Relays: Learn About Relays Here > Relays are switches that open and close circuits electromechanically or electronically. Relays control one electrical circuit by opening and closing contacts in another circuit. As relay diagrams show, when a relay contact is normally open (NO), there is an open contact when the relay is not energized. When a relay contact is Normally Closed (NC), there is a closed contact when the relay is not energized. In either case, applying electrical current to the contacts will change their state.
Relays are generally used to switch smaller currents in a control circuit and do not usually control power consuming devices except for small motors and Solenoids that draw low amps. Nonetheless, relays can "control" larger voltages and amperes by having an amplifying effect because a small voltage applied to a relays coil can result in a large voltage being switched by the contacts.
Protective relays can prevent equipment damage by detecting electrical abnormalities, including overcurrent, undercurrent, overloads and reverse currents. In addition, relays are also widely used to switch starting coils, heating elements, pilot lights and audible alarms.