What is a Pressure Switch?

Malcolm Tatum

Pressure switches are devices that are configured to sense a change in pressure and respond in a specified manner. They are utilized in many different environments, including manufacturing machinery and facilities, utility plants, and public buildings. In some designs, the pressure switch monitors and automatically responds to conditions, while other types require manual intervention.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Generally, a pressure switch is included in any type of equipment that includes components that generate some type of pressure during operation. The pressure may relate to electrical current, the flow of natural gas or liquids, or the creation of steam. With each application, the switch will include components that monitor the amount of pressure generated. As long as the pressure remains within acceptable levels, the pressure switch serves as an easy way to monitor activity. However, most switches will sound some sort of alarm when the level of pressure begins to exceed what is considered a safe range.

Designs for pressure switches vary, based on the type of action that is required. When manual intervention is desired, the pressure switch is often constructed as a toggle switch. This design allows for easy operation when an alarm sounds and there is a need to either activate a venting process or immediately shut down the machinery. For switches that are configured to work in conjunction with computer technology, a microswitch design is common. The micro switch receives commands from the computer program once a safety shutdown or a pressure release is determined to be the next logical step in the sequence.

Since the inception of the pressure switch, the device has proven to be an ideal means of preventing a number of injuries that could result from an overload or explosion. Just about every piece of machinery that employs the use of compressors will include a pressure switch at key phases as part of the safety requirements for operation of the equipment. While automated switches have become more popular in recent years, manual pressure switches are still often installed as a backup that can be utilized in the event of an electrical failure.

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