What’s engine load?

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Motors convert electrical energy into mechanical energy to act on a load. It’s important to match the engine load to the engine to avoid damage or inefficiency. Motors can be classified by power, voltage, current, and temperature. Oversized motors are an unnecessary expense, while undersized motors can cause damage. Motors can be designed for continuous or peak loads, and occasional overloading can be explained by a motor’s service factor.

A motor is a device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to act on a mechanical load. The load placed on the engine due to this mechanical activity is referred to as engine load. It is important to correctly match the engine load to the engine to avoid engine damage or inefficient and unnecessarily expensive operation.
Motors perform tasks such as moving an object from one place to another, cutting it, changing its shape, and so on. Devices can be classified in terms of several factors including power, voltage, current and temperature at which they can be used. The horsepower rating is sometimes casually referred to as the engine size. This rating represents the permissible engine load under ideal ambient conditions. Typically, an engine is chosen so that the actual engine load is slightly less than the load capacity to allow for less than ideal conditions.

Using an engine that is significantly oversized relative to the engine load is an unnecessary expense in both initial cost and continued engine operation. On the other hand, a significantly oversized motor may be required when peak loads substantially greater than typical loads are expected. Damage to an engine can occur when it is operated with an engine load that exceeds its rated capacity. When an engine works harder than it was designed, waste heat can be generated faster than it can be dissipated given the environmental conditions in which it operates. This results in reduced engine efficiency, shortened life, and possibly even engine burnout.

Motors can be designed for continuous operation with near constant loads such as the operation of a fan or a conveyor belt. Such motors are more efficient than those designed to handle the sudden application of heavy loads. Motors designed for peak engine loads are less efficient but may be required in environments involving, for example, heavy loads being lifted by hoists or other non-continuous loads. Such peak loads must be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate motor.

Occasional overloading can be explained by a variable called a motor’s service factor. This service factor represents the amount the motor can be overloaded under otherwise ideal environmental conditions without sustaining significant damage. Such overloading can only be done occasionally and for a short time in any case without significantly shortening the life of the motor. It should not occur in non-ideal environmental circumstances, such as high temperatures or dirty engine surfaces.

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