How the Small Motor Rule and Integral Horsepower Rule will affect OEMs

Dec. 3, 2014

New Department of Energy regulations could change the motors you can buy and how you design machines to accommodate them

How will you accommodate new motors in your machine designs or in MRO replacements? Two significant regulatory changes — the Small Motor Rule and the Integral Horsepower Rule — will impact what you’re able to buy from motor manufacturers in 2015 and 2016.

Small Motor Rule
The Small Motor Rule is a government regulation published in the Federal Register and issued by the Department of Energy in 2010. It takes effect March 9, 2015.

“The key thing is it affects three frame sizes — 42, 48 and 56,” explained John Malinowski, general product manager for general purpose and severe duty ac motors at Baldor Electric ( He’s also the chairman of the Motor and Generator Section of NEMA, and he spoke with me after his webinar on the upcoming rule changes, which will be reprised on Dec. 4 at 2:00 PM central time. You can view the webinar, download the slides and read white papers on the new regulations here: “The Small Motor Rule only affects open, drip-proof general-purpose motors, which could be for HVAC, pumps or small conveyors. The biggest challenge is going to be single-phase motors because they’re going to get a bit larger in size. There may not be space in the present machine design for the motor.”

The new rule covers two-, four- and six-pole motors, both single-phase and three-phase, from ¼ to 3 hp. The rule however doesn’t cover motors restricted to a particular application, such as a 56J frame used only for pumping.

The Small Motor Rule includes motors with longer shafts than NEMA motor shaft sizes; includes C-face mounting or D-flange without base; includes resilient mounting base; excludes single-phase and three-phase four-pole open drip-proof resilient base motors; excludes air-over or enclosed motors; but includes motors with thermal protection.

“There are a couple of aspects of the regulation, such as thermal protection, that are interpreted differently by each motor manufacturer,” explained Malinowski. “The OEMs should check with their motor suppliers to see how they interpret the regulation because there was not a consensus on it.”

The bottom line is non-compliant small motors can’t be manufactured in the United States beyond March 9. “OEMs must review motors to determine if they're within scope,” said Malinowski.

Integral Horsepower Rule
The Integral Horsepower Rule was enacted on May 29, 2014. It replaces the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) and takes effect on June 1, 2016. Almost all motors will be covered at premium-efficiency levels, as defined in NEMA MG 1, Table 12-12.

“Before we raised efficiencies, we needed to plug the loopholes in EPAct and EISA,” explained Malinowski. The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) went into in effect in October 1997, five years after it was done as a final rule. It covered general-purpose 1-200 hp motors at MG 1, 12-11 energy efficiency. EISA went into effect in December 2010, and it covered the same motors to Table 12-12.

“Congress has mandated the DOE to look at these regulations every five years,” said Malinowski. “We formed the Motor Coalition in 2010. We wanted to determine the greatest savings potential. We wanted to determine whether to do this legislatively or through regulation. Congress hasn't been doing much legislatively regarding energy, so we went the regulatory route. We weren't anxious about raising the efficiency right after EISA because we spent five years boosting up our capabilities to build premium motors. In the end, we decided to expand the scope, plug the loopholes and keep the efficiency at 12-12. And we looked at timing of the implementation to make this happen more quickly than usual.”

Under EISA, many motors weren’t covered before, particularly steel band motors. “These motors could get a lot larger in length than they were before,” explained Malinowski. “There are new potential physical parameters of the compliant motor. The bigger ones were regulated to 12-11 before. The 56 frames were not regulated before though, so the motor may grow a couple of inches. Some designs may need a larger NEMA frame because you might not be able to get 12-12 efficiency in a smaller frame.”

When you buy these new motors, there's more material and higher-grade steel, so be prepared to pay a higher price for premium efficiency. “You can continue to buy and use motors built before June 1, 2016,” said Malinowski. “You can stockpile. The government won't stop you. The regulation is on the manufacturer, not the user. For OEMs bringing equipment into the United States, such as importing compressors from a company in India, the importer of those compressors is the manufacturer in the DOE's eyes, and the motor on that equipment needs to be compliant.”

A variety of motors — for example, dc motors, multi-speed motors, servo motors, synchronous ac motors — are not covered, but the best advice is to check with your motor supplier or check out Malinowski's presentation: