Last year, a question was posed to us that has never been asked in the past, which was, “what is an 800 watt treadmill?” I've heard of vacuum cleaner being advertised in amps but typically treadmills are advertised in horsepower. To put it very simply, wattage can be determined by multiplying voltage by amperage.
That made everything fall into place when I went back to my electrical theory education. The reason that companies like to create new ways to advertise is to take a weakness and make it a strength…or at least confuse the issue so you can’t compare apples to apples.
It is similar to the horsepower confusion caused by the government’s refusal to establish a standard for rating horsepower in household appliances. Since there is no standard, you can rate horsepower any way you want and confuse the public but this is not an article to get me started on that issue. I’ve written plenty on that before.
Getting back to putting an 800 watt treadmill in perspective, the available voltage for an average treadmill is 120 VAC. It can vary but let’s take that as our example. In a typical workout with a 200 lb. person, the amperage that is needed usually does not exceed 10 amps in a healthy treadmill. So, if you multiply 10 amps with 120 VAC input voltage, you see that you need at least a motor that can handle 1,200 watts.
The problem is that you rarely have average or the norm. That’s why manufacturers put 15 amp breakers on the machines because most can safely handle up to 15 amps without damaging the components and input voltage can be as high as 130 VAC. With this type of input voltage and with the treadmill pulling more than normal amperage, you would need a motor that can handle 1,950 watts.
Back to our 800 watt motor…to put it in proper perspective, the 800 watt motor is almost 60% SMALLER than what you could reasonably assume that you might need with a treadmill operating and is nearly 35% SMALLER than what you would need for a treadmill operating in PERFECT conditions.
Obviously, a manufacturer who is using watts to describe a treadmill motor is using this to confuse the consumer because they have put an inferior component into their machine and they don’t want to show the actual horsepower of the motor.
Another reason that watts is a bad indicator of how the treadmill is rated is because watts is an indication of how much electricity has been used, not the capacity of the motor. For instance, when the power company bills you for your monthly electricity usage, do they bill you for the volts you use or the watts? Of course, they bill you for wattage.
Similarly, the use of watts to define the capacity of a motor, although creative, is obviously an attempt to mask a poorly powered machine in the case of an 800 watt treadmill.