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What is the Difference Between a Circuit Breaker & a Fuse Box

Both circuit breakers and fuses protect wiring by preventing overloads of current from continuing to pass through electrical circuits. However, breakers and fuses differ in how they work.

Both circuit breakers and fuses protect wiring by preventing overloads of current from continuing to pass through electrical circuits.  However, breakers and fuses differ in how they work.


Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker has a bimetallic strip that is sensitive to heat.  For small current overloads, the heat generated causes one of the metals to expand at a different rate than the second metal, and bends the strip downward to release a lever.

For large current surges, a small electromagnet with wire loops pulls the strip down to release the lever. 


Fuse

A fuse has a metal filament that melts when exposed to extra heat generated by currents higher than what the fuse is rated for.  The melted filament breaks the circuit path.


Service Panel

The service panel contains the devices used for circuit protection.  The panel goes by many different names such as breaker box and fuse box.


Breaker Box

Breaker boxes are the most common modern service panel and contain circuit breakers. 


Fuse Box

Fuse boxes are older service panels and contain fuses.  Because of the fire hazard posed by fuse panels, many locales no longer allow them in new construction.

However, fuses still play a critical role in protecting electrical appliances and vehicles. 

About the Author

Michele Jensen started writing professionally for businesses in 1999. Her writings include articles for eHow, Answerbag and COD, marketing materials and project-related documentation. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Houston and a Master of Science degree in international relations from Troy State University.