Motors, Drives

Decoding your motor’s nameplate

The most relevant information of a motor should be recorded on the nameplate, which includes frame size, voltage, power and more.

By Karl Metcalfe December 22, 2021
Courtesy: AEMT

To specify a replacement motor or understand the requirements of a repair or rewind, several attributes need to be established. These include information such as the size and format of a motor, its power and speed ratings, how and where it has been designed to be used, its efficiency and a range of other factors.

Most motors will have a nameplate that carries this information in a format that meets standards set out by one of two bodies, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA). Once you understand how the information is presented, it should be easy to read the nameplate on most motors and pass this information to your supplier or service partner.

Figure 1 shows a typical motor nameplate that meets the IEC standard. Here is what different sections represent.

Figure 1: Example of a typical motor nameplate that meets the IEC standard. There are 11 things that should be featured in each nameplate. Courtesy: AEMT

Figure 1: Example of a typical motor nameplate that meets the IEC standard. There are 11 things that should be featured in each nameplate. Courtesy: AEMT

1. Frame size

This indicates some of the motor’s key dimensions and will usually be at the top of the nameplate as it is an important metric. Frame sizes conform to a standard that defines a motor’s dimensions and outputs. The frame size is the height of the shaft’s centre from the base of the motor’s foot. A 315 frame, as in this example, will have a dimension from foot to shaft of 315mm. The number will be followed by a letter, S is for a short foot, M is for a medium foot, and L is for a large foot. This letter defines the dimension between the mounting holes on the front and back feet.

2. Power

The motor’s power may be written in kilowatts (kW) or horsepower (hp). It will be written in kW on most motors, but older motors may be rated in hp.

3. Voltages

Where there is more than one voltage figure listed, the delta (△) connection is the lo-voltage connection, while the star (Y) configuration is for a high-voltage connection. The wiring diagram for both delta and star configurations will often also be added to the nameplate.

4. Speed/RPM

This is the maximum speed of the motor in revolutions per minute without a load present, and this information can also tell you how many poles your motor has.

A motor requires a minimum of two poles per phase and a 2-pole motor rotates fully for each polarity change. Therefore, at 50Hz, the theoretical maximum speed a 3-phase motor can run at is 3000rpm. So, a motor labelled as having a speed around 3,000rpm will be a 2-pole motor. The reality is slightly slower in induction motors due to losses from factors such as drag and windage – referred to as slip. As rpm halves, then the number of poles will have to double. Therefore, a motor rated at around 1500rpm (1490rpm in our example) will be a 4-pole motor. It follows then that a rating around 1000rpm will indicate a 6-pole motor, while a motor labelled near to 750rpm will have 8-poles, and a 10-pole motor will run close to 600rpm.

5. Efficiency

Efficiency is a significant factor where motors are concerned and is typically indicated by an IE number. While a lower efficiency motor can be repaired and reused, sometimes to an improved efficiency level, the Ecodesign directive governs what IE rating a new motor must have based on the application and the wider system.

IE1 is known as standard efficiency, IE2 is high efficiency, IE3 is premium efficiency, and IE4 is super premium. There is a significant difference in efficiency between IE1 and IE4. At a power rating of around 4kW, an IE1 motor is around 80% efficient, while an IE4 motor is around 90% efficient. That represents halving the losses, which can account for a significant cost saving. If a 22kW/h 4-pole IE1 motor which runs for around 8,000 hours per year is replaced with an IE3 equivalent, the saving could be in the region of £800 per year at an electricity cost of 15 pence per kW/h.

6. IP rating

IP stands for ingress protection – a device’s ability to stop foreign material from entering and interfering with its operation. The first of two digits after the IP represents the level of protection from solid matter and the second liquids. The first can range from 0 – no protection – to 6 – total protection from dust. The second goes from 0 – no protection from liquids – to 9 – resisting high-pressure water jets.

Other information

Some manufacturers will put the bearing sizes on their nameplates (7). And they may include a temperature rating which in our example shows the motor can run in an ambient temperature of up to 40°C (8).

The nameplate may also show what insulation class the motor has been wound to (9). The repair standard for rotating machines states that a motor can be repaired to the same or a better insulation class, so this is important information for a repair provider to have. The duty cycle may also be on the nameplate. In our example, S1 (10) stands for continuous duty and indicates that this motor has been designed to run 24/7, 365 days a year without issues – subject to scheduled maintenance. Ten duty cycle classifications cover examples such as short-term use, intermittent duty, variable load. And the number after the ~ symbol (11) indicates the phase rating of the motor – either single or three.

Your motors may also include other information, such as the Ex symbol, applied to motors designed for use in potentially explosive environments. These motors will need to be replaced with similarly rated motors and should only be repaired by a company with the expertise and ability to repair hazardous area Ex equipment.


Karl Metcalfe
Author Bio: Karl Metcalfe, technical support at the Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades.