What’s the Difference Between Fuses and Circuit Breakers?

26 August, 2019
What’s the Difference Between Fuses and Circuit Breakers?

Fuses and circuit breakers are both designed to interrupt the flow of electricity. But they operate through different mechanisms. The fuse works as a piece of metal that melts down when overheated. While a circuit breaker works by operating a switching mechanism when an overflow of electricity is detected. When selecting the right option for your construction project, it’s important to consider the unique benefits both fuses and circuit breakers can offer throughout the property. And so, in this latest post, we’ll explore more about the differences between fuses and circuit breakers.

What are fuses?

The most common type of fuse is a metal wire of filament that comes in a ceramic or glass and metal casing. Within a home, a fuse is likely plugged into the fuse box, through which the building’s power is delivered. With electricity flowing, the fuse allows the power to pass across the filament and between the related circuits. When an overload occurs, the metal filament will melt and the flow of electricity is stopped.

Because of the time it takes a filament to melt, power surges are prevented through the use of fuses. It’s important to note that there are different voltages for fuses and different ratings, which dictate how well the fuse handles specific levels of electricity. It’s also important to note that the best fuse option for your home circuits is one that is rated slightly higher than the maximum capacity of your home operating current.

What are circuit breakers?

Circuit breakers are uniquely designed to operate through two different methods. The first method of operation involves an electromagnet, and the second involves a bi-metal strip. When the power is turned on, the breaker allows the power to pass from the bottom terminal to the upper terminal. If the current begins to reach unsafe levels, the magnetic force of the solenoid is strong enough to move a metal lever in the switch mechanism, which then breaks the current and stops the flow of electricity. Some circuit breakers are designed with a metal strip that bends, thereby initiating the switch and breaking the current.

A leading advantage of circuit breakers is that the switch can simply be reset to restart the flow of electricity to the property.

Protection

One of the main differences between the operation of fuses and circuit breakers is in the style of protection that each system provides the home. Fuses protect against an overload of electricity, while circuit breakers protect against electricity overloads as well as short circuits. And so, you may experience better surge protection within your property through the use of circuit breakers.

Speed of Response

A key advantage for fuses compared with circuit breakers is that fuses can interrupt the flow of power quicker due to the speed of the metal fuse melting process. However, because of this melting process, fuses will then need to be replaced when they melt completely. Meanwhile, a circuit breaker simply needs to be reset when the circuit breaks.

Expense

A leading consideration when selecting an electric system for the home is the expense involved in the installation and maintenance of the system. Installing a circuit breaker within your home can be expensive. That’s due to the complexity of the system and the cost of the components within the circuit breaker. Another key consideration is the time that it takes for a circuit breaker to respond to a surge in electricity in the home. You may find that, because the circuit breaker takes a few minutes to respond to surges, your electrical equipment can be damaged during the surge. And because a fuse stops the flow of electricity almost immediately, fuses can provide an improved level of protection.

Application

Another key consideration when choosing between fuses and circuit breakers is the different applications for which each system is used. For example, fuses are predominantly used in electronic equipment that draws a low current, and in homes with lower electrical loads. Circuit breakers, however, use motors and heavier equipment, which require a large amount of electrical power. It’s a key consideration for properties in which higher power loads may overwhelm traditional fuse-based systems.

The Reasons to Leave the Decision Up to Electricians

While you might have your own idea of how to use fuses and circuit breakers around the property, it’s important that you leave the final decision up to a qualified electrician. Let’s explore the reasons homeowners turn to electricians to make this important decision for their properties:

  • Electricians understand safety concerns

You may have a clear understanding of the power needs within your home, but how much do you know about the potential risks of integrating new systems within the property? Qualified electricians can help you decide which style of power system suits your home. They can explain the risks involved in installing fuses and circuit breakers in older homes and can help you mitigate these risks with their design expertise.

  • Electricians can reduce your costs

While you may pay more initially when working with a qualified electrician, the cost to hire a specialist is relatively little when compared with the cost of repairing your home after an electrical fire. An electrician can also help you design the entire system so that it supports your power demands throughout the home, giving you the convenience of having direct access to the power needed for all appliances and devices.

  • Electricians can quickly complete the work

If you take on the process of choosing a circuit breaker or a fuse system for the home, you may also be integrating the system yourself. Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but the process itself can take many weeks. This is especially true if you don’t know the many points of failure within the system. You may have to keep making quick upgrades and repairs to go over areas you hadn’t previously considered. An experienced electrician understands the technology and its relative performance. And they’re more likely to correctly design your system the first time around.

Our trusted and experienced team at Hi-Lite Electric Inc. is here to guide you in analyzing the value of fuses and circuit breakers for your home. To discover more about our company and our experience in the local market, please call us today.



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