Circuit Breakers Explained
When it comes to circuit breakers, the first thing that should come to your mind is circuit protection. These automatic electrical switches are put in place in order to protect a circuit from excess current. A circuit breaker knows to spring into action when it detects a fault, and does this by interrupting current flow. Without these handy devices, the chances of fires or other electrical issues would skyrocket! A circuit breaker functions a lot like a fuse (see "What Is A Fuse?" for more info) except instead of needing to be replaced after a circuit interruption, a circuit breaker can be used time and time again. Basically, there is a piece of metal in the breaker. When this piece of metal is heated to extreme temperatures, this causes the breaker to “trip.” When the piece of metal in the circuit breaker cools down, it can be reset again. This is how a breaker is built to last longer than a normal fuse.
Now that we understand the importance of circuit breakers and their basic functions, we need to look into what happens next. As mentioned earlier, we are lucky enough to be able to use circuit breakers multiple times. It’s not like they are magic, there has to be some explanation for how they can be reused, right? Correct! There are three ways that a circuit breaker is able to reset in order to keep protecting and going strong!
These functions include:
- Automatic Reset: This type of breaker will recycle continuously when overcurrent does occur. It will deflect and separate the contacts when heated and will return to its original position once it cools. Until the overcurrent is fixed, this process will continue.
- Modified Reset: This means that the breaker will remain in the off position, otherwise known as “tripped,” as long as there is power to the circuit. Once the power is removed, the circuit breaker will reset. These types of circuit breakers contain internal resistors.
- Manual Reset: Manual reset sounds a lot like what you would expect; the breaker will stay tripped until the user manually reactivates the breaker either by lever or by indicator button
When it comes to the circuit breakers at Del City, 12V DC (Direct Current) breakers are the norm. Although there are many types of breakers, the main three we will go over are standard, high-amp, and blade. Depending on the type, there may be certification requirements present as well in order to make sure that your breaker is working properly.
Standard Circuit Breakers
Standard circuit breakers are available in all three types of reset options that were explained earlier in this post. Del City carries Switch and Stud Mount (canned) breakers with panel and surface mount options. These standard breakers can be used in a variety of environments, and are very common. All of the sub-categories within standard circuit breakers are single pole. This means that the breaker has one hot wire as well as one neutral wire. In this case, the hot wire is considered the “pole.”
A Switch Circuit breaker is basically a breaker and switch combined into one convenient package. These are usually compact to facilitate use and save space on your panel. Because you only need one product instead of two, the wiring and assembly costs are greatly reduced. Although these can be used in a variety of environments, they are frequently seen in household/commercial appliances, transportation, marine, telecommunications, exercise equipment, audio-visual, and more!
A Stud Mount breaker (otherwise known as a canned breaker) is single pole and a thermal overload type of circuit protection. These are very diverse breakers as they can be used in applications such as marine, truck, portable generators, and trolling motors. They are available in either metal or plastic housings depending on specific needs as well as being available with or without a mounting bracket. When it comes to the difference between panel and surface mount options, the main deciding factor is the desired location of your breaker. If you are looking to attach to a flat location, the surface mount would be your best option. Conversely, if you are looking to attach your breaker to a circuit panel (utilizing multiple circuit breakers) where a flat surface is not present, a panel mount would be the choice for you.
Hi-Amp Circuit Breakers
A hi-amp environment is where circuit breakers really shine. Fuses may be able to cover a wide range of amperages as well, but have nothing on breakers when it comes to the higher amps. If you were to need circuit protection for a major project that requires a lot of power, you would want to entrust in a Hi-Amp circuit breaker.
Del City has a variety of Hi-Amp breakers that range from 25 amps all the way to 200! They are also available in all three reset styles in order to accommodate your specific needs. Because these can be so powerful, they are great for auxiliary and accessory circuit within automotive, recreational, and marine applications. With this kind of reliability, they can be trusted to protect from overloads or current shortages.
Blade Circuit Breakers
Blade circuit breakers are named for the general appearance of the breaker itself. As with other types, there is a housing. From this housing protrudes two “blades” which are then used to insert the circuit breaker into the desired location. The blade breakers follow a fuse footprint, making them incredibly versatile. For example, blade breakers can be used where usually a fuse would be present, such as a fuse block. All three types of resets are available with blade breakers. What makes blade type unique is the variety of sizes and functions that fit this general description.
For example, Maxi Fuse breakers are a type of blade breaker. This type combines a maxi sized housing and circuit breaker terminals. Again, following this footprint makes it more versatile. This allows it to be used in applications such as automotive, marine, trucks, buses, and portable generators.
On the other side, Mini Fuse breakers are also categorized within blade style. These follow the same idea as a Maxi Fuse breaker, but instead follow the footprint of a mini fuse. This makes it ideal for an application where space is limited.
Del City also carries ATO/ATC Low Profile breakers, ATO/ATC Standard breakers, and Universal Blade-Style breakers. Although this may have differing names, they are allconsidered blade breakers within the ATO/ATC family. The Low Profile breakers are ideal for situations where space may be limited and replacing a fuse on a critical accessory is the goal. The Blade-Style is available in automatic reset and manual reset. It has many diverse applications including automotive, marine, and portable generators.Lastly, Universal Style blade breakers are a bit more unique. The blade design snaps off (as seen in the photo) in order to size the blade to the desired ATO/ATC panel. This makes it desirable for many uses when the necessary size is not quite known.