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Keeping it cool: A look at causes of motor overheating

Publication date: 
March 2015
Jim Bryan, EASA Technical Support Specialist
Type of media: 

Much has been written in EASA publications and elsewhere about the consequences of excessive temperature on a motor’s performance. We know that excessive temperature and moisture are the largest contributors to bearing and winding failures. Under-standing the source of the increased temperature will help us to correct the problem and improve the machine’s life expectancy.

A chart included in this article illustrates the theoretical impact of increased temperature on the life of the motor insulation system. This chart only addresses the impact of thermal aging and not various other conditions that will affectthe motor’s life. In other words, it says that for every 10ºC increase in operating tem-perature, the expected life is reduced by one-half. Conversely, if we can re-duce the temperature of the motor by 10ºC, we can expect the life to double. Note that this is true at any point on the curve. However, there is the rule of diminishing returns: at some point the cost of designing and operating a motor to run cooler out-weighs the benefts of doing so.  Here we will explore some of the factors that con-tribute to increased temperature.

Topics covered include:

  • Overload
  • Ventilation
  • Voltage
  • Electrical steel (core iron)
  • Current density
  • Circulating currents
  • Harmonics
AC motors
Winding insulation
DC motors
DC motor enclosures