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AN2991
Application note
Single-phase induction motor drive
for refrigerator compressor application (formerly AN1354)
Introduction
Up to now, refrigerator compressors have been controlled by electromechanical switches
(thermostat or even electronically controlled relays). This choice was driven by the high
inrush current that can appear when the rotor is stalled. Furthermore, electromechanical
relays were advantageous because they were less sensitive to line voltage disturbances.
Today, new semiconductor devices feature overvoltage protection and high inrush current
capability, allowing their use in cold appliances.
Electronic thermostats can now be implemented, allowing the appliance efficiency to be
improved by more than 20 W, for 150 W compressors. This is possible because of the better
temperature control and the PTC removal.
Hence, at a similar cost to electromechanical thermostats, this technical breakthrough can
allow refrigerators or freezers to fulfill Class A, A+, or A++ consumption requirements,
bringing the following advantages:
 Better reliability
– Higher switching robustness in time of solid-state semiconductor switches compared
with electromechanical solutions
– Higher ACS and ACST overvoltage robustness compared with Triacs, which makes
the metal-oxide varistor redundant
 Temperature regulation curve flexibility (automatic defrost, hysteresis threshold
adaptation)
 Reduction of the temperature ripple (better food preservation, cooling elements
downsizing)
 Possibility to add indication features for the end-user (inside temperature, open door
warning)
 Spark-free operation and EMI reduction (switches can be turned on at zero voltage and
are turned off at zero current)
 Over current protection of the motor winding
This application note presents the different topologies that can be used for induction motor
control, and lists the electrical constraints that result from these different circuits. A
comparison is also made between the different performances of electromechanical or
electronic thermostats.
All numerical examples are based on the specifications for a 150 W compressor, which can
be used in 350 L freezers.
September 2013
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Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
AN2991
1
Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
1.1
One or two Triac approach
Single-phase induction motors, used for compressor controls, have an auxiliary winding.
This winding permits a higher torque to be applied at start-up. Two different ways can be
implemented to control this auxiliary winding. The different topologies are given in Figure 1
and Figure 2.
The most popular method is to add a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) resistor in
series with this coil and the thermostat (see Figure 1). Then, each time the thermostat is
closed, the current flows through the start winding and begins to heat the PTC. After a few
hundreds of milliseconds, the PTC value rapidly increases from a few ohms to several tens
of thousands of ohms. This results in reducing the start winding current to a few tens of mA.
This winding can then be considered as open.
A second solution is to use a second Triac to control the auxiliary winding and replace the
PTC function (see Figure 2). Then, at off state no power is consumed to keep the PTC hot,
this results in improving the appliance efficiency (see Section 3.2.1: PTC losses).
A start capacitor is sometimes connected in series with this winding in location ➀ (see
Figure 1 and Figure 2). It is important to note, even for the same motor, that this capacitor
can be placed or removed, without disturbing the motor operation.
When the capacitor is placed in location ➁ (split-phase capacitor), it always sinks a current,
even when the PTC is hot or when the start Triac is off. This allows power factor
improvement and power consumption reduction. The capacitor C will be added if the
refrigerator or freezer does not reach the required efficiency level without it.
In the following study, we assume that C is always placed at location ➁, if present.
Figure 1. One Triac topology
T(°C) Klixon
VAC
1
C
2
PTC
Run ACST
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Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
Figure 2. Two Triac topology
T(°C) Klixon
VAC
1
C
2
PTC
Run ACST
Start ACST
1.2
Semiconductor rating
1.2.1
Start capacitor voltage
The start capacitor and the auxiliary winding form a resonant R-L-C circuit. The capacitor
voltage can thus be higher that the mains voltage. In practice the ratio between VC and VAC
equals 1.1 to 1.5. The worst case appears at the run Triac turn-off, for both topologies. VC is
added to the mains voltage up to the capacitor complete discharge. This results in high
voltages across the Triac (see Figure 3). Even for a 220-240 V application, 700 V
semiconductors must then be chosen.
Figure 3. Voltage across Triac after turn off (612 V maximum)
Vc
612 V
Irun
Vrun
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Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
1.2.2
AN2991
Current rating
Refrigerator or freezer compressors mostly feature input power in the range of 100-300 W.
The steady state current is then in the range of 0.5 to 3 A rms for a 220-240 V mains
voltage.
The highest current appears at start-up and can reach up to 4 times the steady state
current. Thermal calculations can demonstrate that, as these events last a short time, 6 A
devices can be used without any heat sink. For example, Figure 4 gives the junction
temperature increase of an ACST610-8T without any heat sink, due to the inrush current
which is measured through the start winding of a 150 W compressor. It shows that Tj only
reaches 77 °C, when coming from a 60 °C ambient temperature, and remains below the
maximum allowed temperature (125 °C).
Figure 4. Inrush current in start winding (150 W compressor)
10
Current in the device (A)
8
6
4
2
0
-2
-4
-6
-8
Time (s)
-10
-0.1
80
0.1
Junction temperature (°C)
0.3
0.5
0.7
0.9
0.5
0.7
0.9
Time (s)
78
76
74
72
70
68
66
64
62
60
-0.1
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Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
