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25-September-2010 Electric Motor Basics

Electric Motors

There are many types of electric motors, some smaller than a human
hair others large enough to power a locomotive. For the purpose of
this page we will be discussing induction motors which are typically Types
found on most workshop machinery such as air compressors, drill
presses, table saws, band saws, jointers, shapers and lathes. These Horsepower and RPM
types of motors have no brushes and work only on alternating
current. They may range in size from 1/4 horsepower up to 5 Phase, Voltage and Rotation
horsepower or more.
Frame Style

To find the specs of an electric motor check the name plate, it will tell you among other things: Switching


Manufacturer's type and frame designation

Horsepower output.
Time rating.
Maximum ambient temperature for which motor is designed.
blower wheels
Insulation system designation.
Double Inlet
RPM at rated load.
Blower Wheels
Single Inlet Blower
Number of phases.
Rated load current.

ac motor
Types of Motors We Offer Various
Quality Capacitors
Split Phase A Leading
Manufacturer of
The split phase motor is mostly used for "medium starting" applications. It has start and run windings, Capacitor
both are energized when the motor is started. When the motor reaches about 75% of its rated full load
speed, the starting winding is disconnected by an automatic switch.
AC Motor up to
Uses 6.000 KW
available from
This motor is used where stops and starts are somewhat frequent. Common applications of split phase Stock, used and
motors include: fans, blowers, office machines and tools such as small saws or drill presses where the new Electric
load is applied after the motor has obtained its operating speed. motors from
Siemens, ABB
Capacitor Start

This motor has a capacitor in series with a starting winding and provides more than double the starting Interroll Belt
torque with one third less starting current than the split phase motor. Because of this improved starting Pulleys
ability, the capacitor start motor is used for loads which are hard to start. It has good efficiency and belt drives, belt
requires starting currents of approximately five times full load current. The capacitor and starting conveyors drive
windings are disconnected from the circuit by an automatic switch when the motor reaches about 75% pulleys, drum
of its rated full load speed. gearmotors


Common uses include: compressors, pumps, machine tools, air conditioners, conveyors, blowers, fans How to Replace a Older
and other hard to start applications. Motor
Horsepower & RPM Older machinery may have a
mounting pattern where the holes
Horsepower are much wider than the common
# 56 frame, the easy work around
Electric motors are rated by horsepower, the home shop will probably utilize motors from 1/4 HP for for this is to make up two plates
small tools and up to 5 HP on air compressors. Not all motors are rated the same, some are rated from flat iron, drill holes to bolt
under load, others as peak horsepower, hence we have 5 HP compressors with huge motors and 5 Hp them to the orginal mounting and
drill and tap holes in the flat iron to…/electricmotors.… 1/4
25-September-2010 Electric Motor Basics
shopvacs with tiny little motors. Unfortunately all 5 HP compressor motors are not equal in actual power drill and tap holes in the flat iron to
either, to judge the true horsepower the easiest way is to look at the amperage of the motor. Electric fit the newer style motor.
motors are not efficient, most have a rating of about 50% due to factors such as heat and friction, some
may be as high as 70%.

This chart will give you a basic idea of the true horse power rating compared to the ampere rating.
Motors with a higher efficiency rating will draw fewer amps, for example a 5 HP motor with a 50%
efficiency rating will draw about 32 amps at 230 VAC compared to about 23 amps for a motor with a
70% rating.


1/4 3.2 - 2.3 1.6 -1.2
1/3 4.3 - 3.1 2.2 - 1.5 Gear and Pulley Speed
1/2 6.5 - 4.6 3.2 - 2.3 Formulas

3/4 9.7- 7.0 4.9 - 3.5

1 13.0 - 9.3 6.5 - 4.6
1 1/2 19.5 - 13.9 9.7 - 7.0
2 25.9 - 18.5 13.0 - 9.3
5 64.9 - 46.3 32.4 - 23.2

A quick general calculation when looking at a motor is 1 HP = 10 amps on 110 volts and 1 HP = 5
amps on 220 volts.
Longer Cord
It is often less expensive to
The shaft on a typical shop motor will rotate at either 1725 or 3450 RPM (revolutions per minute). replace the cord on a 220 volt tool
with a longer one than to make an
The speed of the driven machine will be determined by the size of pulleys used, for example a 3450 extension cord.
RPM motor can be replaced by a 1750 RPM motor if the diameter of the pulley on the motor is doubled.
The opposite is true as well but if the pulley on the 1750 RPM motor is small it is not always possible to
replace it with one half the size. It may be possible to double the pulley size on the driven machine if it Replacement Motors
uses a standard type of pulley, (not easily done on air compressors for example).

