# Is it OK to use a lower voltage to operate a relay coil than rated coil voltage?

I want to know if I used a lower voltage than what was labeled on the relay was OK. The relay was a 24V relay. I check that the relay turns on when the voltage when the voltage was 13.5v. If I apply that voltage is it reliable?. EDIT: I do not have a datasheet but here is the part number: HTCA024V

• Data sheet required. – Andy aka Dec 24 '15 at 12:49
• Find a data sheet for it - the number you gave in your edit does not show any results. – Andy aka Dec 24 '15 at 13:32

Electromechanical relays are really current operated devices. The relay pulls in when the current is sufficient. The current is determined by the operating voltage and the coil resistance. But the plot thickens - the coil resistance is a function of temperature- the coil temperature- increasing by about 0.4% for every degree C. The coil is heated by the current through it, as well as by the ambient conditions. It is also heated by resistive losses when the contacts are carrying current. The temperature rise above ambient might be 35 C so if the temperature outside your box is 45 C, and the temperature inside is 70 C the coil could easily be running above 100 C. That means the pull in voltage will increase by 1/3. In fact high temperature versions of relays have less tolerance than the usual ones.

Bottom line is that the relay engineers designed the relay to be reliable at the nominal voltage (with a bit of tolerance for unregulated supply voltage) over a reasonable temperature range, and with rated current flowing, and to account for manufacturing variations (friction, spring constant, magnetic properties).

If you know that those assumptions are somehow conservative in your situation (say you have a tightly regulated supply) you may be able to shave a bit off, but you if you are wrong the relay operation may not be assured or contact life may be compromised due to more arcing from sluggish operation. For example the relay may not pull back in on a hot day immediately after it has been on for a while.

Holding current is less than operating current (and contact pressure is not compromised in most relay designs) so it's sometimes possible to give a higher voltage pulse to operate the relay then back off to a lower voltage, but that's seldom worth the trouble.

• When I apply 24V I get a harder click than the 13.5 V click – 12458 _MC Dec 24 '15 at 13:28
• The resulting lower contact pressure results in a higher contact resistance which can result in the contacts overheating and this results in damage to the contacts which shortens the life of the contacts. – Spoon Dec 25 '15 at 9:08
• @Spoon This is not generally true, as I said above. The armature is fully in contact with the pole piece so the contact pressure is set by the contact over-travel and the spring constant. The relay will take longer to close- and if the supply is dodgy and sags chattering is possible. – Spehro Pefhany Dec 25 '15 at 12:59
• It's the quality of the relay that makes the difference. If it does fail look at the contacts to see if they are damaged welded. Of course cheap relays may be a worse problem. – Spoon Dec 25 '15 at 17:06

It depends on the application.

You will find that the relay switches much more quickly when powered at the rated voltage. This results in clean switching with minimum arcing and contact bounce. For a low current application it may be fine. For a high-current application you will probably burn out the contacts fairly quickly.

Note that as the relay armature pulls in that the magnetic circuit air-gap reduces and this increases the magnetic field strength even further, etc. You should find that if you can pick from fully open at 13.5 V that it should hold on until the voltage drops to maybe 2/3 of that.

When the armature gap is closing it is working against the springiness of the contacts. If you can get the cover off the relay you could energise the relay and then press the armature with your finger to confirm that it is fully closed. If not then you might find that it stops when the first contact closes and the second contact doesn't make.

You must meet at least the operate voltage of the relay as given in the datasheet. If you do not then it is very possible that the relay will not switch.

• Or not switch correctly, switch slowly or switch unpredictably. – vini_i Dec 24 '15 at 12:46

The voltage value that is specified for a relay is the value at which the manufacturer guarantees the operation. From experience, I know that usually the relay is activated with lower voltage on and off with a much less than the activation voltage.
However, to ensure the functioning of the circuit, you must respect the nominal voltage, as specified by the manufacturer.

Most relays have a range of voltage specified in their datasheet in which the relay can operate. The minimum voltage of that range is only needed to reliably switch the relay to its new state, and is sometimes called the "must operate voltage".

After switching, a voltage significantly lower than the "must operate voltage" could be applied to keep the relay activated. Take a look at a snippet from this this answer:

12 V relay at 5 V

Here we get to the Real Savings™. First we'll have to explain the 5 V operation. We already saw that we can operate the relay at 9 V, since the "must operate voltage" was 8.4 V. But 5 V is considerably lower than that, so it won't activate the relay. It appears, however, that the "must operate voltage" is only needed to activate the relay; once it's activated it will remain active even at much lower voltages. You can easily try this. Open the relay and place 5 V across the coil, and you'll see it doesn't activate. Now close the contact with the tip of a pencil and you'll see that it remains closed. Great.

• Is it possible to use a capacitor or something to get the higher initial voltage, and then maintain the closed with a lower current? I'm looking for a DPST relay that can handle 15 Amps AC, and the switching voltage seems to be higher for those. – AndyD273 Jan 16 '17 at 18:42