Author: Bryan Orr

 

❶ Understand What a Run Capacitor Does

The run capacitor provides continuous phase-shifted current to the motor start winding allowing the motor to run

  1. With the design efficiency
  2. In the right direction
  3. With the appropriate torque
  4. With near “unity” power factor (power factor near 1.0)

If the run capacitor is failed often the motor won’t run in the case of high torque motors like a compressor or in the case of fans they may run backwards or slowly or with high amperage or overheat.

 

❷ Understand Why a Run Capacitor Fails

A run capacitor fails due to

  1. Poor manufacturing quality
  2. Overtemperature (They got hot)
  3. Over Voltage (The voltage was too high)

Many will say a failed motor “takes out” the capacitor. In actuality a failed or weak capacitor can take out a motor

❸ Visually Inspect

If a capacitor shows physical damage such as the top bubbling or oil leakage then it should be replaced. Normal rust is not a reason to replace a capacitor. Note the MFD or uF rating listed on the capacitor. The voltage rating is also worth noting but you may use a HIGHER voltage rated capacitor but not lower.

 

 

❹ Decide if under load or bench testing is best

If the system is currently running then an under load test may be best. Do not do an under load test on blower capacitors due to the risk of the meter leads around a spinning blower wheel. If the system is NOT running then a bench test will be the best bet.

 

❺ Bench or Under Load Test?

Choose bench for simplicity or if the system is not running. Choose under load because it can be done in real load conditions on a running system.

Bench Test Go to step ❼

Under Load Test Go to step ❻

 

❻ Test Under Load

In order to test under load, you need to take measurements with the system running. Wear proper PPE and only do so when safe. You need to have an accurate multimeter that can measure Voltage and Amperage reliably. Often under load measurements may come out high if the amp clamp picks up interference from other circuits. Measure the amperage on the start wire with the wire centered in the clamp and multiply by 2652. Now measure the voltage across the capacitor and divide the amperage x 2652 by that voltage to find the capacitance in MFD.If the under load MFD is less than 10% low we suggest replacement. If it is over the rating it is often a mis-measurement

If a capacitor measures weak via under load test go ahead and perform the bench test.

 

❼ Bench Test

Bench Testing is simply removing both leads from the run capacitor after safely disconnecting power and discharging the capacitor. You then place a meter designed to test capacitance across the terminals and note the reading. Be careful not to touch the meter probes and to get a good solid connection to the metal connection spades on the capacitor.If the measurement is more than 10% we suggest a replacement

 

❽ Inspect the dual run capacitor and note where each wire is connected

Taking a picture is one of the easiest ways to remember before removing the wires.

❾ Remove disconnect

It is imperative that the disconnect is removed or the unit is off and without potential. Test using a meter that is pre-tested to a known voltage source and check L1 to L2 and L1 – ground and L-2 ground to ensure no voltage is present.

 

❿ Discharge capacitor

Before testing, touching or removing the capacitor, you need to discharge it. Do this using a high resistance resistor bridging HERM and Fan terminals across to C or across a single capacitor.

NOTE: It is actually very rare for a run capacitor to contain a charge on a normally running system because it bleeds off through the compressor windings UNLESS one of the windings is open. FOr this reason many techs opt to just use a screwdriver to discharge which is controversial but common practice.

 

⓫ Disconnect wires and remove used dual run capacitor

To remove, disconnect wires on the top of the capacitor and also remove the strap holding the capacitor in place.

 

⓬ Replace capacitor with same MFD rating

Apples to Apples: You must use the same MFD rating capacitor during this process. This will be located on the box and also the side of the capacitor. Mount the capacitor upright with terminals pointed up.TEST THE NEW CAPACITOR VIA BENCH TEST BEFORE INSTALLING

⓭ Re-sizing of strap

Sometimes the new capacitor might be larger or smaller. At this time, use the metal strapping and create a new strap for the capacitor, by cutting it to the correct size and using self tapping screws to attach to the correct area. Always check before using self tappers to confirm that you are not in any danger of puncturing the coil.

 

⓮ Attach the wires

At this time reattach the wires onto the top of the dual run capacitor. Make sure that the common is connected, the HERM (compressor) is connected and the FAN is connected. You should always double-check to make sure all wires are in their proper places. Make sure the terminal fit very snug, tighten them by squeezing with a needle nose before installing to make sure they are very tight.

 

⓯ Test system

Reconnect the disconnect or flip the breaker back on. Check to make sure that all aspects of the system are running and the compressor and fan are running at the proper amperage.Using a power meter and testing motor power factor to ensure it is near unity is a good additional practice.

