What is a Circuit Breaker?

Of all the safety features in a home, the circuit breaker is arguably the most important. Without the circuit breaker, electrical fires and dangerous shocks would be commonplace!

Let’s take a closer look at these critical devices, how they work, how to buy circuit breakers, and when you need to interact with them.

what is a circuit breaker

How Does a Circuit Breaker Work?

When electricity flows from the power station to your home, it goes through the circuit breaker before powering any of your devices or appliances. Think of circuit breakers as a big safety switch; if there’s a problem that could lead to a shock or an electrical fire, the device shuts off the power.

It would be unrealistic to shut off all the power in a home because of one single issue, which is why circuit breakers split up the home into many separate circuits; they could be organized by room, by appliance type, or by power consumption. Thanks to this organization, your entire house won’t lose power just because you tried to run the microwave and a space heater at the same time – just the devices and appliances on that circuit.

Are There Different Types of Circuit Breakers?

There are lots of different varieties of circuit breakers. The type you have in your home depends on factors such as:

  • The size of your home
  • The year your home was built
  • Whether you’ve had rewiring or electrical work done
  • And more

Particularly for those with older or obsolete circuit breakers, replacement systems or parts can be hard to find. Unfortunately, it’s all-too-common for people to search for days or weeks for obsolete products like low-voltage FPE circuit breakers, which is why it’s key to find a supplier who can match you with the part that fits your system. While there are some parts that can be cross-referenced, you never want to replace parts with those from different circuit breaker types without guidance from an expert.

Click Here to Learn How To Identify Circuit Breaker Types

When Should I Interact with My Circuit Breaker?

Most of the time, you shouldn’t ever have to touch the circuit breaker. In fact, aside from a few basic scenarios, it’s a good idea to avoid fiddling with it and call an expert if you suspect a problem.

However, let’s take the example from above, and say that you’re running your space heater, and then turn on the microwave. Before you know it, everything in the room has turned off. More likely than not, you simply tripped the circuit breaker by pushing the current past its allowance.

In this case, head over to the circuit breaker (if you don’t know where your breaker box is, you’ll frequently find it in a utility room, closet, or basement). Open the door of the box, and examine the switches. If all of them are in the “on” position except for one, you’ve simply tripped the circuit. Turn it back on, and you’re done – although, you now know the limits of that circuit, and will probably have to plug your space heater in somewhere else. If your house was built in the 1960s or earlier, you may have a fuse box with fuses instead of breakers. Once you’ve blown a fuse, you’ll need to replace it with a new fuse.

If you find that you’re seeing something very different when you open the breaker box, or you’ve unplugged the space heater, and the circuit continues tripping, or any other concerning symptoms, always trust your gut. Take a step back and call the experts.

At Circuit Breaker Wholesale, we’re proud to offer one of the nation’s largest inventories of new and used circuit breakers and obsolete or hard-to-find systems and components. To take advantage of our low prices, same-day-shipping, and nationwide service, contact us and we’ll match you with the part you need today!

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