Motors: 5 Signs You Should Upgrade

Motors are critical to a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications. Motors can last for years with good maintenance, but sudden failure can lead to costly downtime.

Motor breakdown begins to show itself in higher operating temperatures, vibration and acoustic pattern changes. Although repair is often an option, consider upgrading motors if you see these telltale signs of trouble.

  1. The motor typically operates at less than 60% of rated load. This is a sign that the unit is oversized for the application. Motors operate less efficiently at lower loads.
  2. There is a lot of vibration when the motor operates. Vibration may result from the unit being in an unstable position, but it can also be a sign of serious problems, such as broken internal parts, misalignment or corrosion.
  3. The unit performs poorly in high-voltage or surge comparison testing. These tests can reveal weaknesses in motor winding insulation, which is a common cause of motor failure.
  4. The motor operating temperature often exceeds its rated temperature rise. Every 10- degree increase in temperature rise will reduce the expected life of the motor winding by
  5. The motor is more than 20 years old. Older motors have more points of Technological advances have improved the performance and efficiency of newer units.

If you are ready to upgrade, select NEMA Premium®-labeled motors that are sized correctly for the application. Premium-efficiency motors are up to 8% more efficient than standard units and offer substantial benefits in energy savings and lower operating costs.

Optimizing motor efficiency

You’ve got your bright, shiny new premium-efficiency motor up and running, ready to save you energy and money. Save even more by taking these measures.

  •  Perform regular testing and inspection. Inspections should include noise, vibration and temperature checks. Test winding and winding-to-ground resistance for potential insulation problems. Regularly check bearings, lubrication, shaft alignment and belts.
  •  Maintain voltage levels. Keep motor voltage as close to the nameplate value as possible. Large variations can reduce efficiency, power factor and service life.
  •  Minimize phase unbalance. Keep voltage phase balance in a three-phase system within manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid motor derating and warranty issues.
  •  Eliminate distribution system losses. Regularly check for bad connections or poor grounding. Such problems can waste energy and reduce motor reliability.
  •  Install variable frequency drives. Variable frequency drive controls can save energy by 50% or more by adjusting motor speed to fit the load demand.

Implement a policy to regularly evaluate and document the condition of all motors in your facility. With a combination of targeted upgrades and smart maintenance practices, you can save money and improve motor system performance. You can even receive Power Moves rebates for qualifying upgrades, such as installed variable frequency drives. Contact your local electric cooperative’s energy advisor for details.