Why Are Circuit Breakers Important?
You may have experienced this. On a summer day, when your sister is blow-drying her hair, your mother is using the induction cooker and microwave oven to prepare lunch, and you are playing video games in the air-conditioned room. Suddenly, all electrical devices in the house stop working and all of you call out simultaneously: “Dad, fix the circuit breaker!”
Knowing why circuit breakers trip is also important. There are mainly 2 types of reasons: an overload and a short-circuit. For an overload, we can easily solve it by reducing the number of electrical appliances working in the circuit, but for a short-circuit, it is better to call an electrician.
Circuit breakers are often called overload protectors, that is because they are designed to prevent the damage of home appliances overloading the circuit. For example, the wall outlets and lights in a room share a maximum 15A circuit, if the total working current of all the electrical devices exceeds 15A, the circuit breaker for this room trips, cutting off the power immediately to prevent further damage, like overheating or even electrical fires.
When electricity flows from the live wire to the ground or goes back to the neutral wire directly without through an electrical device, it is a short-circuit. It happens when there is a wiring fault, or when the wire’s insulation layer is damaged. In this circumstance, it is impossible to flip the circuit breaker back on unless the short-circuit is found and solved, which requires some expertise, from an electrician or someone with know-how.
New Types of Circuit Breakers
Besides the traditional circuit breakers that you find in the electrical box, there are many new types of circuit breakers in your home.
Many hair dryers shut themselves down automatically after working for a long time, and will not turn back on unless their temperature drops to a certain level. This is a kind of thermo-controlled circuit breaker.
On many power strips or surge protectors, you can also find a type of rocker switch that doubles as the circuit breaker. Different from the traditional “ON/OFF” markings, they are marked “RESET/OFF”, meaning they are resettable. When the electrical devices are drawing more than the rated current, the circuit breaker trips to OFF, and it reminds people to unplug the high-draw devices and flip the switch to RESET the power strip.
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