start/run capacitor products. Web search 08/04/2011, original source: http://www.supco.com/eclassadvantage.htm Quoting from that article:
The SUPCO E-Class Series comprise the most advanced developments in start device technology:
1. Voltage sensing technology that monitors for motor start (current sensing devices require internal fuse protection).
2. A 2-wire connection that simplifies installation
3. A secondary timing circuit that ensures that the capacitor is not permanently left in the start winding circuit
4. A fully electronic device - minimizing the limitations of mechanical devices and secondary fusing associated with triac devices
5. A start device matched with an appropriately sized capacitor to cover the range of compressors for the intended application (one size does not fit all)
The use of compressor start devices results from a need to ensure that a compressor (usually air conditioning) will start under voltage conditions that are less than ideal. As discussed, several options exist in the market to address compressor start concerns. Start devices exist in many forms for specific applications. SUPCO provides a full range of products in all relevant technologies to effectively match the proper start device to the application. Care should be taken to utilize a device that meets the requirements of the job. Extra caution should be observed when employing the "one-size-fits-all" and "a bigger capacitor is better" approach to applying a start device. Consult SUPCO, a manufacturer with a complete product range, to ensure the greatest success in the start device application.
 "Motor Start and Run Capacitors", AFCAP (African Capacitors Limited), web search 08/05/2011, original source: http://www.afcap.co.za/manual/Part2.pdf
George Fazio, reader, contributed comments on failed starter capacitor diagnosis by noting the bulged capacitor ends. 09/25/2009
Troubleshooting Compressor Problems," Henry Puzio, Fuel Oil & Oil Heat with Air Conditioning Magazine, June 1993, p. 39
Tom Morris, Engineer, capacitor discussion and correction to the original data. Email to D Friedman 5/29/2006 - Thanks Tom for critical editing. The text
above explaining about capacitors was suggested by Mr. Morris. The original text of the 1993 compressor diagnosis article had the resistance explanation backwards.
Thanks to reader Diane McGivney for asking about air conditioner compressor motor starting capacitor costs and typical air conditioner service call fees - (May 2010)
Thanks to reader James Oiler for reporting on the replacement of a heat pump starter capacitor, August 2010.
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Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
"Air Conditioning & Refrigeration I & II", BOCES Education, Warren Hilliard (instructor), Poughkeepsie, New York, May - July 1982, [classroom notes from air conditioning and refrigeration maintenance and repair course attended by the website author]
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Fiberglass in Indoor Air, HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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