Comparison of Fuses with Circuit Breakers


In electronics and electrical engineering, a fuse is an electrical safety device that protects an electrical circuit from overcurrent. Its most crucial component is a metal wire or strip that melts when exposed to too much electricity, causing the current to stop or interrupt. It's a sacrificial device; once a fuse has blown, it's an open circuit that needs to be repaired or replaced, depending on the type of fuse.

Since the dawn of electrical engineering, fuses have been utilised as critical safety measures. Fuses are chosen for their time and current working characteristics in order to give enough protection without causing unnecessary disruption. For most circuits, wiring standards specify a maximum fuse current rating. A short circuit will happen when a damaged live wire makes touch a metal case that is linked to the ground, and the fuse will melt.

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Circuit breakers can be used in place of fuses, but they have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

For similar ratings, fuses have the advantage of being less expensive and simpler than circuit breakers. Replacing a fuse without first isolating the circuit (most building wiring designs lack independent isolation switches for each fuse) can be dangerous in and of itself, especially if the fault is a short circuit.

Fuse with a high rupturing capacity can safely interrupt up to 300,000 amperes at 600 V AC. To safeguard moulded-case breakers in low-voltage power circuits with high short-circuit levels, special current-limiting fuses are installed ahead of the breakers.

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urrent-limiting fuses function so quickly that they aid to protect downstream equipment by limiting the overall "let-through" energy that enters the circuit. Circuit breakers cannot match the speed of these fuses, which open in less than one cycle of the AC power frequency.

Some circuit breakers must be serviced on a regular basis to guarantee that they continue to function mechanically in the event of a power outage. This is not the case with fuses, which rely on melting processes and do not require any mechanical action to operate in fault conditions.

If a single fuse in a multi-phase power circuit breaks, the other phases will experience higher-than-normal currents and unbalanced voltages, which could damage motors. Fuses can only detect overcurrent or, to a lesser extent, over-temperature, and are rarely employed alone with protective relays to give more complex protective functions, such as ground fault detection.

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Some manufacturers of medium-voltage distribution fuses combine the overcurrent protection qualities of the fusible element with the flexibility of relay protection by adding a pyrotechnic device to the fuse operated by external protective relays.

Miniature circuit breakers (MCB) are a popular alternative to fuses in-home applications. Their rated current is determined by the load current of the protected device as well as the ambient operating temperature.