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Utilization Categories for Contactors

We use contactors as the prevalent electromechanical switching device. It acts as the load switch in most
of the automation systems. Hence, selection of contactors based on loads plays a very important role in
any automation system. The main criterion for contactor selection is Utilization category.
In electrical engineering, utilization categories are defined by IEC standards and indicate the type
of electrical load and duty cycle of the loads to ease selection of contactors, relays and disconnectors. A
switching duty is characterized by the utilization category plus indication of the rated operating voltage
and the rated operating current or the load characteristics. The standard utilization categories define the
current making and breaking values for switching devices.
They depend on the following:

The type of load to be controlled (squirrel cage or slip ring motor, resistors)
The operating cycle conditions (motor running, stalled or starting, reverse operation, countercurrent braking)
The international standard IEC 60947 defines utilization categories as below :
Combination of specified requirements related to the conditions in which the switching device or the fuse
fulfils its purpose, selected to represent a characteristic group of practical application.
NOTE: The specified requirements may concern eg. The values of making capacities (if applicable),
breaking capacities and other characteristics, the associated circuits and the relevant conditions of use
and behaviour.

Util. Cat
AC-1
AC-2
AC-3
AC-4
AC-5a
AC-5b
AC-6a
AC-6b
AC-7a
AC-7b
AC-8a
AC-8b
AC-12
AC-13
AC-14
AC-15
AC-20
AC-21
AC-22
AC-23

Motor Application
Non inductive or slightly inductive loads, resistance furnaces
Slip-ring motors; starting , switching off
Squirrel-cage motors; starting, switching off motors during running
Squirrel-cage motors; starting, plugging, inching
Switching of electric discharge lamp control
Switching of incandescent lamps
Switching of transformers
Switching of capacitor banks
Slightly inductive loads in household appliances and similar applications.
Motor loads for household applications
Hermetic refrigerant compressor motor control with manual resetting of overload release
Hermetic refrigerant compressor motor control with automatic resetting of overload release
Control of resistive loads and solid state loads with isolation by optocoupler
Control of solid-state loads with transformer isolation
Control of solid-state electromagnetic loads <= 72VA
Control of a.c. electromagnetic loads > 72VA
Connecting and disconnecting under no-load conditions
Switching of resistive loads, including moderate overloads
Switching of mixed resistive and inductive loads, including moderate overloads
Switching of motor loads or other highly inductive loads

The following gives an understanding of various utilization categories and devices


There are also utilization categories pertaining to Transfer Switching Equipment and Solid State Switches,
However, we shall not discuss them here.

The various parameters pertaining to different utilization categories are as below:

Ie = Rated Current
Ue= Rated Voltage
Operating Cycles are cycles per hour. For duties related to auxiliary contactors, the number is limited by
the switching device it actuates.
The most prevalent utilization categories for various products are as below:
1)

Contactors : All power contactors have nameplate rating corresponding to AC-3 rating. Special purpose
contactors for Hoisting Duty, Heating and Capacitor duty have ratings corresponding to their respective
utilization category.
2) Auxiliary Contactors : All auxiliary contactors have nameplate rating corresponding to AC-15 duty .
3) Disconnectors : All nameplate ratings for Disconnectors (SDF/Isolators/MCCBs) correspond to AC-23
rating unless otherwise specified.
The above chart shall be useful in selection of devices for various applications. Exact selection charts for
various duties can be obtained from the device manufacturers as they will depend on the performance
parameters.
(Many thanks to Siemens, Schneider Electric and ABB for providing the relevant data and charts)

Rated Making & Breaking Capacity (overload)


Making

Operating
cycle

Breaking

AC-1
AC-2
AC-3
AC-4
AC-5a

I/Ie
1.5
4
10
12
3

U/Ue
1.05
1.05
1.05
1.05
1.05

Cos
0.8
0.65s / 0.95r
0.45>Cos>0.35
0.45>Cos>0.35
0.45

AC-5b

1.5

1.05

incandescent light load 1.5

AC-6a

The mfg. Shall verify the rating by testing with a transformer


Capacitive ratings may be derived by capacitor switching tests or assigned on the basis of established practice and
experience.
1.5
1.05
0.8
1.5
1.05
0.8
50
8
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
8
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
50
6
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
6
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
50
6
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
6
1.05
0.45>Cos>0.35
50
1
1
0.9
1
1
0.9
#
2
1
0.65
1
1
0.65
#
6
1
0.3
1
1
0.3
#
10
1
0.3
1
1
0.3
#
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
1.5
1.05
0.95
1.5
1.05
0.95
5
3
1.05
0.65
3
1.05
0.65
5

AC-6b
AC-7a
AC-7b
AC-8a
AC-8b
AC-12
AC-13
AC-14
AC-15
AC-20
AC-21
AC-22

Ic/Ie
1.5
4
8
10
3

Ur/Ue
1.05
1.05
1.05
1.05
1.05

Cos
0.8
0.65s / 0.95r
0.45>Cos>0.35
0.45>Cos>0.35
0.45

1.05

incandescent light load 50

50
50
50
50
50

AC-23

10

1.05

0.45>Cos>0.35