Key Differences Between Fuses and Circuit Breakers

Fuses and Circuit Breakers both serve the same purpose – which is to protect electrical circuits by preventing overloads that can cause fires. They both interrupt the flow of electricity, but in very different ways from each other. While a fuse is made of a piece of metal that melts when overheated, circuit breakers on the other hand, have internal switch mechanisms that can be tripped by an unsafe surge of electricity.

Fuses can be quicker for interrupting the flow of power, but when they melt they must be replaced; circuit breakers on the other hand just need to be reset. When comparing the two, we’ll take a look at some of the major advantages and disadvantages between fuses and circuit breakers to distinguish between them.

Fuses

Fuses come in different types – for both residential and commercial use. The most common type is made from a metal wire or a filament that is enclosed in a glass or ceramic and metal casing. In residential homes, the fuse is usually plugged into a central fuse box, where the building’s wiring passes through. When electricity flows, the fuse will permit the power to pass unobstructed across the filament between circuits. If overloads occur, the filament melts and stops the flow of electricity.

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It will take some time for the filament to melt, and therefore any power surge is stopped. When a fuse is blown, it is to be discarded and replaced with a new fuse. There are different voltage and ratings that are available which handle different capacities of electricity. The best fuse for a circuit is usually one that is rated for slightly higher than normal operating current.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit Breakers have two different ways of working – the first is through the use of an electromagnet and the other is through the use of a bi-metal strip. In both instances, when turned on, the breaker allows electrical current to pass from a bottom to an upper terminal across the strip. Once the current reaches any unsafe levels, the magnetic force of the solenoid or strip becomes strong enough to throw a metal lever in the switch mechanism, breaking the current. The other option that can happen is that the metal strip can bend, throwing the switch and breaking the connection.

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In order to reset the flow of electricity, the switch can just be turned back on. This reconnects the circuit. Circuit breakers in many cases are found in a cabinet of individual switches known as the breaker box. This simple switch action allows for an easy turn-off for individual circuits in a house when needed for working on a wiring in the location.

Circuit breakers have other applications, such as using for ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. The function of this is to prevent electric shock, rather than just overheating. It breaks the circuit in an outlet if the current gets unbalanced. It can be reset by the touch of a button, and is generally useful in kitchens or bathrooms, where electrocution is a risk from the use of electrical appliances near water sources such as sinks or faucets.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Fuses are more inexpensive, available at nearly any hardware store. They react quickly to overloading, offering more protection to sensitive electronic devices. The only problem in this is that if the circuit is prone to surges that regularly cause fuses to blow, then the quick reaction to the overloading can be a disadvantage.

When fuses are blown, they need to be replaced. This can be difficult, especially in a dark room, or if the replacement fuse is not available at the time of need. In many instances, too, people find themselves replacing a fuse with the replacement fuses that actually has a higher voltage or current rating that is too high for the application or need – which can then cause an overheated circuit.

Fuses are generally speaking, easy to see which switch has been tripped, and which would need to be reset. The average homeowner would find it safe since there is no doubt about choosing the right fuse rating and all of the electrical connections are in the breaker box.

The disadvantage to using a circuit breaker is that it can be more expensive to install, repair and replace. Circuit breakers won’t react as quickly as a fuse in power surges. This means it would be possible that electronics connected to the circuit could be damaged by energy that is just let through. It can be more sensitive to vibration and movement, which may allow for a switch to trip for reasons that are unrelated to electricity overloads.

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Circuit breakers and fuses are not interchangeable for all power applications. For instance, a fuse should not be used in situations that require a GFCI. Electricians are best qualified to make decisions on whether a fuse or circuit breaker system is better for any particular instance or scenario or electrical installation. If you have any questions about a particular project and would like to know more, you can talk to an accomplished professional at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).