When dealing with the current rating for AC semiconductor switches, the rate of decrease of
the current must also be checked. This constraint will depend on the chosen circuit topology.
The worst case of turn-off stress appears with a compressor without any start capacitor. In
this case, the rise in voltage will not be slowed by the motor capacitor. The higher stress
occurs for the “START” winding (where the impedance is lower than the “RUN” winding one)
and when the rotor is stalled. These two conditions yield a higher current and therefore, a
higher rate of decrease for the ACST current.
Then, for a stalled 150 W compressor, supplied with a 264 V rms voltage, the dI/dtc and
dV/dtc equal respectively 2.4 A/ms and 9.6 V/µs through the start ACST (see Figure 5,
measured with THERM01EVAL board). This is far below the maximum ratings for ACST610
devices, which is 3.5 A/ms with a 15 V/µs rate.
Figure 5. Turn-off constraint for the worst case scenario
dI/dt = 2.4 A/ms
dI/dt = 2.4 A/ms
dV/dt = 9.6 V/µs
dV/dt = 9.6 V/µs
1.3
Protective inductor
With the two Triac topology, a spurious discharge of the start capacitor can occur when the
start Triac is accidentally turned on. To reduce the dI/dt stress through the silicon switch, a
small protective inductor can be added in series with this Triac.
In order to optimize the solution cost, this inductor can be implemented on the printed circuit
board (PCB). For example, an inductor with 12 turns of 0.51 mm width track (see Figure 6),
made on a 35 µm FR4 PCB, produces a 5 µH inductor and a 1.6  resistor.
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Single-phase induction motor drive topologies
AN2991
Figure 6. 5 µH PCB inductor
2.8cm
An inductor as described in Figure 6, allows the dI/dt rate to be limited (in case of a spurious
firing of the start ACST when the run ACST is already on) below 60 A/µs (start capacitor is
charged up to 510 V). The semiconductor device operation is then well secured.
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Stalled rotor management
2
Stalled rotor management
2.1
Protection by thermal cut-off
In the case of a stalled rotor operation, the over current protection is commonly ensured by
a thermal cut-off. This component, also called “klixon”, is mandatory to prevent the
compressor from over-heating. Klixons are well adapted for motor protection, but not for
semiconductors. Indeed, the turn-off time is in the range of 15 s. The silicon switch will
withstand a high current that will only decrease thanks to the motor winding heating. In
practice, the rms current can fall from 9 A rms to around 4.5 A rms, for a 150 W compressor.
The maximum junction temperature reached by the ACST610-8T can then equal 162 °C as
shown by the simulation results in Figure 7.
As this temperature exceeds the maximum allowed steady state temperature (125 °C),
reliability tests have been performed to check the robustness of the silicon switches after
such stress. ACST610 devices can withstand such currents up to more than 10 thousand
times. This easily covers the number of stalled rotor operations that can happen during the
life cycle of a refrigerator or freezer.
Figure 7. ACST610 junction temperature during stalled rotor operation
Current in the device (A)
15
10
5
0
-5
-10
Time (s)
-15
0
180
5
10
15
Junction temperature (°C)
160
140
120
100
80
Time (s)
60
0
5
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Stalled rotor management
2.2
AN2991
Protection by microcontroller
In order to secure the life expectancy of a refrigerator, the stalled rotor protection can also
be provided by the electronic board. In this case, the over current is applied to the motor and
the switches for less than 1 s, as opposed to 15 s with a thermal cut-off. The maximum
junction temperature will then reach 102 °C, for a 60 °C ambient temperature, instead of
162 °C, eliminating any stress on the ACST.
This 1 s duration is chosen in order to differentiate an abnormal over-current from the startup current, as explained below.
To sense an over current, it is possible to measure the voltage across a shunt resistor
placed in series with the run ACST. Then, as the current is alternating, it must be clearly
defined at which moment it must be measured. Furthermore, this moment must be chosen
in order to differentiate the over-current from the normal current. Figure 8 gives the
maximum and minimum currents for both operating conditions. These curves come from
experimental results where the mains voltage has been varied from 198 to 264 V rms, with
and without a start capacitor.
Figure 8 shows that, in a stalled rotor condition, the current is still above 5.6 A between 6
and 8 ms after zero voltage crossing. For information, in normal condition, the load current is
always lower than 3 A at this moment.
The 5.6 A value is chosen as the condition for a stalled rotor status. The MCU must then be
able to perform A/D conversions between 6 and 8 ms. Several measurements can be
performed to filter measurement noise.
Figure 8. Motor current maximum ranges
Current (A)
10
8
Istall max
6
Istall min
4
2
Inorm max
0
-2
-4
-6
Time (ms)
-8
0
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Electronic thermostat versus mechanical thermostat
3
Electronic thermostat versus mechanical thermostat
3.1
Temperature regulation
One main advantage of electronic thermostats versus electromechanical ones, is their
adaptability. For mechanical thermostats, it is a gas compression and decompression that
switches the compressor on or off. This does not allow a hysteresis threshold adaptation
during the refrigerator operating cycle. Moreover, this gas effect yields to the fact that the
refrigerator may not work properly depending on the ambient atmospheric pressure.
For electronic thermostats, the temperature information is measured accurately and at all
times, contrary to electromechanical thermostats where the only available information is that
the temperature is over a fixed level or not. This enables the temperature fluctuation inside
the cabinet to be reduced with electronics.
A reduction of the temperature ripple presents three main advantages:

