- Main Components to Check First
- How to Buy a New Condenser Fan Motor
- Information Needed When Buying a New Motor
- How to Buy a New Condenser Fan Motor Capacitor
- Testing a Condenser Fan Motor Capacitor
- Replacing the Start Run Capacitor
- Replacing the Condenser Fan Motor
- Testing the Amperage
A bad condenser fan motor is a common problem with HVAC units; all year long, they are exposed to the weather and are required to turn on and off, constantly blowing the air away from the condenser.
When one fails, they will often freeze up after the bearings seize or draw the wrong amperage and stop working.
A condenser fan motor is responsible for pulling air out of a unit pulling it out past the condenser fins, much like a fan and radiator in a car or truck. During the summer, when it is hot, it will blow the heat away from the condenser through its fins, cooling down the refrigerant that flows inside.
When a condenser fan motor goes bad often, the HVAC unit will work initially then stop. For example, during the summer, when it is hot and a unit is turned on, it will at first blow cold air, then after a short period, it will stop and blow room temperature air.
A simple way to tell if a unit has a bad condensing fan motor is to turn the unit on and stand next to the condenser. The fan, at some point, should kick on and blow out air. The fan does not run constantly, only when needed, but if twenty minutes or more go by and the fan does not kick on, then there is most likely a problem.
When a fan motor is not spinning, a small stick can be used to reach the blades and give them a nudge which sometimes will get it running again but will soon stop. If the motor does not spin at all, the bearings are most likely are bad, and the motor will need to be replaced.
Be careful when working with a fan motor; the blades turn at a high RPM and can cause injury. Never put arms, fingers, or any body part in the path of the blades. Also, before removing a condensing fan motor, be sure the power to the HVAC unit is off. A bad motor can suddenly start working again and, if not bolted in place, will spin out of control, causing damage. The same thing can happen if a new motor is installed or the problem is fixed, and the power is on.
Always be aware that the fan may be good and the problem may be something else such as bad connections, blown fuses, contactor, or bad start run capacitor. Each of these will need to be checked to be sure the fan motor is bad. Multiple failures can happen in a unit at the same time, especially as a unit ages.
Main Components to Check First
- Breaker, Fuses, and Power
- Start Run Capacitor
Checking the fuses or breakers should be the first thing to look at. If the unit has a Disconnect, be sure it is inserted properly. Opening up the side panel and checking the voltage is often the quickest way to be sure the unit is getting power. The majority of units use 240 volts; this can be verified by looking at the nameplate on the HVAC unit.
The thermostat engages the contactor, which allows high voltage into a unit powering it on.
The thermostat sends 24-volts to a coil in the contactor, creating a magnetic field that pulls it closed and allows power to the unit.
If power is coming from a breaker but no power goes into a unit, the resistance can be checked with a meter from one side to the other if the resistance is high, then it should be replaced as a contactor should have very low resistance.
The Start Capacitor gives a fan motor the torque it needs to start spinning then stops, while the run capacitor stays on, giving the motor extra torque when needed.
If the Start Capacitor fails, the motor will most likely not turn on. If a Run capacitor goes bad, then a motor can turn on, but the running amperage will be higher than normal, causing the motor to run hot and have a short life expectancy.
After replacing a bad condensing Fan Motor, a new Start Run Capacitor should always be installed.
A Dual Run Capacitor has three connections HERM, FAN, and COM.
HERM: connects to the Hermetically Sealed Compressor.
FAN: connects to the Condenser Fan Motor.
COM: connects to the Contactor and provides power to the Capacitor.
If the unit has two capacitors, then one is the Run Capacitor, and the other is the Start Capacitor. One will be for HERM (compressor) and one for the FAN (fan motor) connection.
Hint: It is a good idea to take pictures or write down and note wiring connections and wiring colors for future reference before starting.
How To Buy a New Condenser Fan Motor
Often, the model number is unavailable, or it is cheaper to use a universal motor as a replacement.
The easiest way to do this is to take the motor to a local HVAC supplier and have them cross-reference it and match it to the bad motor. Be sure to also buy a new capacitor with the correct MFD and voltage.
Amazon and eBay can also be good places to buy a new Condenser Fan Motor and Capacitor.
Example Condenser Fan Motor on Amazon
Fasco D7909 5.6-Inch Condenser Fan Motor, 1/4 HP, 208-230 Volts, 1075 RPM, 1 Speed, 1.8 Amps, Totally Enclosed, Reversible Rotation, Ball Bearing
Information Needed When Buying a New Motor
- Operating Voltage
- Amps (Needs to match capacitor)
- The Horse Power (HP)
- Shaft Size:
- The RPM (Rotation Per Minute)
- Mounting Style
- What direction the motor turns CCW or CW (counterclockwise or clockwise.)
- Number of Speeds
A condensing fan motor is either single-phase (1 PH) or three-phase (3 PH). The voltage for residential is usually 240 volts but be sure to check.
The voltages on the motor can sometimes be misleading such as the following.
120 volts can also be referred to as 110V or 115V
208 volts can also be referred to as 200V
230 volts can also be referred to as 220V or 240V
460 volts can also be referred to as 440V or 480V
The fan blade needs to be mounted on the shaft at the same depth as it originally was set at. Basically, the fan is pushed onto the shaft until it reaches the same location as it was before pulled. Be sure to check how far the fan blade sits inside the unit before pulling the motor.
Usually, the motor is fastened to a curricular grate that it is bolted to.
Most HVAC motors are a 48 Frame, with a body diameter of approximately 5-5/8″.
Most universal-style motors have an option to reverse the direction of rotation.
Motors will often have multiple speeds. It may be necessary to adjust airflow for the specific installation or for different operating modes.
How To Buy a New Condenser Fan Motor Capacitor
A new Fan Capacitor should always be installed with a new motor. A capacitor can be bought at an HVAC supply company or online with Amazon or eBay.
Here are two common capacitors, the one on the left is a Dual Run Round Capacitor, while the one on the right is a Run Oval capacitor.
The Dual Run Capacitor is nothing more than two capacitors in the same housing, while the Run oval is a single capacitor, and an HVAC system will usually have two.
The larger number 55 MFD is for the compressor, while the lower number 5 MFD (uf) is for the fan motor. The lower number is always going to be for the fan motor. Then the voltage 440 Volts AC.
In any HVAC unit the capacitor must match the motor.
The voltage can go higher if necessary but never lower while the MFD (uf) should always be the same.
(The + -5 after the MFD is how much the capacitor tolerance is rated to go up or down.)
To order a replacement for this capacitor it would be 55+5 MFD (uf) and 440 volts AC Dual Run Capacitor.
Example Dual Run Round Capacitor on Amazon
MAXRUN 55+5 MFD uf 370 or 440 Volt VAC Round Dual Run Capacitor for Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Condenser
Testing a Condenser Fan Motor Capacitor
Testing an HVAC capacitor is done with an HVAC multi meter, the multi meter must be cable of reading the range that an HVAC capacitor can have. Many small electronic meters do not have this range. Here I am using the Fieldpeice HS36 multi meter with an Amp clamp
This test is being done on a Dual Run Capacitor 55+5 MFD (uf). The multi meter is on Farads and the leads are on C and FAN (positive and negative do not matter). The lower number is for the fan motor which is rated at 5 MFD (uf), and it reads 5.3 MFD (uf) so it is good. The leads C to Herm can be read also which would be for the compressor.
Replacing the Start Run Capacitor
- Turn off the power to the HVAC unit and verify it is off with a meter.
- Find the side panel where the electricity is fed into the unit and remove the panel.
- Locate the Start Run Capacitor; if it is a Dual Run capacitor, there will be only one. If there are two, then only the fan motor capacitor will need to be replaced.
- Verify the MFD and voltages, then connect the new connections from the old capacitor to the new capacitor one leg at a time to be sure the connections are correct.
If you have two capacitors, then one is for the compressor, and one is for the fan motor.
A new fan capacitor should always be installed when a new motor is installed. It is always a good idea to take a picture or write down wire coloring and connections.
Be sure the power is off on the HVAC unit by turning off the breakers, or pulling the disconnect. Do not turn the power back on until the motor is back in its place and bolted in.
It is a good idea to take pictures of the wiring connections and motor to refer back to if necessary.
Replacing the Condenser Fan Motor
- Turn the power off to the HVAC unit and verify it is off with a meter.
- The fan motor will be under a circular grill and be bolted to the HVAC unit unscrew each of these bolts or nuts and set them to the side.
- Note how deep the motor sits in the HVAC unit as the new motor should sit in roughly the same spot. Pull the motor and the grill out of the HVAC unit. The wiring can be cut with wire cutters if the wiring is in place too tight.
- Note which way the fan blades sit then remove the fan motor from its shaft. The fan blades must turn correctly and should be placed to pull air out of the unit if they are placed in the wrong direction the unit will not work correctly.
(Often the end of the shaft is rusted up from the elements making the fan hard to remove from the shaft. Use sandpaper to remove the rust from the shaft making it easier to pull off.)
- Place the fan on the new motor being sure the blades are in the correct position.
- The wiring will now need to be connected, be sure to keep the wires tied up away from the blade. There should be a schematic on the side of the new motor showing which color wire goes were. A schematic should also be some were around the access panel.
(There will be a lot of air pushing the wiring around so be sure to wire tie the wires into place. The wires should never be able to touch the blades.)
If it is a three-wire motor then one connection will go to the FAN on the new Start Run Capacitor. The other two wires are for power and will go to the contactor for 120 volts on each leg for a total of 240 volts.
If it is a four-wire motor then look at the schematic on the side of the motor for wire color. Two wires are for power and go to the contactor the other two wires will go to the capacitor.
(If you order a new motor, and there is four wires while the original had three wires then two wires are for power and the other two wire need to be run to a capacitor. If the original capacitor is a Dual Run Capacitor with only one leg for the FAN connection buy another capacitor to only run the fan motor. Look at the motor for the MFD and Volts. It will only need to be a single capacitor with two connections. Following the schematic on the side of the motor two wires will go to the power and the other two wires will go to the capacitor.)
Note: Sliding the wiring through to the connection points can be a pain at times. If you are very careful to check the coloring of the wires then they can be cut and wire nuts can be used to connect to the old wires. Although this is not recommended it can be done in extreme cases where the wires are all but impossible to get through the unit.
- Screw the motor back to the grill, and then bolt the grill back into place.
Testing the Amperage
An amperage test should be done to be sure everything has been done correctly. Here is an HS36 multi meter with an Amp clamp showing the amperage from the fan motor. This Fan motor was rated at 1.6 amps, anything under that would be good. Here it is showing 0.8 amps well below the 1.6 amp rating.
If this is not an option then close up the unit and power it on. Neither the fan motor or the capacitor should get too hot. There is a temperature rating on the nameplate of each motor if it goes above this it can shut off and possibly damage the motor.
All information written here is for HVAC students, technicians, or properly trained personal. Do not attempt any of these procedures without the proper training. Replacing a condenser fan motor can be dangerous do not attempt this without proper electrical training, construction training and safety practices.