Don’t Blow it – Electrical Fuses
Blown fuses are probably one of the most relatable and common issues that we encounter in the electrical world. They can take place at home, the office, your local business, and even in your vehicle. The premise of this post is to not only educate you on the technical proceedings of electricity in relation to fuses, but to magnify the process from the origin of the problem to the overall assessment and repair of the issue.
What is a fuse?
A fuse is a safety device equipped with a conductor strip that promptly melts and breaks an electrical circuit when an overcurrent takes place, or when the amperage level has exceeded the limits of the circuit. The purpose of a fuse is to essentially prevent or lower the risk of an electrical fire and shock.
There are two types of fuses. First the plug fuse, which is built in a screw formation and its base, resembles that of a light bulb. The newer models are referred to as “Edison-based” sockets, which come embedded with a glass feature that indicates if there has been damage or if the fuse has been blown. Another model includes the cartridge fuse, which are thin cylinder-shaped fuses with contact points at both ends usually covered by metal caps, and a glass barrier placed in the center, much like the plug fuse, allowing you to view the internal contents of the cartridge.
What Can Cause a Fuse to Blow?
There are numerous factors that are potentially responsible for a blowing fuse. The one we frequently run into or is most foreseeable is the excessive use and compilation of devices into one particular area. Too often we come across homes and offices in which the electrical circuit is being overloaded by a superfluous number of items, all condensed into one socket. If a specific fuse is being blown repeatedly when certain devices are turned on, it could be a sign that one too many items are plugged into that particular outlet.
Fuses also come with ratings, which indicate how much electricity they can and cannot handle. The capacity of the fuse should always be higher than the amperage level of the object or device the fuse is assigned to protect. If a fuse is too low for the circuit that it is intended to maintain, that is more than enough reason for it to blow unexpectedly. The solution for this issue is pretty simple, just switch out your fuse for one with a higher rating and better equipped to manage the intensity of the circuit.
Another factor to consider when a fuse is blown is the age of the fuse. The longer the fuse has been in service, the higher the chances are that its power and intensity have diminished, impeding it from performing at a high quality and ultimately causing it to blow. A blown fuse can also be caused by a power surge. A power surge can be defined as a temporary elevation in the electricity maneuvering through the circuit.
How Do I Fix a Blown Fuse?
When it comes to restoring electricity to an area that has experienced a blown fuse, there are some rather simple steps you can take to restore power to the circuit. First, turn off all lights and unplug a few devices, starting with the most recent item that has been added to the outlet. Usually the last item added is the catalyst for the blowout.
Next, locate your electrical panel. If you live in a home, it is usually housed in the basement or utility room/closet. If you reside in an apartment, your electrical panel is likely to be placed in the hallway of the lowest level of your unit. Open the panel and when you look inside you should observe that one of the breakers has either shifted from “on” to “off” or is seemingly stuck between the two. Set the breaker to the “off” position first, and proceed to move it to the “on” placement.
If your home is equipped with a fuse box however, your actions will require a little more attention to detail. Ideally, when a fuse has blown, the glass container in the center of the fuse will either display a melted piece of metal or discoloration, usually a strong dark color. Disable the broken fuse and replace it with an identical fuse of the same type, size, and capacity.
Be extremely cautious and make sure that both of your hands are dry and that you are also standing on dry ground when dealing with the electrical panel. When finished replacing the fuse, ensure that the power is still circulating my plugging in one or more devices into your circuit. If another blowout occurs, please be sure to contact a licensed professional.