Better food preservation

Thermodynamic efficiency improvement (lower evaporator temperature ripple; higher
evaporator minimum temperature; better compressor use (see Section 3.2.2: Motor
duty cycle)

Compressor and evaporator downsizing
A particularly interesting feature can also be implemented thanks to electronics - the
hysteresis levels can be changed during the freezing process. This allows automatic
defrosting operations to be implemented. For example, Figure 9 shows that the upper
hysteresis level is increased every 8 cycles in order to let the evaporator temperature
become higher than 0°C. This allows the ice deposit on the evaporator to be removed. This
may be very helpful to increase the refrigerator efficiency as this ice layer plays a real
insulation role.
Figure 9. Temperature fluctuation and defrost cycle with electronic thermostat
Temperature (°C)
20
15
on/off
10
Left side Cabinet
5
0
-5
-10
-15
Evaporator
-20
-25
Time (min)
-30
0
20
40
60
80
100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260
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Electronic thermostat versus mechanical thermostat
3.2
Power consumption
3.2.1
PTC losses
AN2991
A PTC thermistor presents a very low resistance when it is cold (example: 10  at 25 °C).
This enables a high inrush current at motor start-up to be applied.
Then, the PTC begins to heat and its impedance rapidly increases. This allows the current
to decrease to just a few milliamperes, compared to several amperes at the beginning.
Figure 10 shows this current at steady state. This figure also gives the dissipated power
through the PTC at this moment. It can be said that the PTC continuously dissipates 2.1 W,
when the motor is on. This power consumption can be reduced simply by removing this
component and using two Triacs instead of one, to drive the motor.
Figure 10. PTC power consumption at steady state
PTC current (20 mA/div )
Dissipated
Dissipated power (2.5 W/ div )
3.2.2
Motor duty cycle
A very efficient way to reduce the power consumption is to control the temperature more
accurately.
Some tests have been performed on a half-loaded 350 L freezer, controlled by our
electronic thermostat. During the tests, the door is kept closed and the load remains the
same.
Figure 11 and Figure 12 give the power consumption and the evaporator and cabinet
temperatures for respectively a 5.3 °C and 4.2 °C hysteresis threshold control.
The measurements, shown in Table 1, have been made for the following cases:
10/14

