Understand How Fuses & Circuit Breakers Protect Your Home in California

Fuses and circuit breakers are two different ways of protecting your home and appliances against large overloads of electrical flow. Large electrical overloads are dangerous; they could destroy electrical equipment and wiring, potentially causing a fire. Both circuit breakers and fuses will automatically block against an incoming surge of electrical power past a certain safety limit.

During a normal flow of electricity, the fuse allows the power to pass unobstructed. But during an unsafe overload, the small piece of metal in the fuse melts, stopping the flow of electricity. When a fuse is tripped, it should be disposed of and immediately replaced by a new fuse. Circuit breakers are switches that are tripped when the electrical flow passes a certain safety limit. Once tripped, the switch simply turns off, stopping the flow of electricity, which will remain off until the switch is reset. Our electricians can then reset the flow of electricity to your home after the problem is resolved.

Never ignore a tripping breaker. If the breaker is tripping, there is a problem. If a breaker trips again immediately after resetting, this will be a very good indication of a short in the circuit that should be immediately evaluated by our electricians. Our electricians are best qualified to determine whether fuses or circuit breakers are better for a particular electrical installation on your home.

Facts & Tips

  • Fuses Prevent Fires—When too much current passes through a fuse or breaker, it ‘blows,’ interrupting the flow of electricity. Without this safeguard, electrical surges could cause overheating, which could potentially cause a fire.
  • Fuses Help Protect Your Electronic Equipment—Without fuses or breakers, any stray electrical surge from lighting, large appliances, or the electric provider could arc within your equipment. Repeated surges over time build up until the equipment finally degrades too much to function.
  • Fuses Need to Be Grounded—Grounding the fuse or breaker is a vital part of the safety system. When a fuse is blown, the electricity is blocked from running down the line, but the electricity still has to go somewhere, that’s why the grounding is important. Grounding provides a safe outlet for that electricity to be released minimizing the risk of electric shocks.
  • Fuses Need to Match the Current—If you have a fuse that is too small for the volts that are running through it, there is a possibility of arcing. If the fuse is too large, it may not blow when a surge occurs. In the event of either, the surge will continue into your electronic equipment potentially causing a fire.
  • Fuses and Breakers Should Be Upgraded Every 20 Years—If your home’s breaker box is older than 20 years, it may be time for an upgrade. Over time, energy use has changed. The demands placed on breaker boxes today are much greater, and an old system may not be able to handle it. If your breakers or fuses are constantly blowing, you may want to think about an upgrade. Generally if you have actual fuses, you have an electrical system that is over 50 years old. You may want to think about upgrading the entire system- including the wiring and outlets inside the house- for safety. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Fuses Blow for a Reason—Find out what it is before you reset or replace. There is always a cause; it may be that you have overloaded the electrical system. If so, just turn off some electrical equipment and try again. Electric clothes dryers and ovens, heaters, air conditioners, vacuums, and hair dryers are often the culprits of an overload. If there is any sign of an electrical fire (such as sparks, smoke, or burnt and melted wires), DO NOT reset the system. Call a Safe-Way electrician before restoring the power.