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A relay is an electrically run switch. Many relays utilize an electromagnet to mechanically run a switch, however other running principles are likewise utilized, such as solid-state relays. Relays are utilized where it is necessary to control a circuit by a different low-power signal, or where a number of circuits should be managed by one signal. The very first relays were used in far away telegraph circuits as amplifiers: they repeated the signal coming in from one circuit and re-transmitted it on another circuit. Relays were used thoroughly in telephone exchanges and early computer systems to perform sensible operations.

A kind of relay that can handle the high power required to directly manage an electric motor or other loads is called a contactor. Solid-state relays control power circuits with no moving parts, rather using a semiconductor device to carry out switching. Relays with adjusted operating attributes and sometimes multiple operating coils are utilized to safeguard electrical circuits from overload or faults; in contemporary electric power systems these functions are carried out by digital instruments still called "protective relays".

Magnetic locking relays need one pulse of coil power to move their contacts in one instructions, and another, redirected pulse to move them back. Repetitive pulses from the very same input have no effect. Magnetic latching relays work in applications where interrupted power need to not have the ability to shift the contacts.

Timing relays are arranged for a deliberate delay in running their contacts. A really short (a portion of a second) hold-up would use a copper disk between the armature and moving blade assembly. Current streaming in the disk keeps electromagnetic field for a short time, extending release time. For a slightly longer (up to a minute) hold-up, a dashpot is utilized. A dashpot is a piston filled with fluid that is permitted to get away gradually; both oil-filled and air-filled dashpots are utilized. The time period can be varied by increasing or decreasing the flow rate. For longer time durations, a mechanical clockwork timer is set up. Relays may be arranged for a fixed timing period, or may be field adjustable, or remotely set from a control panel. Modern microprocessor-based timing relays provide precision timing over an excellent range.

Some relays are built with a sort of "shock absorber" system connected to the armature which avoids instant, complete motion when the coil is either energized or de-energized. This addition offers the relay the home of time-delay actuation. Time-delay relays can be built to delay armature motion on coil energization, de-energization, or both.

Time-delay relay contacts should be specified not just as either usually open or normally closed, but whether the hold-up operates in the direction of closing or in the instructions of opening. The following is a description of the four fundamental kinds of time-delay relay contacts.

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