Case 1: hysteresis threshold = 5.3 °C (similar to mechanical thermostat feature)

Case 2: hysteresis threshold = 4.2 °C
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AN2991
Electronic thermostat versus mechanical thermostat
.
Table 1. Power consumption versus hysteresis threshold
Case 1
Case 2
(hyst. thresh. = 5.3 °C) (hyst. thresh. = 4.2 °C)
Measure
Calculation
Compressor on time
12' 50"
9' 10"
Compressor off time
16' 20"
15' 10"
Average power during on time
136 W
138 W
Cycle period
29' 10"
24' 20"
Duty cycle
0.44
0.38
Average power consumption
60 W
52 W
It is shown that reducing the temperature ripple improves the appliance efficiency. This can
be explained by the fact that the useful energy is not wasted.
The Case 2 allows a saving of 8 W by reducing the threshold level by little more than 1 °C.
Electromechanically controlled refrigerators exhibit a temperature ripple in the range of 10 to
20 °C. A decrease to a few degrees Celsius, will allow a saving of up to 20% of energy
consumption. This means a 20 W saving for a 150 W compressor (100 W average power
with a 2/3 duty cycle).
Of course, reducing the temperature ripple brings one drawback. This is that the motor
running cycle frequency increases. In our example, this frequency increases by around 20%
(2.06 cycles per hour with Case 1, and 2.46 cycles per hour with Case 2). This is not a
problem for electronic switches where the cycling capability is 10 times or more that of
electromechanical switches. From the motor point of view, the higher number of cycles
should not reduce its reliability as:

Motor temperature ripple is decreased thanks to a higher cycle frequency.

The start winding conduction length is reduced thanks to an electronic control instead
of a thermal-active solution (PTC).

An over current protection, which reduces motor stress, is provided by the MCU.
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Electronic thermostat versus mechanical thermostat
AN2991
Figure 11. Temperature control (case 1)
Power (W)
Temperature (°C)
200
-10
Power
150
-12
100
-14
50
-16
0
-18
Cab.
-20
Evap.
-22
Time (h:mm:ss)
-24
0:00:00
0:20:00
0:40:00
1:00:00
1:20:00
Figure 12. Temperature control (case 2)
-10
Power (W)
Temperature (°C)
200
Power
150
-12
100
-14
50
-16
0
-18
-20
Evap.
Cab.
-22
Time (h:mm:ss)
-24
0:00:00
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0:40:00
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1:20:00
AN2991
4
Conclusion
Conclusion
Reliable electronic thermostats can now be used instead of older bimetallic solutions. This
allows large efficiency gains to be achieved, thanks to the PTC removal and to a tighter
temperature management.
These improvements can also allow downsizing of the compressor and the evaporator.
Switching to MCU based controls will allow higher flexibility and adaptability, and will help
enhance the differentiation of appliances. Automatic routines (like defrost cycle) can be
implemented and the end-user interface can be improved (temperature information, open
door warning, temperature alarm, smooth light-up of the internal bulb by electronic dimming,
etc.).
In terms of cost, electronics can now be competitive with electromechanical devices. A
complete thermostat board, plus the sensor, can reach a cost similar to electromechanical
thermostats. Furthermore, some features, such as extended life time or spark-free
operation, come for free with electronics.
5
Revision history
Table 2. Document revision history
Date
Revision
Changes
29-May-2008
1
First issue under new code. Previously published as AN1354.
05-Sep-2013
2
Updated Figure 4 and Figure 7. Replaced ACST6 with ACST610.
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AN2991
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