Breakers and Fuses are overcurrent protection devices for electrical circuits in your home, office, or warehouse, even in cars, electronics and more. Breakers tend to be the modern solution to protect buildings and permanent installations of power, whereas fuses are common in cars and electronics. Fuses were the standard in the past for buildings. Both function by interrupting the flow of power when the amount of power (the current, in amps) exceeds a set rating. Fuses physically break when the wire inside heats up too much, and thus the fuses are disposable and must be replaced.
CAUTION on fuses – when a circuit is broken several times, some homeowners make the dangerous mistake of replacing a fuse with the next size up. This is a huge mistake as that just allows more power to travel down the wire than it is rated for, allowing the wire to heat up which may cause a fire. The big danger in fuses is that anybody can replace a fuse with any rating. This is why your Top Notch home inspector will want to compare the fuse size to the wire size if they are able to based on the conditions encountered. Breakers are more permanent and reusable. If too much current is drawn, it simply trips and can be reset, but cannot be modified by the homeowner (or at least it is more difficult, and it should not be modified by anyone except a licensed electrician).
Of course, it is possible for a breaker and/or wire to be poorly installed, and your Top Notch home inspector will want to compare the breaker size to the wire size if they are able to based on the conditions encountered.
Too long, didn’t read version: breakers or fuses protect your wires from overheating.
-Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP
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