Breakers vs Fuses: Everything you need to know
Both breakers and fuses limit electrical current when amperage reaches an unsafe level, meaning they do basically the same thing. Ultimately, they help protect your circuits from catching fire. However, fuses protect electronics and appliances, while breakers protect circuits, motors and larger equipment.
What is a fuse?
A fuse is a short length of wire designed to melt when it becomes too hot, in the event of excessive current. It protects electronics and appliances because it blows quickly. It comes in different voltage and amperage increments. Types of fuses include thermal fuses, mechanical fuses, spark gap surge arrestors and varistors.
Fuses are useful in a variety of temperatures and atmospheric conditions, and they are resilient. You can put them nearly anywhere to detect a power surge. The biggest con for a fuse is you must replace it after it blows.
What is a breaker?
In high current circuits, breakers are the most common form of overcurrent protection. They contain a thin strip of two metal bonded back-to-back (bimetallic strip), and it bends when heated. Since circuit breakers open rather than melt in overcurrent conditions, then you can re-close them by moving a lever. This makes breakers more permanent to a circuit than a fuse.
Typically, circuit breakers respond slower than fuses, and sometimes they can break because of too much movement or vibration and not because of overcurrent. While breakers last much longer than fuses, they do not last forever. Breakers have a finite number of times to be reset before it needs replacement. When the circuit is interrupted, electrical arcing occurs in small amounts and corrodes the area until the breaker is deteriorated.
The pros and cons for circuit breakers and fuses.
The nice thing about breakers is they are not a hassle to turn back on, but if you are constantly dealing with a tripped breaker, then it is likely there is something seriously wrong with the circuit. In these situations, you are just delaying the inevitable of having to replace the entire circuit.
Breakers are also very safe with a nearly non-existent chance of electrocution. This feature is valuable when individuals who are not experienced with electricity will be servicing the appliance or electronic. It is also clear when a breaker is tripped, but less obvious when a fuse is blown.
In contrast, fuses are more difficult to replace, but they are inexpensive, and if your circuit is working properly then you will not have to change it. Fuses also potentially expose electricians to live circuits, but many have safety features installed, and using the right tools will prevent any danger.
The overwhelming options for both circuit breakers and fuses on the market means that both options offer advantages. However, neither option will stop over current from damaging electronics or appliances perfectly.
Here are the two most important questions to ask when deciding between a fuse or a circuit breaker.
Who is handling the maintenance? Is it someone experienced or inexperienced with electrical wiring. Circuit breakers are generally safer than fuses.
How quickly does a fuse or circuit breaker need to blow to protect the electronics? Fuses burn faster than circuit breakers will trip.
Keep these top three tips in mind to be safe.
- Know where your circuit breaker panel or fuse box is located in your home, and keep a path clear to get to it.
- Check fuses to ensure they are installed correctly to prevent overheating.
- Keep the cover of the fuse box or breaker panel closed to keep it clean and safe.
If you have an older home in Oklahoma City or Norman, consider bringing in the professionals to make certain none of the wiring, breakers or fuses are in need of replacement.
Know when it is time to hire an electrician.
If you experience circuit breakers that open frequently or fuses that blow repeatedly for no apparent reason, then contact the best electrician in OKC to help. At A&P Homes Electric, we bring 50 years of experience to your home to fix any problems you may have with your breakers or fuses.
We are a long established electrical company in norman, so if your electrical issues keep leaving you in the dark call us at 405.326.6117.