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How A Circuit Breaker Works And Why You Should Care

Published: November 28, 2018 Last Updated: December 07, 2020

Each year in Australia there are on average 15 deaths caused by electrical shocks in the home with many more injured. In most cases the disturbing factor was that a simple circuit breaker would have saved the lives of many of these individuals and stopped countless others from being injured. So now you know why you should care about circuit breakers the question is – how do they work?

Arguably one of the most important safety devices in your home, the circuit breaker works by cutting the power to a particular appliance or socket as soon as it senses a power surge.

A/C current

As the main power grid delivers electricity to your home it enters a circuit breaker box where it’s split into a number of small circuits. One end of the circuit leads to the electricity flowing from the plant into your home (the live wire) and the other end (the neutral wire) leads to an electrically neutral source also known as the earth. Combined they create an electrical volt which moves around the circuit whenever the circuit is closed. This is known as alternating current or A/C simply because it moves from one direction to another.

The importance of resistance

The power grid delivers a constant supply of electricity usually between 220 and 240 A/C. However the resistance (and therefore the current) varies in an individual home. Each appliance including light bulbs offer varying degrees of resistance and this is what makes each appliance function.

As an example, a light bulb has a certain resistance to a flowing charge and because of this the charge has to work harder to move along the circuit. This in turn heats up the filament thus causing it to glow.

On occasions the live and the neutral wire come into contact. For example a fan heater might overheat and fuse the cabling causing the live and neutral wiring to come into contact with one another. When they do, because there is now no resistance to the circuit, a huge amount of electricity is pushed through causing a power surge. If left the wiring can overheat very quickly and cause a fire.

The job of a circuit breaker

With this in mind the job of the circuit breaker is to cut off the current the moment it jumps above a safe level. The circuit breaker consists of a simple switch which is in turn connected to an electromagnet. When the switch is in the ‘on’ position electricity can flow through the breaker normally. When increasing current is detected it boosts the electromagnets current force making it strong enough to reverse the position of the ‘on’ switch causing it to cut the power. This all happens within a fraction of a second.

As you can see a circuit breaker is a must for your home and can be placed in the main fuse box itself or on individual appliances or plug points. For complete peace-of-mind why not talk to Static Electrics to have an in home electrical safety survey. This way you’ll know for sure just how safe your home really is as well as suggesting ways to make it better. For further information, contact our electricians on 0488848940 and book yours today.

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