Float switch: The facts and how does it actually work?

Float switches are simple, universally applicable and exceptionally reliable. It isn’t a coincidence that, today, float switches still represent probably the most commonly used principle for level monitoring. But so how exactly does a float switch actually work?
Float switches, in a straightforward mechanical form, have already been in use for the control of water flows in mills and fields for centuries now still represent probably the most commonly used technology. A hollow body (float), because of its low density and buoyancy, lifts or drops with the rising and, respectively, falling level of the liquid. If one uses this movement with a mechanical lever, e.g. as a straightforward flap control for an irrigation channel, one has implemented a mechanical float switch.
Modern float switches, of course, are used for switching a power circuit and show a clearly more sophisticated design. In its simplest form, a float switch includes a hollow float body with an integral magnet, helpful information tube to guide the float, adjusting collars to limit the travel of the float on the tube and a reed contact located on its inside (see figure).
Suffer : Selection of reed contacts of a float switch
How does the float switch function?
Reed contacts (see figure) of a float switch feature contact leaves within the hermetically sealed glass body, which move together or aside from each other whenever a magnetic field is applied. Regarding a float switch with a reed connection with a normally open function, on applying a magnetic field, the leaves are brought into contact. When the contact between your leaves is made, an ongoing can flow via the closed leaves and a switching signal will be detected.
Regarding a float switch with normally closed switching function, the contact or circuit is interrupted on applying a magnetic field. If one selects a change-over contact, the glass capsule will contain three contact leaves, with which, constantly, a normally closed and a normally open contact are simultaneously manufactured in every operating state.
Since the contact leaves are under a mechanical preload, a magnetic field must be applied in order that the contact leaves close or open as a way to generate the desired switching signal (monostability). The adjusting collars fitted by the manufacturer serve as a limitation for the float body in the right position, to make sure / maintain the desired switching signal on reaching the defined filling level.
So how exactly does one specify a float switch?
The following parameters should be defined:
Amount of switch contacts / switching outputs
Position and function of every switching output
Guide tube length
Electrical connection (e.g. PVC cable outlet)
Process connection
Material (stainless steel, plastic, ?)
Note
As a leading provider of float-based measurement technology solutions, WIKA has a wide variety of variants to meet all your application-specific requirements. The available products can be found on the WIKA website. Your contact person will be pleased to help you on the selection of the correct product solution.

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