- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 13 Mar 2020
Electrical control systems
An electrical control system is a physical interconnection of devices that influences the behaviour of other devices or systems. A simple electronic system is made up of an input, a process, and an output. Both input and output variables to the system are signals. Examples of such systems include circulation pumps, compressors, manufacturing systems, refrigeration plant and motor control panels.
Input devices such as sensors gather and respond to information and control a physical process by using electrical energy in the form of an output action. Electronic systems can be classed as ‘causal’ in nature. The input signal is the ‘cause’ of the change in the process or system operation, while the output signal is the ‘effect’, the consequence of the cause. An example is a microphone (input device) causing sound waves to be converted into electrical signals and being amplified by a speaker (output device) producing sound waves.
Electronic systems are commonly represented as a series of interconnected blocks and signals. Each block is shown with its own set of inputs and outputs. This is known as block-diagram representation.
A CT system is where the input signals are continuous over time. These tend to be analogue systems producing a linear operation with input and output signals referenced over a set time period, such as between 13:00 and 14:00.
An open loop control system is one in which the output does not feedback to the input to correct variations. Instead, the output is varied by varying the input. This means that external conditions will not impact on the system output. An example is a timer-controlled central heating boiler which is switched on between certain preset times regardless of the thermal comfort level of the building.
The benefits of open loop systems are that they are simple, easy to construct and generally remain stable. However, they can be inaccurate and unreliable due to the output not being corrected automatically.
A closed loop control system is one in which the output has an effect upon the input to maintain a desired output value. It achieves this by providing a feedback loop. For example, a boiler may have a temperature thermostat which monitors the thermal comfort level of a building and sends a feedback signal to ensure the controller maintains the set temperature.
Closed loop systems have the advantage of being accurate, and can be made more or less sensitive depending on the required stability of the system. However, they are more complex in terms of designing a stable system.
 Types of control
There are a number of different types of control:
 Manual control
This system uses no automatic controls, the link is provided by the human operator.
 Semi-automatic control
 Automatic control
 Local control
 Remote control
The regulating unit is connected to an actuating device mounted some distance away by means of power transmission through electrical linkages. For example, a remote control to turn on an air-conditioning unit.
 On/off control
 Step-by-step control
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Air conditioning.
- Building management systems.
- Building services.
- Consumer electronics.
- Consumer units.
- Electric motor.
- Electrical appliance.
- Electrical drawing.
- Electrical engineer.
- Energy management and building controls.
- Fan coil unit.
- Mechanical and electrical.
- Mechanical, electrical and plumbing MEP.
- Mechanical ventilation.
- Plant room.
- Protected circuit.
 External resources
Featured articles and news
A memorial to a forgotten academic and political economist.
Three different approaches to building quality homes in urban settings.
Leaving suburbia for exurbia.
Hilton Tallinn Park in Estonia completes sustainable renovation.
Sleeper walls support many projects.
Discover the hidden history of pocket doors.
PwC reports on post-pandemic predictions from executives.
Insight for those entering the field of engineering.
A tool borrowed from statistics and applied to construction procurement.
Reports and factsheets for 2018, 2019 released.
Finding the right landscape maintenance contractor.