Fuse Box vs. Circuit Breaker: The Guide
Fuse boxes and circuit breakers protect electrical devices from overcurrent, but they are fundamentally different. The key difference between a fuse box and a circuit breaker is that a fuse box has to be replaced immediately after it is blown, while a circuit breaker is a multi-use device.
A circuit breaker is a safe and modern device that automatically interrupts the electrical flow in a circuit when it detects an overcurrent. It prevents devices in a house or a room from overloads and short circuits. A fuse box is an electrical panel containing fuses that melt and break the circuit as a safety measure when excessive current flows through. It protects the individual device from electrical fire. In this blog, we will review the difference between fuse boxes and circuit breakers and whether a fuse box should be replaced with a circuit breaker.
Fuse Box vs Circuit Breaker: Points To Consider
- A fuse box uses fuses made of a piece of metal that melts when overheated. This melting breaks the circuit and stops the flow of electricity. Circuit breakers are switches that automatically cut off the flow of electricity when they detect an overcurrent or short circuit.
- Fuses can only be used once. When they blow due to an overcurrent, they need to be replaced. Unlike fuses, circuit breakers don't need replacing after they tripped. They can simply be reset.
- Fuses respond to overcurrents quickly, while circuit breakers take longer to respond.
- Fuses have a lower breaking capacity than circuit breakers.
- Fuses supply 60 Amp max, while circuit breakers exist for 200, 300, and 400 Amp breakers.
- Circuit breakers have additional safety features, like ground fault or arc fault protection.
- Circuit breakers protect either an entire house or a room, while fuse boxes usually protect a single device or appliance.
- Circuit breakers are safer than fuses by a mile. They make identifying which circuit has a problem easier and don't require replacement after tripping. Modern circuit breakers often come with additional protection features like ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), which are important in modern electrical safety standards.
Should I Replace the Fuse Box with a Circuit Breaker?
In the United States, you are likely to have a fuse box if your house was built in the 1960s or before, and the wiring has not been replaced since.
It is generally recommended to replace the fuse box with a circuit breaker for safety. Circuit breakers are generally considered safer than fuses, as they can be quickly reset and more easily tested for functionality. They also reduce the risk of using the wrong fuse size, which can be a fire hazard.
What is more, circuit breakers are more user-friendly, as they can be easily reset after tripping without the need to replace a fuse. This is particularly convenient in cases of frequent overloads.
The replacement of the fuse box usually comes with the replacement of wiring and full electrical renovation. You can keep the fuse box in the older installation if the electrical circuit is not fully loaded and the renovations in the building are not planned. However, if you live in a house with a fuse box and want a fully functioning modern house, it is best to replace a fuse box with an adequate load circuit breaker.
! If the fuse is replaced with another fuse, it should never be replaced with a fuse of a higher rating because it may cause overheating and fires. Only use the fuse with the intended rating for the circuit!
How to Spot The Difference Between a Circuit Breaker and a Fuse Box?
- Find your home's electrical service panel. This is usually a gray metal box located in a basement, garage, utility room, or sometimes outside. In older homes, it might be located in a closet or hidden behind furniture.
- Once you've located the panel, open it carefully. If you have a fuse box, you'll see round, glass-topped or opaque fuses. These fuses screw into sockets and are usually arranged in a row.
- If your home has circuit breakers, you'll see switches lined up in rows. These switches can be toggled on or off, and each switch corresponds to a different area or appliance in your home. When a circuit breaker trips due to an overload or short circuit, it typically moves to a neutral position between on and off, which you can then reset to the on position.
Is Fuse Box Better Than Circuit Breakers in Some Applications?
A circuit breaker is preferable in home applications over a fuse box. However, in certain industrial and specialized electrical system contexts, fuses are preferred over circuit breakers due to their quick response time and precision in overcurrent protection. In particular, they can be used in high-speed production lines, semiconductor manufacturing, and laboratory equipment.