Circuit Breakers vs Fuses

by Mindy, Product Marketing Specialist 14. June 2011 17:03

If Circuit Breakers and Fuses are designed to perform the same essential function - what is the big difference?

Circuit breakers and fuses employ two separate types of technology to protect against sudden, large excesses of electrical current, also known as circuit overload.

Why should I be concerned with circuit overload?  Circuit overload is the term given to identify a highly undesirable circumstance when more amperage is put across an electrical wire or circuit than it can safely handle. When this occurs, a number of hazardous conditions become concerns including; potentially destroying electrical equipment, extreme heat, and electrical fire.   

Circuit Protection via Fuse - A fuse contains a metal filament through which electricity must pass to "complete the circuit."  As electricity passes, the fuse is constantly working to detect the amount of current being transmitted. If current reach suddenly becomes too high the metal filament will melt, disrupting the flow of electricity and shutting down excess equipment. After the filament of a fuse has melted there is no way to repair the fuse, it must be replaced .

Circuit Protection via Circuit Breaker - Circuit breakers work by detecting current via pilot device and are able to turn themselves off once current reaches levels that are too high. Circuit Breakers come in a variety of different types ranging from low-voltage to very high voltage models. When current exceeds what the circuit breaker can handle the breaker will automatically "switch off" electricity. After the problem is identified circuit breakers can be easily switched back on and require no replacement.  

Pros and Cons - Arguably , there are several pros and cons associated with each of  the technologies. Fuses, generally far less expensive, posses greater safety concerns and provide a greater opportunity for human error to occur. Fuses must also be replaced every time an overload is experienced. Circuit breakers, typically considered to be safer and "less hassle" option do not need to be replaced after an overload, however, the technology may also come with a higher price tag in tow. Electricians are best qualified to determine whether fuses or circuit breakers are better for a particular electrical installation.

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