The Differences Between Circuit Protection in Your Home
If you work in the electrical design field, it’s standard to know the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of fuses versus circuit breakers. However, for the common homeowner, answering this question can be a little bit more difficult. In this article, you’ll find all of the basics you need to better understand the difference between these two types of circuit protection.
- You’ll learn that circuit breakers and fuses do pretty much the same thing, but in very different ways.
- You’ll find a summary of both a fuse and a circuit breaker, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
This should help you to know more about how to move forward with your electrical repair or new project.
What is the Function of Circuit Breakers and Fuses?
As stated in the introduction, it’s important to know that both circuit breakers and fuses serve the same purpose. They’re designed to prevent overloads by interrupting the flow of electricity.
When a circuit is overloaded with electrical currents, it can cause a lot of damage to the electrical system or even start a fire in a home. It’s clear that both systems are important, but only one is necessary for a building or home. They can’t be used interchangeably.
What is a Circuit Breaker?
A circuit breaker works in two different ways.
- One way is through an electromagnet.
- The other is through a bi-metal strip.
When an electrical current is flowing, the circuit breaker allows the current to flow from bottom to top across the metal strip. If the magnetic force becomes too strong, the strip will then throw down the metal lever, causing the current to break. When this happens, all you need to do to reset the current. This is normally done by just flipping the switch and reconnecting the circuit.
Most homes and offices have a circuit breaker located in a cabinet or box somewhere in or outside the dwelling. Circuit breakers also serve other functions, such as a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which prevents an electric shock. This is very useful for places like kitchens or bathrooms where water is continually in use.
What is a Fuse?
Again, a fused is also used to interrupt the flow of electricity if it’s overloading. However, it works in a very different way than a circuit breaker. The most commonly used fuse is made from a metal wire that’s locked inside a ceramic and metal casing. The fuse is plugged into a central fuse box. This central fuse box is where the structure’s wiring flows through.
If the current is passing between circuits and there is no overload, there will be no barrier to stop it. But if an overload does happen, the metal melts and halts the flow of the electricity. This is commonly referred to has ‘blowing a fuse’. When a fuse is blown, it needs to be replaced. Fuses will have different voltage levels and different ratings, so you should speak with a professional before purchasing a new one after an old one has been discarded.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are many different advantages and disadvantages to each circuit protection system. It’s important to weigh both options before choosing one.
- For instance, fuses react faster and are rather inexpensive and can be replaced easily and quickly.
Most homeowners would be able to switch out a fuse on their own in a safe and effective way. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need a new fuse, but can’t access one, this can present a real problem. This is especially true if it’s dark!
- With a circuit breaker, you’re simply flipping a switch to reset the flow of electricity. However, circuit breakers tend to be more expensive. They’re also a bit more difficult to install and repair.
Knowing if a circuit breaker or a fuse is more beneficial will depend on a few things. For instance, you’ll need to understand how old the wiring is in a home, the electrical devices or appliances that you’re using, and how much electricity you use in any given day.
For More Information on Fuses and Circuit Breakers
If your fuse or circuit breaker is in need of a repair, it’s always best to contact a professional electrician to assess the entire situation. Undetected electrical issues can not only be expensive to fix, but they can also be very dangerous.
It’s always better to have a skilled electrician around to help you determine what the problem is and the safest way to fix it. An expert electrician can also help you to decide if a fuse or circuit breaker is better for you and your home. Contact an experienced licensed electrician today for more information!