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Home / Technical Articles / 5 steps to choose the best motor for your application

Step 1: Know the load characteristics

For line-operated motors, loads fall into three general categories: constant torque, torque that changes abruptly, and torque that change gradually over time. Bulk material conveyors, extruders, positive displacement pumps, and compressors without air unloaders run at relatively steady levels of torque.

Few steps you should know before choosing best motor for your application
Few steps you should know before choosing best motor for your application (photo credit:

Sizing a motor for these applications is simple once the torque (or horsepower) for the application is known. Load demands by elevators, compactors, punch presses, saws, and batch conveyors change abruptly from low to high in a short time, often in a fraction of a second.

The most critical consideration for selecting a motor in these cases is to choose one whose speed-torque curve exceeds the load torque curve.

Loads from centrifugal pumps, fans, blowers, compressors with unloaders, and similar equipment tend to be variable over time. In choosing a motor for these conditions, consider the highest continuous load point, which typically occurs at the highest speed.

Step 2: Get a handle on horsepower

The rule of thumb for motor horsepower is: Select only what you need, and avoid the temptation to oversize or undersize. Calculate the required horsepower from this formula:

Horsepower = Torque x Speed / 5250
Where torque is in lb-ft and speed is in rpm.

Step 3: Getting started

Another consideration is inertia, particularly during startup. Every load represents some value of inertia, but punch presses, ball mills, crushers, gearboxes that drive large rolls, and certain types of pumps require high starting torques due to the huge mass of the rotating elements.

Motors for these applications need to have special ratings so that the temperature rise at startup does not exceed the allowable temperature limit. A properly sized motor must be able to turn the load from a dead stop (locked-rotor torque), pull it up to operating speed (pull-up torque), and then maintain the operating speed.

Motors are rated as one of four “design types” for their ability to endure the heat of that starting and pull up.

In ascending order of their ability to start inertial loads, NEMA designates these as design type A, B, C, and D. Type B is the industry standard and is a good choice for most commercial and industrial applications.

Step 4: Adjust for duty cycle

Duty cycle is the load that a motor must handle over the period when it starts, runs, and stops.

Continuous duty

Continuous duty is by far the simplest and most efficient application. The duty cycle begins with startup, then long periods of steady operation where the heat in the motor can stabilize as it runs.

A motor in continuous duty can be operated safely at or near its rated capacity because the temperature has a chance to stabilize.

Intermittent duty

Intermittent duty is more complicated. The life of commercial airplanes is measured by their number of landings; in the same way, the life of a motor is proportional to the number of starts it makes. Frequent starts shorten life because inrush current at startup heats the conductor rapidly.

Because of this heat, motors have a limited number of starts and stops that they can make in an hour.

Step 5: The last consideration, motor hypoxia

If your motor is going to operate at altitudes that are substantially above sea level, then it will be unable to operate at its full service factor because, at altitude, air is less dense and does not cool as well. Thus, for the motor to stay within safe limits of temperature rise, it must be derated on a sliding scale.

Up to an altitude of 3,300 ft, SF = 1.15; at 9000 ft, it declines to 1.00.

This is an important consideration for mining elevators, conveyors, blowers, and other equipment that operates at high altitudes.

Should You Buy New or To Rewind?

When you have a motor failure you’ll need to decide if you should buy a new motor or fix the old one. A common cause of motor failure is problems with the motor windings, and the solution often is to rewind the old motor. Because it is economical in terms of initial cost, rewinding of motors is very common particularly for motors of more than 10 horsepower.

However, the motor rewinding process often results in a loss of motor efficiency.

It is generally cost-effective to replace motors under 10 horsepower with new high-efficiency motors rather than rewind them. When deciding whether to buy a new motor or rewind the old one, consider the cost difference between the rewind and a new high-efficiency motor, and the potential increase in energy costs of a rewound motor that is less efficient than the original.

The quality of the rewind has a big impact on operating cost.

A poorly rewound motor may lose up to 3% in efficiency. A 100 HP motor may use several hundred dollars more in electricity each year due to this drop in efficiency, compared to its original efficiency. The operating cost may be even more compared to a new high efficiency motor.



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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Ahamed Shaakir
    Jul 15, 2019

    I am designing a auto-debaging system for PVC resin (

    If my required speed is 100 bags / hour how to select the motors for the conveyor, cutting blade, and the screw conveyor.

  2. Larry Feister
    May 19, 2017

    I am sure you haven’t had this question before. I am into Halloween big time. I have several animated figures that I put out in my yard. I use 12v auto wiper motors mostly. This year I got the idea that i would like to make a merry go round (the playground type). I would make it out of PVC and make it as light as possible. I would sit 4 small skeletons on it and would have it turning constantly. Like I said it would be made as light as possible. It would not hold a real child. I am not sure what rpm to use, I thought maybe 4or 5, also I figure I would need a motor with a considerable amount of torque. I plan on having a pully on the merry go round and pully on the motor and a drive belt or chain. I am not a rich person so of course I am trying to do this at a low cost (as usual). Could you suggest a motor that might fit my needs? I thought maybe a 115v clothes dryer motor might work but not sure how much torque they have. It could also be a DC motor as long as I can get a converter for it. thanks; Larry Feister

  3. munisekhar sadu
    Dec 28, 2015

    I would be appreciated if you let me know which BLDC motor is suitable for 1 tonne air conditioner compressor.kindly send me the calculations.Thank you for urs sharing of knowledge.

  4. Yaser
    Nov 29, 2015

    I would be appreciated if you let me know what is the optimal working power for Weg 6.3kv slip ring motor with nominal power of 5.5megawatt

  5. Diptiranjan Nayak
    Feb 05, 2015

    How to select Motor for EOT crane.

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