Author Options:

Speed Control for AC Electric Motors Answered

Can anybody tell me how to build a controller to adjust the speed of an 110VAC electric motor, ( ex: blower motor, fan motor ) I was cautioned about using a light dimmer. bill


AC motors tend to be tied into the frequenncy of the supply. If you could invesigate a washing-machine's spin-cycle you you might get some useful clues. L

Some motors are directly tied to the frequency. Usually the brushless AC motors. I have a SuperSpiel machine (similar to a slot machine) from Germany that I converted for US power and lamps. The conversion went great using a 120:60v transformer hooked up in reverse to supply 240v to the device. The only difference is that the motor and therefore all game functions run 20% faster.

Some of the more modern electric trains over here, use an 'electronic' gear-shift. AC motors are more efficient (in this application anyway), and they use frequency shifts, which do actually sound like changing gear.
This link may be os interest to the instructable :

washing machine motors are built with two speeds (i think mine was 1700 and 1000 rpm roughly), and the transmission gearing takes care of the rest. three speed fans are simmilar, built with three speeds depending on which coils receve power.

some light dimmers will work with some motors : ) sorry, that's what i've found experimentaly when trying to control the speed of a blower. why? i think (but i'm not sure) that the cheeper light dimmers use a voltage chopper to limit the amount of each AC pulse-fine for incandecent bulbs but not effective with a motor. i believe that a resistace based control will work with a universal motor (one with brushes).

Yes. It may work. But not safely. It will eventually burn out the motor. A Dual-phase motor can be speed controlled by adjusting the phase between coils by changing the size of a capacitor or a more complicated circuit to adjust the phase with a potentiometer. You can find circuits like these on quality ceiling fans.

well, 8 years later the fan was replaced with a different system. not because it stoped working, but because where it was being used changed (new forge).

Variac ;) That might be a good place to start researching :)