Originally Posted by biertourist
I have the feeling that this is a dumb question but I'm not quite sure why: in the SSR -> Contactor -> heating element configuration: in this configuration is the SSR consuming power even though the switch to the contactor is closed?
When the contactor is open (off - I think that is what you mean), the element will not draw any power, so the SSR is not really consuming any power. Similarly, you have power running up to your wall outlets, but unless you plug something in to draw power the outlet is not consuming any power.
You can put the contactor before the SSR, but it does not really matter. In both cases, both hot legs run through the contactor, only one runs through the SSR, and the SSR is potentially being switched by the PID even when the contactor is open (off).