Electrical Contactors: types of contactor & Working

A contactor is an electrical switching device used to control and manage the flow of electricity in an electrical circuit. It is typically used in industrial and commercial applications where high voltage or high current levels are involved. Contactors are designed to handle the switching of electrical loads that may be too large or impractical for manual switches or relays.

Here are some key characteristics and functions of contactors:

  1. Electromagnetic Operation: Contactors use an electromagnetic coil to create a magnetic field when energized. This magnetic field attracts a movable metal armature or plunger, which, in turn, closes or opens electrical contacts to establish or interrupt the flow of current.
  2. Switching High Currents: Contactors are designed to handle high current loads, making them suitable for applications such as motor control, lighting control, heating systems, and other industrial equipment.
  3. Remote Control: Contactors can be controlled remotely using control signals from devices like switches, timers, sensors, or programmable logic controllers (PLCs). This allows for automation and remote operation of electrical systems.
  4. Auxiliary Contacts: Many contactors come equipped with auxiliary contacts, which are additional sets of contacts that can be used for monitoring or signaling purposes. These contacts are often used to indicate the status of the contactor (e.g., open or closed).
  5. Durability: Contactors are designed to handle frequent switching without degradation in performance. They are built to withstand mechanical wear and tear and are often rated for a specific number of electrical operations.
  6. Arc Suppression: Contactors may incorporate arc suppression mechanisms to reduce the electrical arcing that occurs when contacts open or close. This helps prolong the life of the contacts and ensures a more reliable operation.

Contactors are commonly used in various applications, including motor starters, lighting control panels, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems, and industrial machinery. They play a crucial role in controlling and protecting electrical circuits and equipment in these applications.

types of contactor

Contactors come in various types and configurations to suit different applications and voltage/current requirements. Here are some common types of contactors:

  1. Power Contactors: These are the most common type of contactors and are designed for switching high-power loads, such as motors, lighting, and heating elements. They are available in a range of sizes and current ratings to accommodate different power requirements.
  2. Definite Purpose Contactors: Definite purpose contactors are designed for specific applications. They are pre-engineered for tasks like motor control, air conditioning, refrigeration, and lighting control. These contactors are often more compact and cost-effective for their intended use.
  3. Mini Contactors: Mini contactors are smaller in size compared to standard power contactors. They are suitable for applications with limited space or lower current requirements.
  4. Reversing Contactors: Reversing contactors are used for controlling the direction of rotation of electric motors. They have two sets of contacts that allow for forward and reverse motor operation.
  5. Vacuum Contactors: Vacuum contactors use a vacuum chamber to extinguish the arc that forms when contacts open or close. They are often used in high-voltage and high-current applications where arc suppression is critical.
  6. Magnetic Latching Contactors: Magnetic latching contactors use a permanent magnet to maintain their contact position when power is removed. This makes them energy-efficient and suitable for applications where continuous power is not required to keep the contactor closed.
  7. Solid-State Contactors: Solid-state contactors use semiconductor devices, such as thyristors or triacs, to switch electrical loads. They are often used in applications that require precise control and frequent switching, such as in heating and temperature control systems.
  8. Hermetically Sealed Contactors: Hermetically sealed contactors are designed to be completely sealed to prevent the entry of contaminants or moisture. They are commonly used in harsh environments or in applications where reliability is critical.
  9. Contactor Relays: Contactor relays are small-sized contactors often used for control and signaling purposes. They can switch auxiliary circuits and are commonly found in control panels and automation systems.
  10. Air Break Contactors: Air break contactors use compressed air to blow out the arc formed when the contacts open. They are used in medium-voltage applications where arc suppression is necessary.
  11. Motor Control Centers (MCC) Contactors: These contactors are specifically designed for use in motor control centers, which are panels containing multiple contactors and other control devices for managing motors in an industrial setting.

The choice of contactor type depends on factors such as the electrical load, voltage level, environmental conditions, and the specific requirements of the application. It’s important to select the appropriate contactor type to ensure reliable and safe operation in a given electrical system.

How to working Electrical Contactors

A contactor is an electromechanical device used for switching and controlling electrical loads in various applications. It operates based on the principles of electromagnetic attraction and repulsion. Here’s how a typical contactor works:

  1. Electromagnetic Coil: A contactor contains an electromagnetic coil, usually located on the bottom or side of the device. When an electrical current flows through this coil, it generates a magnetic field.
  2. Magnetic Attraction: The generated magnetic field attracts a movable metal armature or plunger. This armature is typically spring-loaded to maintain its default position.
  3. Contact Points: Attached to the armature are one or more sets of electrical contacts. These contacts consist of stationary contacts (fixed contacts) and movable contacts (typically mounted on the armature).
  4. Contact Closure: When the electromagnetic coil is energized by applying voltage or current to it, the magnetic field attracts the armature, pulling it toward the coil. As a result, the movable contacts attached to the armature make contact with the stationary contacts. This completes an electrical circuit, allowing current to flow through the contactor.
  5. Contact Opening: When the electromagnetic coil is de-energized by removing the voltage or current, the magnetic field weakens, and the spring-loaded mechanism pushes the armature back to its default position. This action causes the movable contacts to separate from the stationary contacts, interrupting the electrical circuit.

The key functionality of a contactor is to provide a means for remotely controlling the flow of electrical current to a load, such as a motor, heater, or lighting system. It allows for the on/off control of these loads without manual intervention and can handle high currents and voltages that would be unsafe or impractical for manual switches.

Contactor working principles are essential for various applications, including motor starters, lighting control, HVAC systems, and industrial machinery. Contactor designs may vary slightly depending on the specific type and manufacturer, but the core operating principles described above remain consistent. Proper selection, installation, and maintenance of contactors are crucial for the reliable and safe operation of electrical systems.