Q:

How does a relay switch work?

A:

Quick Answer

A relay switch runs by sending electricity through an electromagnet in order to close or open a secondary circuit. The metal arm of the secondary circuit has a spring that is overpowered by the magnetic attraction created when power flows through the electromagnet. This attraction is what affects the circuit.

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Full Answer

The basic components of a relay switch are the electromagnet, the armature, the spring and a set of electrical contacts. An electromagnet is a device that only acts as a magnet when it has power running through it. The armature is a piece of metal that must be able to interact with a magnet so that it can be moved to close or open the circuit, while the spring must be able to hold the armature in whatever position is the default for the machine. The electrical contacts are what send power through the electromagnet and the secondary circuit.

There are two types of relay switches: normally open and normally closed. Normally open is the most common sort of relay switch. A relay switch that is normally open has no power running through it when the electromagnet is inactive. When the electromagnet is activated, it pulls the armature of the secondary circuit closed. This sends power through the secondary circuit. A relay switch that is normally closed has power when the electromagnet is not activated. Activation of the electromagnet opens the circuit and stops the flow of power through the secondary circuit.

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