What does RLA stand for in HVAC [Stey-by-step Guide]

Issues can occur in HVAC systems as it is a combination of various electronic components which can break down or get damaged like any other electronic device. As you need to troubleshoot the issues, there are different techniques for doing so. When you experience any issue in a compressor, measuring its amperage draw is considered an essential step as it tells you how good a compressor is performing.

Experts will mention some terms such as rating chart, RLA, etc but what is RLA meaning HVAC, and what are its purposes in the working of an HVAC system?

What does RLA mean in HVAC

RLA stands for Rated Load Amps in any HVAC system. It can be defined as the rate of the cooling capacity of the system while it is running or operating its functionalities. These ratings are composed by the manufacturer and may vary a bit from brand to brand.

On average, the compressor or condenser of almost all kinds of HVAC systems or air conditioners requires about 5 to 6 RLA (Rate Load Amps) for a cooling capacity of one ton.

What is RLA on a compressor

RLA on a compressor is the maximum amount of current that can be drawn while working in any kind of condition.

Do keep this fact in mind that RLA stands for Rate Load Amps as some people confuse it with Running Load Amps. This confusion makes them believe in an incorrect concept that a compressor should always draw these huge amps.

But the reality is that RLA is the maximum point while there are possibilities that your systems may only draw less or maybe half of it.

How to check the RLA on the compressor

Most of the HVAC manufacturers now label RLA or amperage rating right on the compressor in the form of a metal plate or paper sticker but technicians prefer to find the exact correct value on their own for better results.

Apart from this, the internet has provided a great deal of convenience as you can simply search the brand name with the model number of your HVAC system. This will bring you all the information in almost no time and you can take what is required.

Do keep this fact in mind that RLA alone cannot define whether the compressor is working perfectly or needs some repair or maintenance. Taking the services of a professional is always the best option unless you have years of knowledge as well as experience about the compressors working in the HVAC systems.

How to calculate RLA on a compressor

  1. Finding RLA is the process of solving a simple equation as you only need two values to get your required amperage rating.
  2. You can start by doing various tests to get the value of MCC (Maximum Continuous Amps) just before the overload on HVAC trips.
  3. Once you have determined the perfect value of MCC, simply divide it by 1.56 as this is the way highly recommended by ULI (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.).
  4. Although it is a standard value set to determine the RLA, some manufacturers use 1.44 as a dividend for their system. One such compressor manufacturer is Copeland.

How do you calculate RLA from LRA

It is more than simple as many technicians have followed this way of calculating RLA from LRA. This is a common mathematical term in which you just divide the value of LRA by a number ranging from 5 to 8. The exact number can vary due to various kinds of HVAC systems and their functioning properties but the range remains the same.

Talking about the LRA, it stands for Locked Rotor Amps which is the maximum amount of current that may be fetched at the time of system startup. It only occurs for a few seconds and comes down right after the system starts running properly.

You can calculate RLA just by the equation; RLA = LRA / 6. Where most people suggest this value as it is the average of the range, some manufacturers recommend dividing it by 5.56 to get more accurate RLA values.

Compressor RLA to kW

There are a few values that are required to convert LRA to kW in the most accurate manner. You need values of RLA, voltage, and fan motor amps. Suppose the value of RLA is 22.4 amps, fan motor amps are 1.7, and volts are 460. So, the kW will be derived as:

  • RLA x 2
  • 22.4 x 2 = 44.8 amps
  • (RLA x 2) + Fan Motor Amps
  • 44.8 amps + 1.7 amps = 46.6 amps (Add 1.7 more for every fan even if there are more than one).
  • Square Root 3 of (46.6 amps x Volts)
  • Square Root 3 of (46.6 amps x 460) = 37kVA
  • Now multiply the efficacy power factor, such as if it is 80%, the value of kW will be as:
  • kW = 37 x 80%
  • kW = 29.6 or 30 kW.

Are RLA and FLA the same

RLA and FLA are considered the same as they both are the amount of current that is drawn by the HVAC system while operating. The only difference is the type of condition in which the compressor is operating.

RLA vs FLA

RLAFLA
Stands for Rated Load Amps.Stands for Full Load Amps.
Maximum current drawn by an HVAC system’s compressor.Amount of current drawn during some specific operation or condition of the compressor.
Remain intact in all kinds of operating conditions. It can be said that RLA is the current drawn during the normal working of a compressor.Only come into action when the compressor or motor has reached full load horsepower or torque.

RLA vs LRA

RLALRA
Stands for Rated Load Amps.Stands for Locked Rotor Amps.
Maximum current drawn by an HVAC system’s compressor.Amount of current that is drawn during the start-up of an HVAC system’s compressor.
It applies no matter what kind of conditions the compressor is working in.Only applies at start-up while you provide full voltage.
Remains during the whole operating process or running time.Stop just after the compressor has started working.

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