Electronic speed reducers such as the ones sold for routers will not work on induction type motors.

Phase, Voltage & Rotation

Whether or not you can use a motor will likely depend on these factors.

Single Phase Buy from

Ordinary household wiring is single phase, alternating current. Each cycle peaks and dips as shown. To
run a three phase motor a phase converter must be used, usually this is not practical, it is often less
expensive to change the motor on a machine to a single phase style.

Three Phase

This is used in industrial shops, rather than peaks and valleys the current supply is more even because
of the other two cycles each offset by 120 degrees.


Many motors are dual voltage, by simply changing the wiring configuration they can be run on 110 volts
or 220 volts. Motors usually run better on 220 volts, especially if there is any line loss because of having
to use a long wire to reach the power supply.

Motors are available for both AC and DC current, your typical home wiring will be AC, there are DC
converters available which are used in applications where the speed of the motor is controlled.

Rotation…/electricmotors.… 2/4
25-September-2010 Electric Motor Basics
The direction the shaft rotates can be changed on most motors by switching the right wires, there is
usually a diagram on the motor.

The direction of rotation is usually determined by viewing the motor from the shaft end and is designated
as CW (clockwise) or CCW (counter-clockwise). Note: Some manufactures may have a different method
of determining shaft rotation but will usually make a note of it.

Back of plate showing voltage and rotation terminals

Frame Style
Motors are built to standard specifications, such as shaft height, shaft diameter, and style of mounting.
The different styles are defined by a number and lettering system developed by Nema (See Reference

Types of Mounts

The three most common types of mounts you will find are:

Rigid base

Is bolted, welded or cast on main frame and allows motor to be rigidly mounted.

Resilient base

Has isolation or resilient rings between motor mounting hubs and base to absorb vibration and noise.

NEMA C face mount

Has a machined face which allows direct mounting, bolts pass through mounted part to threaded holes
in the motor face.


The two most commonly used styles are:


An ODP enclosure on a motor means "Open, Drip Proof". They are relatively inexpensive motors used in
normal applications. The construction of an ODP motor consists of a sheet metal enclosure with vent
stamped to allow good air flow. The vents are designed in such a way that water dripping on the motor
Static Phase Converter
will not normally flow into the motor. A fan is mounted on the motor's rear shaft to pull air through the
motor to keep the motor cool.


A TEFC enclosure on a motor means "Totally Enclosed, Fan Cooled". This is probably the most
commonly used motor in ordinary industrial environments. It costs only a few dollars more than the open
motor, yet offers good protection against common hazards. It is constructed with a small fan on the rear
shaft of the motor, usually covered by a housing. This fan draws air over the motor fins, removing excess
heat and cooling the motor. The enclosure is "Totally Enclosed". This ordinarily means that the motor is
dust tight, and has a moderate water seal as well. Note that TEFC motors are not secure against high
pressure water.
Order from


Low Voltage (110)

Use a "Single Pole/Single Throw" switch since only

the black wire needs to be switched.
High Voltage (220)…/electricmotors.… 3/4
25-September-2010 Electric Motor Basics
Use a "Double Pole/Single Throw" since both the
black and white wires need to be switched.

This configuration may also be used on a Low

Voltage machine if there is a possibility it will be
changed to High Voltage later on.

Before you start to work on the motor, MAKE SURE THE POWER IS OFF. Always turn the power off at
the electrical service entrance breaker box or fuse, to prevent electrical shock.


1. Check for blown line fuse or tripped breaker.

2. Allow motor to cool and try to reset.
3. One of the most common problems in a woodworking shop is a build-up of sawdust in the motor,
especially with open drip proof motors. Give the motor a shot of air to blow out the sawdust, nine times
out of ten this will get the motor to start again, to fix the problem the motor should be replaced with a
totally enclosed, fan cooled model.


Excessive vibration.
1. Check for loose mounting.
2. Check shaft alignment.
3. Check for bent shaft.

Excessive noise.
1. Check for damaged bearings. Replace as necessary.
2. Check for rotor rub by rotating the shaft slowly by hand.


(Motor runs but overload trips)

1. Check for adequate ventilation. Be sure motor vent holes (or fan blades) are free of obstructions.
2. Use a shorter or heavier gauge extension cord.

For more detailed information see this page from Reliance Electric…/electricmotors.… 4/4