Electric Motor Overheating: The Signs and Solutions


Like any complex machine with multiple moving parts, electric motors are vulnerable to common performance issues like misalignment, bearing wear, and harmonic distortion. One of the most common performance issues in electric motors is overheating.

Experts suggest that an 18°F (10°C) degree increase in motor winding temperature can directly affect the insulation of the component and reduce its lifespan by 50%. This has an irreversible impact on the lifespan of your machinery, regardless of whether the overheating was temporary or long-lasting.

Because heat is the most significant enemy that electric motors face, the question becomes: how can you prevent overheating and minimize the cost of replacing or repairing your electric motor?

Protecting your motor begins with understanding the most likely causes of overheating.

The Common Causes of Overheating

Your electric motor is a complex machine and requires a careful balance of environmental and supportive factors to run smoothly. Overheating in an electric motor can happen for a variety of reasons.

The most common causes of overheating include:

  1. An unsuitable motor: Motors come in a range of sizes. Choose a motor that can cope with the preferred voltage and performance level necessary for your project. A motor that’s too large can waste expensive energy, and a motor that’s too small will be unable to handle an excessive workload — leading to greater stress and heat.
  2. The wrong voltage supply: Too many volts or too few volts can be damaging to a motor. When your motor doesn’t have the right voltage support, it needs to work harder to perform, which causes parts to overheat.
  3. A poor surrounding environment: A motor needs room to breathe so it can perform at its best. If your machine is running in a hot environment, it will struggle to cool down quickly. Give the motor plenty of space to operate.
  4. Improper use: Some motors can run consistently, whereas others are intended for intermittent use. Make sure that you only use your motor according to its specifications. If you attempt to run an intermittent duty motor for too long, it won’t have the time it needs to cool down between cycles.
  5. Altitude: The location of your company can have an impact on your motor performance. Your machine might not cool as efficiently at higher elevations because the air is thinner. It’s important to choose a motor that’s rated for your workshop’s location.
  6. A lack of ventilation: If there is something blocking the ventilation holes for your electric motor, then hot air won’t escape and will build up within the system, causing damage. Scheduling regular maintenance on your motor can help reduce this risk.

How to Keep Your Motors Cool

Avoiding the issues associated with overheating requires the right equipment, careful planning, and preventative maintenance.

The first step any professional should take before buying an electric motor is to ensure they’re purchasing the right machine for the right application. Check that the size, voltage, and performance are all rated to suit your specific needs. If you aren’t sure about your requirements, you should speak to an expert.

Once you’ve chosen the right motor for your company, find the right home for it in your industrial space. Remember that where you place your motor will affect its chances of overheating. Keep it away from other sources of heat, give it plenty of space, and make sure that the ventilation holes are clear.

When you start using your electric motor, remember to consistently monitor its temperature and performance for signs of overheating or deterioration. If you have taken all potential issues into consideration and your machinery is still getting too hot, this could be a sign that there’s something wrong with the internal components. You should ask a professional to run a check up on your electric motor to get a clear answer.

By scheduling regular checkups and servicing from the team at Sloan Electric, you can help minimize the risk of your electric motor overheating.

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