Difference Between a Fuse and a Circuit Breaker
Our licensed electricians explains the differences
The electrical system in your home is composed of numerous components, some of which are complex while others may be easy to handle and operate. Your home’s electrical system is more than just a connection of cables. It is a highly complex unit, carefully connected to provide all the electrical energy you need.
As a homeowner, it is highly advisable that you not only know the functions of these components but how to use them as well. This implies that in the event of an emergency or accident, you would be in a position to handle whatever the situation more responsibly and appropriately.
The chances are high that you’ve heard about either the fuse or a circuit breaker. Even though these two might sound similar, they are completely different electrical components. If you are a homeowner who doesn’t know anything about them, you are definitely in the right place. Today in this post, we’ll outline all the structural and functional differences between a fuse and a circuit breaker.
First and foremost, it is imperative to mention that both electrical devices are used to protect an overload circuit. Typically, they work by disrupting the continuity of the electrical current. In fact, the manner in which they disrupt the flow of current is strikingly similar.
As previously mentioned, this is an electrical safety device used to protect your home appliances against the potential damage from high voltage. It usually consists of a thin strand of wire made of a metal. The strip of a fuse usually features aluminium, zinc or copper metals.
These useful devices work based on the principle of the heating effect of the current. As we explained earlier, fuses are made up of very thin strips of metallic wire featuring non-combustible material, which is connected between the terminal ends. Fuse is usually connected in series with the electrical circuit. When the fuse detects that their excessive current being generated through the circuit, it instantly begins to melt down thus opening the circuit.
As we previously noted, these two components serve the same purpose of preventing circuit overload incidences. Typically, circuit breakers are designed to close or open an electrical circuit, thus protecting the system from potential damage.
The working mechanism of a circuit breaker explained.
Circuit breakers are uniquely designed switches which automatically open to stop the flow of current in the event of an electrical fault, usually over-current condition. Relatively smaller circuit breakers, such as those used in most households are usually thermally operated. They feature a bimetallic strip, which when heated, constricts.
When a lot of force is generated by the strip as a result of the strip being overheated, the strip mechanism is triggered and the breaker opens. On the other hand, larger circuit breakers are usually automatically actuated using the magnetic strength generated by the current-carrying conductors inside the circuit breaker.
In this section, we will now review the main differences between the two in terms of notable aspects such as the breaking capacity, functionality, applications, operation mode and time.
In terms of functionality, fuses perform both interruption and detection functions. On the other hand, a circuit breaker only interrupts the flow of current in faulty devices.
After every single operation, you’ll have to replace the fuse. A circuit breaker doesn’t have to be replaced after every operation.
Based on the operation principle, fuses work based on the heating principle of conducting materials. On the other hand, circuit breaker’s functionality is based on the switching mechanism, known to be electromechanical in nature.
In terms of time of operation, a fuse takes a relatively small amount of time to execute its operation, usually 0.002 seconds or even less. On the other hand, a circuit breaker takes comparatively more time, which may range between 0.1 and 0.2 seconds.
The breaking capacity of a fuse is relatively smaller than that of a circuit breaker. Perhaps this is the primary reason why fuses are used extensively in electronic equipment, which is known to draw low current. On the other hand, circuit breakers are used in power machines such as motors as well as other high-end electrical appliances that consume a lot of electrical current.
These are just some of the differences. However, it is also imperative to note fuses are relatively more affordable and are available at virtually all hardware stores. On the other hand, circuit breakers are the opposite and can be dear to install, replace and repair due to its durability.
If you have questions about your fuse or circuit breaker, do not hesitate to contact Gordon Powers on (02) 9199 7409!