Invention of the Electric Motor

Benjamin Franklin invented a type of electric motor in the 1740s.

We use electric motors regularly in numerous appliances and industrial applications, but have we ever thought of where they have come from? Prussian inventor Moritz von Jacobi created one of the first proper electric motors in 1834, and his second design was even powerful enough to propel a boat with over a dozen people in it. That same years, American blacksmith Thomas Davenport himself created a battery powered electric motor.

However other less practically useful attempts at making electric motors were engaged in by Benjamin Franklin as early as the 1740s (years before James Watts invented his steam engine). A huge step in the development of the modern electric motor was made in 1822 by Englishman Peter Barlow with his creation of Barlow’s Wheel. Mercury was used in Barlow’s Wheel, as it was used in the thermometers of the day.

The electric motor was refined over the years by many engineers and inventors, and no one individual can be completely credited with inventing the electric motor. Like many other human achievements, change was incremental. Alternating current, which had a huge impact on the development of electricity, was not widely introduced until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The AC induction motor was invented by Nikola Tesla in 1887 (although Galileo Ferraris also created a working model of one in 1885).

Without the modern electric motor, everything from your washing machine to pool pumps would not function. We owe a great debt to the minds who have improved upon our knowledge and practically applied it to solve our problems.

Number 1 Tip for Electric Motor Maintenance

This motor needs to be cleaned.

Heat is the number one enemy of an electric motor, and combating it is essential to motor maintenance. Our job is motor repair, and all too often we see motors damaged because care was not taken to keep it from overheating. Therefore, keeping your motor cool will provide your electric motor with a longer lifespan and keep you from spending unnecessary money on repair or a replacement motor.

A motor which runs too hot will have long term damage to its internal insulation. If the motor is much too hot, it can fail in a matter of days, hours, or even minutes. So, what can you do to keep your motor cool?

First, keep it clean. Your electric motor has a ventilation system and a fan which cools it. In the common TEFC type of motor, the fan cools the frame of the motor. So, if your TEFC motor’s fan or the outside of the motor is caked with grease and dust, this is hindering the proper cooling of the motor. For an ODP motor, which brings air directly into the motor, keeping your motor clean inside is paramount. Anecdotally, a clack of cleaning seems to be the biggest cause of long-term damage to electric motors. For a prime example of a motor where over-lubrication was a cause of failure, see our August 2016 post here.

Second, your motor’s fan turns with the motor. If something is stuck in the fan shroud—or the fan is bent and twisted—this can hinder the cooling system. Then, your motor will burn out and it will either need to be repaired or replaced. Much like a personal computer, your electric motor’s fan should also have sufficient air flow. If your fan’s air intake is too close to a wall or similar obstruction (or worse, completely blocked), then the motor will not have to ability to adequately cool itself. Make sure your motor is in a physical location where it has proper air flow, and your can avoid this issue.

If you follow this simple maintenance step, it will go a long way towards extending the life of your electric motor. However, there is much more to electric motor maintenance than combating heat and every motor has a lifespan. When you need a motor, we here at Brooks Motor & Electric have the knowledge and experience to provide you what you need when you need it.

For more information on electric motor maintenance, see our post Tips to Extend the Life of Your Electric Motor.

Announcing Our New Retail Location

Our new storefront in Cave City, KY

We are excited to announce that Brooks Motor & Electric, Inc. has moved our retail location to Cave City, KY. We spent over 15 years at our previous location in Glasgow, KY – and are proud of the service we provided out of that location. We are enthusiastic about our new space and welcome all our customers, new and old, to visit us here.

Our new facilities allow for a significant increase in warehouse space. More space means we can now stock more of the vital electrical and motor equipment you need to keep your business running. In addition, this means more room for our surplus products that give you a great value on motors, pumps, drives, breakers, and more.

You can expect the same top-notch customer service and motor repair you have always come to enjoy from Brooks Motor & Electric. In addition, a new location means a renewed commitment to your satisfaction and to providing the quality products and service you deserve.

