Big appliances need large amounts of power to get up and running. Think about a commercial HVAC system for a large office or apartment building. They can require as much as ten times more power to get started than the typical running current. This power demand and surge stress the motor and the appliance itself and create a lot of heat that can damage various components, shortening its life. One way to protect the machine is by utilizing a hard starter or a soft starter – two different add-on kits with the same goal of getting your equipment up and running without damaging it and preserving the appliance’s life.
What’s a Hard Starter?
As the name suggests, a hard start kit is used to remedy the “hard” starting problem of your air conditioner or other appliance. The air conditioner may start and shut off, make a clicking sound, trip a breaker, or make the lights flicker because the AC drains too much power for the startup.
A hard starter is a good, affordable option when you need an extra boost of electrical current to get an appliance running even though you have a good power source. A hard start kit is a capacitor that collects and stores electricity ahead of time and provides an extra energy boost to your appliance as it’s turned on.
A hard starter kit can be plugged into the run capacitor in just a few minutes. It can quickly spike the inrush of current to reduce the system’s startup time and the amount of electricity needed to run.
What’s a Soft Starter?
A soft starter allows an AC unit or other appliance to get started and gradually feeds additional current to the compressor until it reaches full speed.
While an AC unit has a running current of 10-15 amps, depending on its number of BTUs, it can take 70+ amps to get a unit started, putting a considerable strain on the compressor. Soft starters control the voltage flowing through a motor’s circuit, reducing the inrush of current by up to 70% and preventing wear and tear on the engine by allowing it to startup safely and gradually.
Soft starters are a good solution when you’re traveling in an RV and need to run an AC unit, but you don’t have access to a power hookup and are using a generator. Without a power hook-up, your portable generator or inverter system likely won’t have enough amperage to get an AC unit up and running. And a hard starter will not work with a small generator, so it’s useless in an RV powered by a generator.
Hard Start vs Soft Start: How are They Different?
Both a hard and soft starter use a start capacitor and a start relay, but a hard starter’s goal is to make the inrush of current as large as possible, while a soft starter lowers the inrush of current as much as possible.
A hard start does not vary the input voltage but rather it unloads the full voltage of the capacitor to achieve more inrush current and to start the motor.
Whereas, a soft start vary the input voltage on the run winding to achieve the in-rush current.
A soft starter is a more complex device with electronics that use algorithms to sense and record numerous events in the startup of your motor.
In short, a hard starter provides a quick boost of power, while a soft starter reduces the initial torque of the motor and gradually feed it power so that it doesn’t put too much unnecessary stress on the motor or appliance. This gradual approach creates less wear on the AC unit, extends its useable life, and prevents overheating or other electrical damage.
It’s two different approaches—quick and powerful versus slow and steady.
Which One is Right for You?
Choosing a hard starter or soft starter is really about the application. What’s your power source, and what kind of equipment do you need to get started?
A hard starter is ideal in a commercial or residential environment where the power source is constant, and the equipment requires a massive inrush of current to get started. Soft starters are generally used in a low power supply environment, such as an RV or camper, where the startup demand isn’t off the charts.
RVAC Solutions Advanced Soft Starter
If you’re in the market for a soft starter for your RV, 5th wheel, or camper, RVAC Solutions makes a small, light, Advanced Soft Starter (RVMS-100S-9A and RVMS-100S-16A) that’s easy to install on your own. It weighs only a couple of pounds and easily fits inside the AC unit’s housing. Each AC unit you intend to run will require its own Advanced Soft Starter.