AC motor starters are used to turn-on and turn-off electric motors and motor-controlled equipment. They use solid-state or electromechanical technologies, and are designed for single-phase or three-phase motors. AC motor starters adhere to ratings from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
There are 11 NEMA size ratings: 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. IEC sizes are rated at the thermal current rating, the current the contactor can withstand without overheating; or the operational current, the contactor’s ability to make or break the current.
Choices for IEC-rated products include A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, and N. Typically, AC motor starters also carry ratings for continuous current, thermal current, motor voltage and AC horsepower.
Number of poles, control voltage, current-line acceleration, time-limit acceleration and operating temperature are also important parameters to consider when selecting AC motor starters.
Multi-speed products are designed to be operated at a constant frequency and voltage.
Reduced voltage starters (RVS) also change speeds, but use motor windings that can be reconnected to form different numbers of poles.
Reducing or reversing AC motor starters are designed for applications which must avoid overload conditions, or which need to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on equipment.
There are five main types of reduced voltage starters:
- Primary resistor
- Part winding
- Wye delta
- Solid state
Full voltage, non-reversing AC motor starters have an overload relay and two contactors which are either
mechanically or electrically interlocked.
Manual AC motor starters are also commonly available. They connect the incoming power directly to the motor, and are well-suited for squirrel-cage motors.
Eutectic overload relays consist of a eutectic (melting) alloy and a heater coil. When an overload occurs, the coil heats the tube. When the tube melts, a tripping device initiates a switching action.
Bimetallic overload relays are made of two metal strips that are joined together permanently. Because metals expand and contract at different rates, heating the bimetallic strips causes it to bend. In turn, a spring pulls the contacts apart and breaks the circuit.
Solid-state relays for AC motor starters do not generate heat to trip a circuit. Instead, they measure current or a change in resistance.
Solid-state overload protection may also provide advanced functions such as:
Ambient temperature sensing
AC motor starters with low voltage protection, phase failure (loss) trip, and phase reversal (unbalance) trip are also available.
BS EN 60947-4-1 - Low-voltage switchgear and controlgear - part 4-1: contactors and motor-starters - electromechanical contactors and motor-starters
FORD EC1 - Nema ac motor starters, electro-mechanical type, requirements and tests
Read user Insights about AC Motor Starters
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