Fuse vs Circuit Breaker: What’s the Difference?

Fuses and circuit breakers interrupt the flow of electricity, but they differ when it comes to how they interrupt that flow. If you’re wondering whether to get a fuse or a circuit breaker, read on to find out what sets the two apart.

What is a fuse?

A fuse can be found between two power terminals, and is constructed from a piece of metal enclosed in a ceramic or metal case. It’s designed to allow power to flow through the wires and into the circuit. However, when it overheats, it melts away. This can occur when the electricity that flows through the fuse is more than what the fuse was designed for.

When this occurs, it “blows” and obstructs the flow of electricity to the circuit. It’s worth mentioning that a blown-out fuse can’t be reused, but instead, will need to be replaced.

What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker protects an electrical circuit in case the current exceeds its capacity. In short, it cuts the flow of current when there’s a fault. Compared to fuses that will melt away, a circuit breaker will switch itself off.

Circuit breakers are operated by an electromagnet. This electromagnet allows power to pass from one terminal to another. When the current is too intense, the magnetic pressure gets so strong that it triggers the circuit to “trip” and cut the flow of electricity. When a circuit breaker trips, it can be switched back on.

What’s the difference between the two?

Fuses are cheaper than circuit breakers, but choosing the right fuse can be challenging. A fuse that isn’t outfitted for your home’s electrical load can cause damage. If you use a fuse that’s too large, it won’t melt away in time. Similarly, if you use a fuse that’s too small, it will overload too fast. Should you choose this route, consult a licensed electrician to ensure it’s the right fuse for your day-to-day electrical needs.

Circuit breakers are a popular choice, but keep in mind that they cost a lot more upfront compared to fuses. The advantage is that it won’t melt, so you won’t have to replace it when it trips. Plus, circuit breakers come with more protection in the form of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) that keep you safe from electric shocks.

Fuses and circuit breakers can cut off the connection in case the circuit tries to take on more electricity than it can handle (aka an overload). But only circuit breakers can cut off electricity in case of a short circuit, or when a neutral and a live wire come into contact with each other.

In terms of response time, a fuse can cut off power within 0.002 seconds of detecting an overload, while a circuit breaker takes about 0.02 to 10 seconds to trip. With that said, fuses tend to react faster than circuit breakers and can provide more reliable protection to sensitive devices.

Let a licensed electrician decide

If you can’t decide between a fuse and a circuit breaker, it would be best to consult a licensed electrical company such as Beeson Mechanical Service, Inc.. We will evaluate your electrical needs to determine which one is more suitable for your situation. Remember, electrical safety should be non-negotiable, so be sure to get the sound advice of an expert. Get in touch with the Beeson Mechanical Service, Inc. team today by dialing (317) 535-9338.