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TYPES OF ELECTRICAL LOADS | 5 types of electrical loads



Resistive Load

Resistive loads can be purely resistive or of the tungsten-heater load type. A resistive load that has no heating element is the easiest for a switch to handle, and the switch’s rating is based on this type of load. A resistive load is one in which 100% of the load is composed of resistive devices. The power factor is high (PF = 1) and contact erosion is low. Consequently, the switch’s electrical life can be anticipated with some certainty. 

Lamp Load

When a switch closes on a resistive lamp load, the switch sees a short circuit because the cold resistance of the lamp filament is near zero. The surge current as the switch closes can be many times the steady state current. As the lamp filament heats up to operating temperature, the resistance of the filament increases, and the current decreases to the lamp’s steady state. 


Motor loads present yet another brutal environment for switch contacts. Closing the switch contact on a motor start-up load causes very large current surges of about 3 to 8 times the running current. When the switch is opened and the current decreases, the magnetic field of the inductor collapses, and an electromotive force is induced. The polarity of the induced voltage is such as to oppose any change in current flow. This induced voltage aids the source voltage in striking an arc and maintaining it as the contacts separate. 

Inductive Load

Non-motor inductive loads, such as those seen in switching power supplies, have inrush currents that greatly exceed the normal operating currents of the equipment. This inrush current can easily reach 8 to 10 times the steady-state current. As a switch on an inductive load is opened, the inductor, or transformer, induces a counter option “voltage” in the circuit. This voltage opposes any change in the circuit current and can reach hundreds of volts. This extremely high voltage can restrike the arc as the switch contacts open resulting in severely eroded or welded contacts. 


With such loads as DC power supplies, welding machines, and strobe charging units the inrush current is even more damaging than with inductive loads. To the switch, a capacitive load appears as a dead short as the switch closes. In the first few milliseconds, the inrush current can sometimes reach 100 times the steady state current of the circuit. Even worse for the switch, this inrush occurs before the contact bounce has subsided. This produces severe arcing and massive contact erosion. Often the contacts weld upon closure preventing the switch from ever opening. In an emergency, the operator of the equipment would know he could not open the circuit.

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Aanchal Gupta

Welcome to my website! I'm Aanchal Gupta, an expert in Electrical Technology, and I'm excited to share my knowledge and insights with you. With a strong educational background and practical experience, I aim to provide valuable information and solutions related to the field of electrical engineering. I hold a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) degree in Electrical Engineering, which has equipped me with a solid foundation in the principles and applications of electrical technology. Throughout my academic journey, I focused on developing a deep understanding of various electrical systems, circuits, and power distribution networks.

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