A pressure switch is a form of switch that closes an electrical contact when a certain set pressure has been reached on its input. The switch may be designed to make contact either on pressure rise or on pressure fall.
A pressure switch for sensing fluid pressure contains a capsule, bellows, Bourdon tube, diaphragm or piston element that deforms or displaces proportionally to the applied pressure. The resulting motion is applied, either directly or through amplifying levers, to a set of switch contacts. Since pressure may be changing slowly and contacts should operate quickly, some kind of over-center mechanism such as a miniature snap-action switch is used to ensure quick operation of the contacts. One sensitive type of pressure switch uses mercury switches mounted on a Bourdon tube; the shifting weight of the mercury provides a useful over-center characteristic.
The pressure switch may be adjustable, by moving the contacts or adjusting tension in a counterbalance spring. Industrial pressure switches may have a calibrated scale and pointer to show the set point of the switch. A pressure switch will have a differential range around its setpoint in which small changes of pressure do not change the state of the contacts. Some types allow adjustment of the differential.
The pressure-sensing element of a pressure switch may be arranged to respond to the difference of two pressures. Such switches are useful when the difference is significant, for example, to detect a clogged filter in a water supply system. The switches must be designed to respond only to the difference and not to false-operate for changes in the common mode pressure.