There are a few questions you must answer before purchasing a motor for your disco ball.
What size disco ball will be right for my party?
How heavy is it?
Will I be able to install this from a ceiling or other structure? Or, will I need to use a stand?
Based on the answers to these questions, you can begin your search to find the appropriate motor to hang your mirror ball from and dazzle your guests.
There are two types of disco ball motors. Hardwired and battery-powered. Either can be permanently mounted to a structure but it is recommended that you use a battery-powered motor if you intend to use a stand or using more frequently such as one venue to another. Hardwired motors are built with better quality and will support a larger and heavy disco ball.
Now that you know there are two different motor options, let’s get a little more specific with the size, weight, use of our disco ball and the overall atmosphere we are trying to emulate at our event.
Hardwired Disco Ball Motors
Hardwired motors are best suited for businesses that may host or rent out large rooms for events. A few examples would be a hotel, conference center, banquet hall, or restaurant that has dedicated rooms for large gatherings and are accustomed to throwing a party or reception of some kind. Night clubs would also be a great example of a company that may want to purchase a hardwire motor.
Due to the larger room size these facilities offer, it’s fitting to have a stationary, dedicated spot for a disco ball. If you plan to “go big” (and not go home), and your mirror ball is going to stay in one place for a while, we’d recommend you find a high quality hardwired motor.
You’ll need to have a power outlet nearby with appropriate power capabilities (voltage and amps) to support the motor.
Now, hardwired motors vary drastically from model to model, so it’s important to review the product specifications in advance before you make your purchase.
Motor Size and Weight
First, you’ll want to know the size and weight of the motor itself. Your event space may have a dedicated spot to hang the motor but if the motor itself has certain dimensions that aesthetically don’t line up it will become an eyesore. Additionally, the total weight (motor plus the disco ball weight) may not hold well to the structure (it is recommended that the structure be able to hold 10x the total weight), you may need to find another motor that will meet your needs.
Disco Ball Size Capacity
Next, you will want to make sure the motor is built for the size of the disco ball you have. Each motor’s description should state what size (usually in inches) mirror ball it is designed for, or it may provide the maximum size it can handle.
Disco Ball Weight Capacity
In addition to the size, you should ensure the description gives the weight capacity. Most standard hardwired motors will be suitable for a disco ball up to 16”. Anything larger, you will most likely want to look into a heavy-duty motor (see below).
Another feature you will want to review is the Revolutions Per Minute, or R.P.M. Simply put, RPMs are the total number of full rotations (360 degrees) the disco ball will make per minute. Motors can range from 0.5 RPM (very slow and dramatic) to 15 RPM (dizzy bat competition world champion) or greater. RPMs are personal preference, but you’ll want to be somewhere in the 1-3 RPM range. Any slower or faster and there will be negative consequences to your guests which means negative word of mouth about your event.
Does the motor come with a warranty? If you are spending good money and plan to use this motor time and time again, you should find a motor that has a respectable warranty. Most manufacturers will have a limited-warranty and cover parts or defects for up to a year.
What is this going to cost me? A standard, decent quality hardwired motor can be found online for $10-20.
Some motors may come with a hanging chain and others will have just a metal pin with a hole that can be used to connect a chain or clip.
Another consideration would be the length of the power cord. This is very difficult to find on most product descriptions and may require a call to the manufacturer or seller. However, our research has shown that the most common standard power cord is about 54” in length.
If you are hosting a small get together, or going to be more mobile with your disco ball displays such as a band or disc jockey, you’ll most likely want to consider a battery-powered motor.
Battery-powered motors provide more flexibility with setup positions, not to mention quicker. You’d be capable of popup raves in just a few minutes.
Outside of the power cord, the same features of a hardwired motor apply when considering a battery-powered motor.
How Are Battery-Powered Motors Different From Hardwired Motors?
The shape of a battery-powered motor tends to be a cylinder compared to a cone or box/square shaped hardwired motor.
The hook or pin for connecting the disco ball is made of less quality material. This is relative, however, as a battery-powered motor does not have the same size and weight capacity as a hardwired motor.
The RPMs are generally higher in most battery-powered motors but difficult to measure without a stopwatch. The product specification sheets will give an RPM range but these vary based on the size and weight of the disco ball. Also, the RPM may slow down over time as the battery becomes weaker. Battery-powered motors tend to not have multiple RPM settings, rather just an on/off switch.
The on/off switch can prove difficult if you hang your motor and disco ball from a high ceiling or structure. We would recommend finding a motor that has a remote control if this is the case.
The cost of a standard battery-powered disco ball motor will range in price from $8-15.
Battery Type and Lifespan
Be careful to ensure your battery-powered motor includes a battery. If not, that is okay as many manufacturers will not include (the reason being the risk of the battery not working depending on how long the product has sat on the shelf), so you will need to purchase separately. Knowing this in advance is key as we wouldn’t want you to purchase your motor but not be able to use it because of this oversight.
Most battery-powered motors require a C battery, but you may find some that require D or even AA. Battery life will vary depending on a lot of factors so this is difficult to answer.
Battery-Powered Motor Recap
Battery-powered disco ball motors are an inexpensive, robust solution to hanging a disco ball and making setup quick and easy. This type of motor is ideal for a smaller venue (and smaller disco ball) or the traveling entertainers.
If a disco ball is 16” or greater, or weighs more than 5 pounds, a standard battery-powered motor is probably not the best option. For safety reasons alone, but it won’t be able to deliver on the desired RPM or could burn out the motor altogether. And no one wants a show-stopping buzz kill.
For disco balls of substantial size or weight, you will want to consider a heavy-duty motor. The threshold we recommend is a 16” or 20” disco ball and weight above 12-15 lbs (while, on the surface, these specifications may not warrant a heavy duty motor).
Heavy-duty motors can vary dramatically in size/weight (both physical and capacity), features and price.
There are heavy-duty motors, for example, that can accommodate a 20” disco ball and up to 22 lbs with a range in price from $25-$45. Conversely, there are heavy-duty motors that can accommodate up to a 40” disco ball, 89 lbs and comes with a price tag of roughly $130-$140.
The higher-priced motors have additional features such as DMX which means Digital Multiplex. DMX is a universal protocol used as a form of communication between intelligent fixtures and controllers. In the case of a disco ball (think music and light show), DMX is what helps control the pinspots, speed of the motor (RPMs), and the director of the motor to deliver on the ultimate party experience.
Suffice to say, these types of motors are for professionals.
There are a few reputable manufacturers we would recommend looking into if you are in the market for a mirror ball motor. They are American DJ, Eliminator and Phantom Dynamics.