A fuse is a one-shot device. The heat produced by over current causes the current carrying element to melt open, disconnecting the load from the source voltage.
Fuses without time delay provide excellent short circuit protection. When an over current situation occurs, heat builds up rapidly in the fuse. Fuses without time delay usually hold 500% of their rating for approximately one-fourth second, after which the current carrying element melts. This means that these fuses cannot be used in motor circuits which often have inrush currents of greater than 500%.
Time-delay fuses provide overload and short circuit protection. Time-delay fuses usually allow five times the rated current for up to ten seconds to allow motors to start.
The National Electrical Code® defines a circuit breaker as a device designed to open and close a circuit by nonautomatic means and to open the circuit automatically on a predetermined over current without damage to itself when properly applied within its rating.
Circuit breakers provide a manual means of energizing and de-energizing a circuit. In addition, circuit breakers provide automatic over current protection of a circuit. A circuit breaker allows a circuit to be reactivated quickly after a short circuit or overload is cleared. Unlike fuses which must
be replaced when they open, a simple flip of the breaker’s operating handle restores the circuit.
All circuit breakers perform the following functions:
• SENSE when an over current occurs.
• MEASURE the amount of over current.
• ACT by tripping the circuit breaker in a time frame necessary to prevent damage to itself and the associated load cables.
Circuit Breaker Operation
In the following illustration, an AC motor is connected through a circuit breaker to a voltage source. When the circuit breaker is closed, a complete path for current exists between the voltage source and the motor allowing the motor to run. Opening the circuit breaker breaks the path of current flow and the motor stops. The circuit breaker will open automatically during a fault, or can be manually opened. After the fault has been cleared, the breaker can be closed allowing the motor to operate.