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Difference Between Circuit Breaker and Electric Fuse

Updated on March 5, 2011

Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker
Circuit Breaker

What is Circuit Breaker

Circuit breaker is an important piece of equipment which will stop an electric current reaching a machine when the machine becomes dangerous. It is one of the most useful safety mechanisms in our home. Whenever electric wiring in your building has too much current flowing through it, these machines will cut the power until someone can fix the problem. Household electricity would be impractical without circuit breakers because of the potential for fires and other mayhem.

Miniature circuit breaker

Miniature circuit breaker
Miniature circuit breaker

How Electric Fuse Works

Actually fuses perform much the same duty as circuit breakers and many older buildings and homes still using the fuses to monitor their electric load. In fact, fuse is considered the simplest circuit protection. A fuse is made up of a thin wire which enclosed in a casing and plugs into the circuit. If you close the circuit, all charge will flow through the fuse wire. Your fuse will experience the same current as any other point along the circuit. Since fuses are designed to disintegrate when they heat up above a certain level, therefore whenever the current climbs too high then it will burn up the wire thus destroying the fuse and open the circuit before the building wiring is damaged by the excess current.

Today every newer home has circuit breakers in their electrical panel. Circuit breakers are easier to fix and safer to use than fuses. If a fuse blows, the homeowner often not know which fuse controls which areas of his house. He has to examine the fuses in order to determine which fuse appears to be spent or burned. Other problem with fuses is that they only work once, you need to replace it with a new one after it is blown. To install a new one, the fuse will have to be unscrewed first from its fuse box.

circuit breaker components

circuit breaker components
circuit breaker components

How Circuit Breaker Works

In circuit breaker, when the current jumps to the unsafe levels, the electromagnet (a component inside) will be strong enough to pull down a metal lever that is connected to the switch linkage, causing the entire linkage shifts thus tilting the moving contact away from the stationery contact in order to break the circuit.

Compared to fuses, circuit breakers are much easier to fix. When the power to an area shuts down, all you have to do is to look in your electrical panel, then see which breaker has tripped to ‘OFF’ position. Flip the breaker to ‘ON’ position and the power will resume again.

It is very important to note that when your breaker continues to trip after you flip it, then there is a possibility that you have a wiring problem, a faulty breaker, or some other problems with your electric device which relies on that breaker. Leave the breaker off and you should consult an electrician. Replace your breakers with units of the same amperage. If you use a higher amperage, then you are overriding the safety feature.

These days, many houses carry either a 100 amp or 200 amp electrical service. These circuit breakers can be used accordingly to distribute properly the power throughout the house.

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