Heat Pump AC Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning - Both heat pumps and air conditioners use the process of refrigeration to provide heating and cooling. One of the major components of that process is the condenser. A major component of the condenser is a condenser fan motor. Both air source heat pumps and air source air conditioners have a condenser fan motor. For an air conditioner, the condenser fan motor is used to reject heat. For a heat pump, the condenser fan motor both rejects heats and pulls air into the condenser coil to absorb heat. There are times when the condenser fan motor will fail making a repair necessary.
Heat Pump AC Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning
At first, you may notice a problem with the system performance. It doesn’t cool properly or in some cases, with a heat pump, it doesn’t heat properly. You begin checking everything including the breakers and eventually the units themselves. You find the condenser fan motor is not turning so you shut the system down. If you don’t you should shut it down. What to do next? Is this something you can fix yourself or do you need to call a professional HVAC service to rectify the problem? The answer to that question clearly depends on you, your confidence and your skill level to handle mechanical and electrical issues. It may also require several tools which you may not have. So first do the simple things we suggest and if that doesn’t you decide whether to call a professional service or not.
Taking Care of Problem One with the Fan Motor not Turning | AC Unit Fan Not Spinning
The first thing you need to know about the system is the type of motor you have installed in the condenser. There are two basic types of motors used in many conventional air conditioner or heat pump condensers for fan motors:
The most common motor is the PSC motor which stands for permanent split capacitor motor. If you have this type of motor the first thing I would do after killing the power is to go and get a long and thin screwdriver. I would restore power to the unit and soon as you hear it trying to start I would flick the fan blade with the long thin screwdriver to try and get it to turn. In some cases, the blade will begin to turn on its own. If it does you are not done. Further instructions will be provided below on how to proceed if you find this problem.
- The second most common fan motor found in air conditioner and heat pump condensers are ECM variable speed condenser fan motors. If you have an ECM fan motor in your condenser I advise you to call a professional HVAC company for service. These motors are very complex and are control by a circuit board with inputs and outputs to the motor. These motors also have a module mounted on the casing of the motor and sometimes the problem could be with that module, the circuit board, or even the motor itself. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into troubleshooting these types of motor. You should call a professional if you have a problem with this type of motor.
PSC Motor Solutions - Problem One | Heat Pump AC Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning | Outside Unit
Back to the PSC motor and flicking it with the screwdriver. If it works you are not done. I would kill power to the condensing unit at the disconnect next to the condensing unit and to be safe at the breaker. Then you look inside the grill to see if there are any access plugs to lubricate the motor. There are motors that require lubrication and there are motors that do not require lubrication. If your motor requires lubrication then it should have been done on the last maintenance cycle and you shouldn’t be having this problem. If you skipped the periodic maintenance then now is the time to do it and hopefully, permanent damage has not occurred and you can save the day. A professional can do this task in about 15 minutes and I advise you call a professional.
- Make double sure the power is off at both the disconnect and the main breaker panel. I would even advise turning the thermostat off to be triple sure. Saftey first!
- Make sure you get the right kind of oil. Zoom Spout oil is ideal and it has a handy spout that fits perfectly in the oil port on most electric motors.
- Depending on the brand of condenser you have will depend on how you are going to get to the lubrication points for the motor. You will have to carefully lift the grill taking care not to damage the wiring to the motor.
- Find the plastic yellow (most are yellow but they could be another color) and remove them with a pair of needlenose pliers.
- Stick the spout nozzle from the Zoom Spout oil and give it a shot of oil.
- Replace the plug and repeat for the other oil port. (see illustration)
- I would give the blade a few spins with my hand to make sure it turns freely and to let the oil settle into the bearing.
- Replace the grill and tighten the screws taking care not to over-tighten the screws. Over-tightening will cause the screw to strip the slot and you will never be able to properly fasten it again without redoing the entire screw slot. This often creates annoying sheet metal vibration noises.
Drip Plug for Condensation Removal - Condenser Fan Motor not Turning
If you notice in the illustration provided there is also a blue plug next to the shaft of the fan motor. This is called a drip plug and you should also have one on the other end of the fan motor. The plug on the downside of the motor should be removed. The plug on the top side of the motor should be clearly in place. This allows moisture that occurs as a result of condensation to drip out of the casing. If the plug is in place the moisture can be trapped in the motor and eventually build up and cause rust and corrosion and possibly a premature failure of the motor. Additionally, some manufacturer’s place a rain shield on the shaft to further protect the motor from moisture when it rains. The rain shield keeps moisture off the motor and other parts protecting it from extra moisture.
Taking Care of Problem Two with the Condenser Fan Motor not Turning
The next possible problem that can occur with the condenser fan motor not turning is a bad run capacitor. Again, I advise you to call a professional to take care of this problem as we are dealing with high voltage and capacitors. This is a run capacitor for the condenser fan motor and it will hold a charge and shock you even with the power turned off. It must be handled properly and discharged to prevent shock and possible injury or worse. You will find further instructions on how to wire a run capacitor to a motor here. How to test and troubleshoot capacitors is all on that page for your reference.
Heat Pumps in the Winter | Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning | Heat Pump Fan Not Spinning
A heat pump in the winter needs to defrost itself from time to time. When the heat pump goes into defrost mode the condenser fan motor will stop turning. This aids the defrost process and helps melt the frost on the unit faster. So if you have a heat pump and it is winter and you recognize the fan motor is not turning sometimes then you likely do not have a problem with the condenser fan motor. I get calls all the time about heat pumps and the condenser fan motor not turning when in heating mode. It is a popular question. I usually have them wait 15 minutes and then go check it again. Most of the time they say its now turning and everything is fine.
That same question goes along with someone calling and saying they see smoke coming out of their heat pump in the winter. It’s not smoke. The unit is in defrost and it’s melting the ice and making little clouds of condensation when in defrost. This is normal for a heat pump to do this in the winter when in defrost mode just like the fan motor not turning when in defrost mode. People here the compressor running but don’t see the fan blade turning so they freak out a little and call me. It’s normal for it to do it and it is a part of the heat pump sequence of operation.
Bad Motor Problem | Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning | Is the Condenser Fan Motor Bad?
It is possible the motor is bad and needs to be replaced. In that case, we advise you call a professional and let them handle the problem. They likely have the motor on their truck or can get it right away. Sometimes the windings burn up in motors and other times the bearings seize up. Either way, the motor has seen better days and needs to be replaced. In some cases, if the blade is seized to the shaft, it cannot be removed and it also needs to be replaced. There are many factors that need to be considered when replacing an electric motor and each one is very important. We cover these factors on our Condenser Fan Motor Repair page if you want to search for that on our site and take a look.
You may also need a few special tools and to make sure you wire it properly when replacing the condenser fan motor. If you choose to replace it yourself and do not follow the technical advice you could likely end up shortening the life of the new motor and possible the condensing unit itself. Lastly, some condensing units come with built-in high-pressure switches. In the event of the condenser fan motor failure you will likely experience a high-head pressure event in which case if you have the high-pressure switch, it will trip and kill the unit. This is a built-in safety to protect the unit. These high-pressure switches are commonly manual reset. If you continuously reset without fixing the problem then you could cause further problems. In this case, call a professional to rectify the problem.
Heat Pump AC Condenser Fan Motor Not Turning
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