An even EASIER way to check capacitors

In a previous article, we covered the standard way to check capacitors under load.

I am now going to give you an even easier test.

A properly functioning PSC (permanent split capacitor) or CSCR (capacitor start capacitor run) motor should have a power factor of very close to 1 if they have a properly sized and functional capacitor.

If you have a multimeter that can read power factor directly (like the Testo 770-3), you can measure the power factor by reading the voltage at the contactor and the amperage at the motor common (like usual). If you are at or close to 1 power factor, then your capacitor is both functional and the right size.

In the image above, I have a compressor that calls for a 35 MFD capacitor, and the capacitor is running right at 35 in the under load test as well as the bench test. That's why the power factor is right at 1. I installed a run capacitor of 10 MFD larger and smaller, and sure enough, the power factor dropped in both cases.

So, not only do I see right away that either my capacitor is failing or improperly sized, but we can also see the wattage (power) in real time.

As a side note, I was only seeing about a .3 amp difference between start and run/common together when I oversized the capacitor, so I may have missed the issue if I had just used that test alone.

Now, in order to see exactly WHAT is wrong with the capacitor, whether it is failing or improperly sized, you would need to do the under load test (start winding amps x 2652/capacitor Volts) or bench test the cap and then check against motor data plates.

But as a regular service procedure, this power factor feature is a time-saver and gives you a unique insight into the operation of the motor.


P.S. – If you are interested in the 770-3, use the offer code “getschooled” at for an 8% discount


3/8/17 at 07:06 PM

As I am not familiar with using a DMM to measure PF, would the fan motor being parallel off of the same terminals as your probes are measuring the compressor affect the reading?

    4/24/19 at 08:34 PM

    Ryan, the test lead probes are measuring the supply voltage part of the PF equation which is the same for the compressor and fan. The amp clamp is measuring the compressor only. You can also perform the PF test on the fan by itself by simply putting the amp clamp around the fan common instead of the compressor common as shown.

Gary Reecher
Gary Reecher
4/12/18 at 06:27 AM

Nice information.

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