Fuses and circuit breakers can protect your home from electric shock. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to know about fuses and circuit breakers. Learn the basics and protect your home from a possible fire outbreak!
Fuses and Circuit Breakers | Protect Your Home from Electrical Shock and Fire
Fuses & Circuit Breakers
Dear James: My children are getting old enough to use small electrical appliances. Can you tell me about the various types of fuses and circuit breakers for their protection and mine? — Jennifer H.
Dear Jennifer: People often think of protection from being shocked, and some devices do this, but house fires are also a serious problem. House fires caused by electrical problems are particularly bad because they often start inside a wall. Especially at night, a fire can spread far before it is detected.
The most common protective electrical items in most homes are circuit breakers and fuses. They are found in the home’s main electrical panel, which provides electricity to the entire house.
Circuit breakers and fuses shut off the electric current when it exceeds a predetermined level. This often is either 15 or 20 amperes or amps.
To help understand this, we can compare flowing electricity to flowing water. An amp is the actual amount of electricity flowing through a wire just as gallons per minute are the actual amount of water flowing through a pipe.
A bigger water pipe can handle more water and a bigger electrical wire can handle more amps. Electrical voltage is the force pushing the amps through a wire just as water pressure pushes water through a pipe.
If you increase the water pressure, more water flows through the pipe. If you increase the voltage, more amps of electricity flow through the wire. Certain size electric wires are required by municipal building and safety codes to handle certain numbers of amps.
If you plug in too many appliances, the total amps required to run those appliances can be too great for the wire. When that happens, the wire can get so hot it starts a fire or shorts out through the insulation.
How Circuit Breakers & Fuses Work
Both circuit breakers and fuses stop the flow of electricity through a wire before the excess flow gets dangerously high for the wiring. Of the two devices, circuit breakers are the most convenient.
Once you unplug the excessive appliances, you can flip the breaker switch to restore the flow of electricity. Unlike circuit breakers, when a fuse blows it must be replaced before electrical flow can be restored.
Even though less convenient and seldom installed in new homes, fuses still provide the most reliable and precise protection. That is why many expensive and sensitive electronic devices have fuses instead of circuit breakers.
AFCI & GFCI
The most modern circuit breaker is the arc fault circuit interrupters or AFCIs. Even though the electric current does not get too high, arcing has a particular signature and an AFCI interrupts or shuts off, the flow of electricity when arcing occurs.
A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is similar to a circuit breaker in that it can be reset. But GFCIs protect against electric shock.
If the insulation on a wire breaks or gets shorted to the ground, the electric current skyrockets, and the circuit breaker or fuse shuts it off. A GFCI will detect a slight short circuit or ground and shut off the electricity.
This slight short circuit is generally not enough to cause the electric current to spike and trip a circuit breaker. If the current from this slight short circuit passes through the nerves to your heart, it can be fatal.
GFCIs should be installed on all outdoor circuits or circuits located near sources of moisture, such as bathrooms and garages.
For example, if you are using a hairdryer with a slightly short and your arm is touching a damp fixture in the bathroom, some electricity could flow through your body. A GFCI turns off the flow of electricity before you can be shocked fatally.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com.
To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
Watch this video by This Old House on how fuses and circuit breakers work and protect our home:
There you have it! Fuses and circuit breakers play a vital role in protecting our home from possible fire outbreaks and serious damage. Knowing these things will save your life and those of your loved ones!
Have you used any of the mentioned fuses and circuit breakers to protect your home? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on May 22, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.