The Skyscraper as a Small Town

Chicago_SkylineSeptember 3rd is Skyscraper Day, a date chosen in honor of Louis H. Sullivan, who is considered the father of skyscrapers. The first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885. It was a metal framed structure that reached a dizzying 10 stories into the sky. This was a time when most structures still relied on stone support and they worried that a human’s face would peel off if a train reached 60mph. Some continue to define a skyscraper as any building that reaches 10 stories, though most reserve the term for buildings that are at least 100 stories. Continue reading “The Skyscraper as a Small Town”

Planning for the Worst: No Electricty

Summer-Power-OutagesThe heat, the humidity, the storms: Summer in the Midwest. With the summer storm season in full bloom and a change of season around the corner (Sorry for the reminder), there’s no better excuse to make sure your home and business are prepared in case of a weather-related emergency. Continue reading “Planning for the Worst: No Electricty”

The Joy of Dimming Lights

A great way to save energy and provide a bit of ambience to any space is to install dimmable lighting. Residential installations of a dimmer switch is something an experienced homeowner can do, although a qualified electrician is still advised – particularly in an older home, where the conditions may not marry well with today’s technology.

Dimmers-lightsThere are several factors to consider when adding or replacing dimmable lighting in the home.

The primary consideration is in the choice of quality components, which is true for any electrical supplies purchase. When it comes to dimmable lighting, inferior products always provide poor performance. Common experiences with subpar products include buzzing, flickering, and intermittent performance. One of the reasons problems occur is that low quality dimmers simulate dimming by flashing power rapidly – up to 120 times a second. The result is electromagnetic resistance, which results in vibration and buzzing.

High quality switches actually raise and lower the voltage to the fixture, allowing for a smooth transition between light levels.

Steiner Electric carries several high quality solutions for your dimming needs. For example, take a look at what we carry from Leviton’s line of dimmer switches for both residential and commercial applications. Leviton’s universal dimmers will future-proof your fixtures. They are designed to work with dimmable incandescent, LEDs, and CFL bulbs.

When it comes to residential remodeling plans or a commercial build, sometimes the lighting is left till the end. Calling Steiner Electric early in the planning of any changes to your home or business will help dim any headaches!

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The Magnificent Fuse: Often Overlooked, Greatly Needed

historical-homeOwning an historical home can be a rewarding experience. Someone who is willing to accept the challenges that a century-old house presents will not only own a piece of history, but also a unique vision that embodies the dreams of another era. Before long, the homeowner will add to that vision, joining a conversation that promises to extend for generations to come. Continue reading “The Magnificent Fuse: Often Overlooked, Greatly Needed”

Electric Cars Storm Detroit’s Annual Auto Show

This year’s automobile expo in Detroit, Michigan was bathed in its customary glitz as car manufacturers around the world gathered to showcase the best of their new-fangled and their fantastic, their jaw-dropping and their completely impractical. Especially sparkling this year was the electric and hybrid vehicle niche. Despite the recent downturn in oil prices, the electric vehicle market continues to enjoy the attentions of manufacturers both large and small. While some companies may be suspected of dabbling in electric and other alternative fuels as a means to placate government imposed fleet-wide emission standards, most such forays appear passionately legitimate – particularly concerning those working in the battery-powered sphere.

Boutique auto-maker Tesla Motors continues to reign supreme in the high-end electric vehicle market.

Few could doubt Tesla’s commitment to the electric vehicle market. From aesthetics to engineering, Tesla knows how to make batteries sexy. Their top production vehicle, the Model S P85D shown below, is not only as sleek as it is lovely, it can embrace you against its bucket seat as it accelerates from 0-60 in just over three seconds on battery power alone. But that embrace is costly. The base Model S P85D starts in the high 90’s, and that’s with incentives.Tesla-Electric-Detroit-Auto-ShowTesla-Electric-Detroit-Auto-Show

Fortunately, Tesla knows the rest of us need love, too, if they ever want to grow beyond a boutique brand limited to a few privileged early adopters. In fact, their desire to establish a presence in the mainstream may have contributed to last year’s release of their technological patents into the public domain. A bold move, indeed. Yet, it is in their best interest to encourage a vibrant, competitive market, because that will lead to industry innovation as a whole, as well as the growth of the infrastructure required to support their products.

Charging stations, like those available here at Steiner, will be as commonplace as gasoline pumps. Did you know you can charge your EV at our Rockford, Elk Grove and St. Charles locations?

EV-hero-550x305 Steiner-Electric-Charging-StationsReleasing their patents into the public domain isn’t the only way Tesla hopes to disseminate their brand throughout Middle America. One of their contributions to 2015’s Detroit Auto Show was more hints regarding the latest iteration of the Tesla Model 3, due in 2017, with an expected retail price of $35k. Along with its relatively affordable price tag comes an all-electric sedan that will probably seat five and get up to 200 miles per charge.