 

⓰ Clean up and reattach panel on the condenser

Make sure you clean up the area and reattach the panel to the condenser

We have discussed DTD (Design Temperature Difference) quite a bit for air conditioning applications, but what about refrigeration? Let’s start by defining our terms again

Suction Saturation Temperature

Saturation temperature is the temperature the refrigerant will be at a given pressure if it is in the process of changing state. This change of state would be from liquid to vapor (boiling) in the case of the low side (evaporator / suction line). When we look at saturation temperatures instead of pressures we can use similar rules and we will see similar saturation temperatures across all refrigerants when the application is the same. Experienced HVAC and refrigeration techs pay far closer attention to the saturation temperatures than they do pressures.

Evaporator TD and DTD

Evaporator TD (temperature difference) is the measured difference between the suction saturation temperature (evaporator boiling temperature) and the box temperature. DTD (design temperature difference) is the designed or expected TD.

Delta T

Many A/C techs will confuse TD with Delta T. Delta T is the difference between the evaporator AIR temperature entering the coil to the air temperature leaving the coil. The Delta T will vary based on the humidity in the box where TD will not.

Target Box Temperature 

The temperature the refrigeration box should maintain when the system is operating properly

Superheat

The increase in temperature between the suction saturation temperature and the suction line temperature leaving the evaporator. Superheat is the temperature (sensible heat) gained between the point that all of the liquid boiled off in the evaporator coil and the suction line at the outlet of the coil. in refrigeration, like HVAC 10°F(5.5°K) of superheat  is average with a range from 3°F to 12°F(1.65°K – 6.6°K) depending on the equipment type (10°F(5.5°K) for med temp, 5°F(2.75°K) for low temp, 3°F(1.65°K) for ice machines ).

Hot Pull Down

Refrigeration equipment is unlike HVAC equipment in that the evaporator will spend most of its life running in a very stable environment with minimal fluctuation in the box temperature.

On occasion a refrigeration system will see a huge change in load in cases where it was off and needs to “pull-down” the temperature, or when doors are left open or when a large quantity of warm product is placed in the box. When a piece of refrigeration equipment is in hot pull down it cannot be expected to abide by the typical DTD or superheat rules and must be allowed to get near the design box temperature before fine adjustments are made to the charge, TXV superheat settings or to the EPR (Evaporator Pressure Regulator) if there is one.

Design Temperature Difference (DTD)

In air conditioning applications a 35°F DTD is a good guideline for systems that run 400 CFM(679.6 m3/h) of air per ton of cooling (12,000 btu/hr). In refrigeration the DTD is much lower than in air conditioning.

There are several reasons for this but one big reason is the desire to maintain relatively high relative humidity levels in refrigeration to keep from drying out and damaging product. Keep in mind that NOTHING is a substitute from manufacturer’s data but here are some good DTD guidelines for traditional / older refrigeration equipment. Keep in min dthat the trend is toward lower evaporator TD on newer equipment.

Walk-ins  10°F DTD +/- 3°F
Reach-ins  20°F DTD +/- 5°F
A/C 35°F DTD +/- 5°F

You then subtract the DTD from your box temperature/return temperature to calculate your target suction saturation. You can then use this target saturation / DTD and compare it to your actual measured saturation and DT once the box is within 5°F – 10°F(2.75°K – 5.5°K) of it’s target temperature to help you set your charge, TXV and EPR as well as diagnose potential airflow issues when compared with suction superheat and subcooling / clear site glass.

For Example –

If you have a medium temp walk-in cooler with a 35°F(1.66°C) box temperature you would expect to see a suction saturation of  25°F +/- 3°F

When doing a quick inspection of a piece of refrigeration equipment without gauges you can use this data to do the following calculation –

35°F – 10°F DT + 10°F superheat = 35°F suction line temperature +/- 3°F 

In this particular case logic tells us that the suction line could be no WARMER than 35°F(1.66°C) because that is the temperature of the air the refrigerant is transferring its heat to. However by the time you factor in the accuracy of your box thermometer and line thermometer and the assumed saturation temperature you would still expect a 35°F(1.66°C) suction line temperature +/- 3°F(1.65°K)

For a -10°(-23.33°C) box, low temp reach-in you would calculate it this way

-10°F- 20°F DT + 5°F superheat = -25°F suction line temperature +/- 5°F 

Clearly, this is NOT the way to commission a new piece of equipment or to benchmark a system you haven’t worked on before, but it can give you a quick glimpse at the operation of a piece of refrigeration equipment without attaching gauges, especially on critically charged or sealed systems.

The best practice is to know the equipment you are working on, read up on it and properly log benchmark data the first time you work on a piece of equipment or during commissioning.

It should also be noted as Jeremy Smith pointed out, in recent years TD’s have been decreasing as manufacturers seek higher efficiency through higher suction and lower compression ratios.

This means that TD’s as low as 5 can be designed into some units but keep in mind… the suction line can still be no warmer than the box so as DTD drops so does superheat and the critical nature of expansion valve operation.

— Bryan

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