C stands for “Common Mistake”

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You have seen the C terminal on a dual run capacitor before. You have also seen the C terminal on a compressor.

It stands to reason that they would both connect together right?

They don’t connect together and they aren’t even related, at least not in the way that you think.

In both cases, the C denotes a “common point” in the dual capacitor it is the common point between the fan capacitor (fan) and the compressor capacitor (herm).

In the compressor, it is the common point between the run and start windings (this is why R+C + S+C = R+S if you ohm a compressor)

The C terminal of a dual capacitor is actually fed from the OPPOSITE leg of power as the C terminal on the compressor. This is because you must power the start and run windings with the same leg and common with the other leg.

A way to remember it is memorizing  “The same leg that feeds start feeds run” and the C terminal on a capacitor is actually the common feeds for the start winding of the compressor and fan (OPPOSITE side from the fan and herm plates on the capacitor)

So compressor terminals

C goes to one leg of power

R goes to the other

S goes to the HERM terminal on a capacitor with the other side of that capacitor (C) going to the same leg that feeds R.

C what I’m saying? Confusing

With 208v or 240v circuits the L1 and L2 high voltage incoming lines make no difference which is which when you connect. You could swap them on the L1 and L2 on the contactor and it wouldn’t change anything. But once we decide which is connected to Run and which is connected to common on the COMPRESSOR then we need to hook the run side to capacitor C not the compressor common side.

There is also ANOTHER common common we see and that is the secondary side of a low voltage transformer that is opposite from R or hot. You may notice that many low voltage transformers have an ungrounded secondary meaning that either of the wires in the secondary could be hot or common depending on how you hook it up.

In other words… one side of the transformer is designated HOT because we connect it to the line side of our control switches (thermostats, defrost boards, safety circuits) and common is the common point where all the loads connect on the opposite side of the circuit from line.

If you are new to the trade and you see the designation C or the word common don’t assume it is the same as other C and common terminals and start connecting stuff together… Unless you like creating smoke.

— Bryan

3 comments

  1. Avatar OB Lam says:

    Great article! Caps can confuse me sometimes; much clearer understanding now

  2. Avatar Mike Dubose says:

    OR L1 FROM BOTTOM ON CONTACTOR GOES TO TO COMMON OF COMPRESSOR AND FAN
    L2 FROM CONTACTOR GOES TO BOTH RUNS ( COMPRESSOR AND FAN)
    L2 FROM CONTACTOR GOES TO COMMON ON DUAL CAPACITOR
    HERM ON CAPACITOR GOES TO START OF COMPRESSOR
    FAN ON CAPACITOR GOES TO START ON FAN
    I hope this is a easier way just follow schematic commonly ( red and black wires)

  3. Avatar Jason Cook says:

    I always like the challenge of putting the smoke back in!

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