What is the primary cause of premature relay failure with AC inductive loads: inductive kickback causing arcing across the contacts or the inrush surge current exceeding the capacity of the contacts? Specifically I'm trying to find the right relay to control a 120vac, 7.7Amp (1/2-hp) furnace motor. The relay would be driven by smoke detectors.
EDIT: To clarify, the furnace has a main power switch and is also turned on and off by the thermostat. The relay itself is not used to turn the furnace on or off EXCEPT in case of a fire, in which case the smoke detectors activate the relay, opening the N/C contacts to shut off the furnace.
An engineer at a major relay manufacturer recommended a model of theirs that would handle the high inrush current but made no mention of any voltage spike suppression. Discussions on this board, however, focus mostly on RC snubber solutions.
Given the nature of my application, the N/C relay contacts would remain closed in normal operation except in the case of fire, monthly detector tests or the occasional burnt slice of toast. So there should be minimal (but not zero) arcing occasions. On the other hand, inrush surges would occur several times a day through the closed contacts as the furnace cycles on and off.
This leads me to think that over-sizing the relay capacity is, indeed, the most important thing. But do you think it would also be advisable to look at a snubber?
OK, no resolution yet. But here's another possible approach... Doesn't a furnace thermostat use a relay to turn the furnace on and off? If so, instead of using the smoke-alarm-connected relay to cut out the furnace motor directly, might it be possible to use this (new) relay to control the current to the existing relay that's already installed somewhere in the furnace? Presumably this existing relay is already properly spec'd and/or surge-protected. I don't have a circuit diagram for this furnace but does that sound like a possibility?