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How Circuit Breakers Work

Ever wonder why there aren’t more accidents with all the electricity in your house?  Circuit breakers.  They protect the wiring in your house from ruining appliances and starting fires.  Without a circuit breaker, we would be in a world of danger and here’s why.

How Electricity is Designed

Electricity is designed to flow in a closed circuit.  Electricity enters a house from the electrical plant through the hot wire and goes into ground or the neutral wire.  These wires should never touch.  Electrical current flows through a house and meets resistance when it goes into appliances.  The resistance slows the current down and makes sure it flows at a safe level.

What Circuit Breakers Do

circuit breakers

Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers monitor the flow of electrical current in your house.  Their job is to stop the electricity any time the level of electricity is not safe.  Any spike or fluctuation in the current and the circuit breaker will stop the electricity from flowing.  This can happen when you have a short in the wire and the hot and ground wires are touching or maybe when an appliance overheats and melts the wires causing them to touch.  Faulty wiring, appliance malfunction and many other things can cause your circuit breaker to trip.

Before modern circuit breakers, the circuit breakers were fuses which were nothing more than wires encased in a capsule.  When a current was too high, the fuse would disintegrate, and stop the flow of current.  Each time this happened, it had to be replaced and a new fuse had to be purchased.

Today circuit breakers come in a few electric designs that use either an electromagnet, bimetallic strip, or explosive charge to throw the switch.  After they have been switched off, you just flip the switch back and they are ready to protect again the next time.

The picture on the right is a central circuit breaker panel in the circuit breaker box.  The circuit breakers can go to a group or area in your house, such as, your bedroom.  Circuit breakers can also be used for large appliances like your air conditioner.  The circuit breakers are usually marked so that you know what they are for.  They should all be switched to the same side, in the on position if they are all in use.

More advanced circuit breakers use electronic components and circuitry.  One of these is the GFCI (Ground fault circuit interrupter), These are used in homes to prevent electric shock.  They are commonly seen in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms at the wall socket.  The GFCI monitors the hot and ground wires to make sure they have the same flow.  As soon as the hot wire is slightly different then the ground, the circuit in interrupted.  This happens quickly at the site to prevent electrocution.

If you have any questions about your circuit breakers please call Rose Brothers & Sons Electric. If you are constantly having problems with your circuit breakers tripping it is a good idea to have your wiring checked and the problem repaired.

 

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