But will Tesla lag behind competitors at this price point?

Among a fleet of noteworthy at the Detroit show this year was Chevy’s freshly debuted prototype model called the Bolt (not to be confused with the Volt, which is Chevy’s gas-electric hybrid). Like the Model 3, the Bolt is also expected to reach consumers in 2017, and it also boasts a strictly battery powered engine that can travel up to 200 miles on a single charge. It will seat four, and it certainly won’t have the sensual aesthetics of Tesla’s designing, but the Bolt’s most impressive feature is its price tag: a respectable $30k.

chevy-bolt-ev-concept 2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – rear extWhile it is clear that internal combustion engines will be with us for a long time to come, many will soon be able to fill up their car for the week’s commute by simply plugging into the solar array adorning the roof of your home or workplace. Not only will such sustainable transportation make our wallets a bit heavier, it just might help our children and grandchildren breathe easier as well.

Solar Power Experts Promote Rigorous Standards of Quality

Solar power has come a long way since the summer of 1878, when Augustin Mouchot harnessed sunlight at the third Paris World’s Fair to make a block of ice. It was an impressive feat for his time, but Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator was technologically akin to a child’s naughty wielding of a magnifying glass to assault an anthill. He simply funneled the sun’s heat. Instead of using the heat to roast innocent ants, he used it to fuel a modified steam engine which powered a condenser, essentially turning sunlight into ice.Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator

Today’s photovoltaic technology works on a much different principle. Basically, a solar cell photovoltaic technologyis made from material such as silicon that release electrons when struck by photons of light, causing the material to polarize. This is called the photoelectric effect, and describing it won Albert Einstein a Nobel Prize. If you arrange these cells into a circuit and expose them to sunlight, an electric current is born. Modern research and development into photovoltaics is geared toward increasing efficiencies in power generation, transmission, and storage – while at the same time bringing down costs through advances in manufacturing techniques.

Advanced technologies require advanced skills.

For Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), electrical safety from the industrial to the personal has been a cornerstone of the organization’s existence. UL has been fundamental to worldwide electrification for over a century, with a commitment to quality and safety that is as active and vibrant as ever. In 2013 alone, UL evaluated over 90 thousand products and nearly 22 billion products were manufactured bearing their stamp of approval. Along with product evaluations, UL develops professional accreditation and certification programs that set industry standards, including the expanding solar power industry.

For example, UL offers a Photovoltaic System Installer Certification. The qualifications to even attempt this certification demonstrates UL’s rigorous professional standards. An applicant must have passed the OSHA 30-hour construction safety program and be recognized as a Qualified Electrician, which requires an apprenticeship, classroom training, and state licensure. This reflects thousands of hours of real world experience (roughly 2 – 4 years, depending on individual state licensing guidelines). Once the certification is achieved, the installer must earn six continuing education credits in photovoltaic technology within three years in order to retest, which is when the certification expires.

Clearly, you can expect a UL certified installer to be the embodiment of competence. Keep that in mind when you consider adding or upgrading a solar system for your home or business.

Steiner Solar Installers

Expanding Battery Life Through Automation

Look around you, maybe it’s on your desk, in your pocket, you’re holding it, or it fell between the couch cushions and you’re scrambling to find it because you haven’t checked Facebook in the last 20 minutes.

We’re talking about your Smartphone.

Continue reading “Expanding Battery Life Through Automation”

Harvesting Daylight for Your Business

Did you know that you can harvest daylight through your windows at work?

We all know how much the sunlight can affect employee moods as well as sales of products, but it’s affect on the office space works in better ways…for your pocketbook. Plus, using daylight as the primary source for illuminating a space is more sustainable in the long run. Continue reading “Harvesting Daylight for Your Business”

The Power of LED in the Future

To start off July, Detroit announced it had installed its 10,000th LED street light and was on track to add 55,000 more. Lighting Motor City is no easy task but Detroit’s Mayor says this project has helped some neighborhoods be illuminated for the first time in years leading to safer streets at night. On a larger scale, news like this for the lighting industry is even bigger.

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Detroit installed it’s 10,000th LED street light in early July

Continue reading “The Power of LED in the Future”