The Brooks Motor teams would like to give a big thank you to all our loyal customers throughout the years and to all the new customers we will gain. Above all, our customers sticking by us has meant we have provided important value to our community and has allowed our move to be possible.

We will be happy to welcome you to our new retail location across from Ace Hardware at:

506 E Happy Valley St
Cave City, KY 42127

In conclusion, you can still find us at our other locations, which are in the same place they have always been.

Does rebuilding an electric motor reduce its efficiency?

A common concern when considering whether to replace or repair an electric motor is efficiency. If repairing a motor leads to reduced efficiency, then there is significantly less appeal in paying for repairs. Repairing an electric motor can be much less expensive than replacing one, but a common concern is that if efficiency is not maintained, the money saved by repairing a motor will eventually be lost in utility costs.

According to a 2008 study by the Electro-Mechanical Authority (EASA) and the Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT), electric motors can maintain efficiency after being repaired/rewound. Even after multiple rewindings, motor efficiency is not reduced, as long as best practices for repair are properly followed.

Brooks Motor & Electric is an EASA certified repair facility, so our customers can rest assured that our repair shop always meets the best practices that are necessary to maintain efficiency, even after rewinding/repairing a motor multiple times.

Rewinding an electric motor does not decrease its efficiency.

For more information about the effects of repair on motor efficiency, visit the EASA website.

A copy of the study referenced in this article can also be downloaded in PDF format from the EASA website. Download

Training Course: AC Motor Troubleshooting Basics

Do you have an electric motor that’s having problems, but you’re still not ready to call the repair shop yet? Whether you need some direction in figuring out a problem, or you just want to prepare your business in case of future disaster, Brooks Motor & Electric is here to help you learn. One of our field technicians recently taught a class about the basics of AC electric motor repair. We’ve captured the relevant portions of the class on video and made them available to the public.

If you’re completely new to the internals of an electric motor, start with the video on this page (embedded below); it covers the very basics and fundamentals. If you’re up to speed on motor design and construction, try the next video. In it, David addresses the mechanics and theory behind the operation of electric motors. Once you’re up to speed on the basics, we have videos to assist with general mechanical troubleshooting, water pump troubleshooting, and a more in-depth guide to troubleshooting motors based on their electrical readings.

If you’re interested in the course as a whole, this video is part two. In this twenty-minute portion of the lesson, David presents the fundamentals of electric motor construction and design and answers relevant questions from the audience. For a more detailed view of the slides used in this video, see pages five, six, and seven of the course workbook. Please note, this course was designed for municipal utility employees and was recorded live.

Video Synopsis

Electric Motor Design: The most important components of a three phase AC motor are discussed. These include the case, the stator core, the coil, the rotor, and the bearings. David explains the purpose of each component as well as cues to look for when trying to diagnose simple equipment failure.

Horizontal Motors and Vertical Motors: Horizontal and vertical motors are functionally very similar, and can even be used interchangeably in some circumstances. However, there are many use cases where the differences between them is significant, and using the appropriate style can be very important. The most notable difference between them is bearing selection and placement. In a motor specifically designed to be mounted vertically, additional bearings are used to increase the motor’s life and effectiveness.

Single-Phase AC Motors: Single-phase electric motors are more complex than three-phase motors, and as such, are more cumbersome to troubleshoot – or as David describes them “a nightmare to troubleshoot … and repair.” Additional capacitors, switches, and dual windings add multiple points of failure that make single-phase motors difficult to work with. Whenever possible, a three-phase motor is always preferred to a single-phase motor.

Three-Phase Motor Fundamentals: A three-phase motor is wired with three sets of windings, A, B, and C phase. These three phases of windings are wired together in such a way that a magnetic field is generated, causing the motor to turn. A general understanding is established, but a more advanced discussion of three-phase circuits is included in the next video.