A contactor is an electrically controlled switch used for switching an electrical power circuit, similar to a relay except with higher current ratings and a few other differences. A contactor is typically controlled by a circuit which has a much lower power level than the switched circuit, such as a 24-volt coil electromagnet controlling a 220-volt motor switch.
Contactors come in many forms with varying capacities and features. Unlike a circuit breaker, a contactor is not intended to interrupt a short circuit current. Contactors range from those having a breaking current of several amperes to thousands of amperes and 24 V DC to many kilovolts. The physical size of contactors ranges from a device small enough to pick up with one hand, to large devices approximately a meter on a side.
Contactors are used to control electric motors, lighting, heating, capacitor banks, thermal evaporators, and other electrical loads.
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