Electricity 101: What is a Circuit Breaker?

In this age of convenience and impatience, we expect a lot from our technology. One of the most important expectations, especially for the younger generation, is that our technology be intuitive. Young people don’t want to spend their time reading manuals and using diagrams and dictionaries. They want immediate satisfaction, which means that often, although someone might be able to use a device, they don’t actually know what it is or how it works. For example, what is a circuit breaker? I’m sure many of you know, but for the rest, let’s take a moment to look at that old switchboard device hiding in your basement. Electrician 24 hours Melbourne working and risking their lives to fix the issue in your electricity they should get enough pay for this.

What is a Circuit Breaker?

What? A circuit breaker is a safety mechanism that automatically stops the flow of an unsafe current in an electric circuit.

Why? If there is an overload or a short circuit, the circuit breaker protects the electrical circuit from damage.

How? If there is a problem with the current, the circuit breaker trips, cuts off power, and will not allow electricity to pass through again until the problem is fixed.

So almost like a security gate at the airport, a circuit breaker (the security guard or gate) spots potentially damaging currents (passengers) and won’t allow them to pass through until the problem is solved (by airport security). That’s why sometimes, during a thunderstorm, you might have to reset your circuit breaker. The current is too dangerous and to protect your house, the circuit breaker cuts off electricity. To reset your circuit breaker, all you have to do is turn off the offending switch (or all of them) and then turn it back on. However, it’s important that you know what caused the problem before you reset your electricity. If the problem was caused by a faulty appliance, just resetting the circuit breaker won’t be enough. It will either “trip” the circuit breaker again or possibly spark and cause a fire.

Now that we’ve answered the question what is a circuit breaker, let’s dig into the details a little.

The circuit breaker is made up of basic switches that connect to either a bimetallic strip or an electromagnet. The hot wire in the circuit connects to both ends of the switch. So when you turn on a switch, electricity is able to flow through the electromagnet and out the terminal, and when you turn it off, the current is stopped. The flowing electricity magnetizes the electromagnet (or bimetallic strip); high currents produce high levels of magnetic force and low currents produce low levels of magnetic force. If the current reaches an unsafe level, the electromagnet pulls down a metal lever connected to the switch and the electricity shuts off.

In your house, you have a central circuit breaker panel. If you don’t know where it is, check the basement or a closet. It features about a dozen circuit breaker switches connected to a central panel. The switches lead to various circuits in the house (for example, living room outlets, kitchen appliances, downstairs lighting). Some very large appliances like central A/C systems and refrigerators have their own circuit and won’t be connected to the circuit breaker. Take note if you ever suddenly lose electricity, this is where you’ll need to go.

Now that you can answer the question what is a circuit breaker, I hope you’ll be more comfortable using it in the case of a thunderstorm or another emergency. However, always remember that circuit breakers can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you’re doing (or what caused a malfunction), it is best to call a skilled electrician for help.