Our fuse guide explains what they are, what they’re used for, how they work, and the different types available.
What Type Of Fuse Do I Need
Fuses are basic protection devices widely deployed in electrical circuits for excess current or overcurrent protection. If the current flows faster than expected, the fuse will blow and break the circuit, reducing heat damage and the risk of electric shock or fire. This is called circuit tripping. The point at which the fuse blows is called its breaking capacity and once the fuse blows, it interrupts the flow of current and becomes an open fuse.
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Overcurrent can be caused by short circuits (in which current travels the wrong path), configuration faults, electrical arcs, and similar issues. The resulting heat may be enough to melt the cable insulation.
Fuses and circuit breakers perform very similar functions – both break the electrical circuit in the event of a current surge or short circuit. However, there is one important difference. Circuit breakers are switches, and like all switches, they can be reset after being flipped. However, most fuses can only be used once. Once they are blown away they must be replaced. By definition, they are a weak link – entirely by design.
Fuses are inexpensive and can be replaced (pulled) quickly and easily for minimal downtime. It is important to ensure that you fit a fully compatible model with the correct current rating for your device. This figure indicates the level of current that the fuse will accept before blowing.
There are other relevant metrics as well. The speed rating indicates how quickly the fuse will blow in response to excess current; A more sensitive fuse is a safer option. Voltage drop is the voltage lost through cables due to impedance – essentially when the voltage at the end of a cable is lower than the beginning. If too much is lost, some less equipment may not function properly.
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It is also wise to check the amount of energy released by the fuse while flying. Too much can damage the device and even be dangerous.
A fuse box can essentially be explained as a control panel for the electrical system at a particular location. They are where incoming electricity is divided into different circuits. Typically, they feature a central switch to control:
Fuse boxes have many alternative names, including control board panel, distribution board, breaker panel, fuse board, and fuse panel. Household fuse boxes are often referred to as consumer units.
Switch fuse units distribute current while protecting cables and equipment along a particular electrical circuit from damage caused by power fluctuations. Switch fuse units are used in industrial and commercial buildings as well as domestic properties.
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Fuses are very simple components. Inside each is a thin metal strip or wire called a resistor that forms a link in the electrical circuit. Various metals are used to make resistors. Tinned copper wire is a popular choice. This is copper that has been coated in a thin layer of tin to protect it from rust.
This resistor will melt in response to the heat generated by the excess current, breaking the circuit and stopping the flow of potentially dangerous voltage. Fuses do not produce sparks, gases or electrical discharges.
Not surprisingly, for such a widely used component, fuses are available in many models and voltage capacities for use in a variety of industrial, manufacturing and electronic settings.
The time it takes for a particular type of fuse to blow is called the fuse speed. There are three major fuse speeds available:
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AC fuses are specifically designed for use with alternating current circuits. They are more resistant to electric arc when fuses blow than DC fuses and are more compatible with standard voltage power supplies. They can also usually withstand higher voltages.
In contrast, DC fuses are used with direct current circuits. The voltage ratings quoted for these fuses are maximums that should not be exceeded.
Cylindrical fuses are a basic design and the most widely used and familiar models fall into this category.
This capsule is usually made from a type of hard ceramic material called steatite, although epoxy resins are now also used.
Fuse Box Upgrade
There are different types of automotive fuses. The most widely used are blade fuses. These have one or more blades that insert into a plug, making them easy to remove and reinsert. Six different sizes are available.
Vehicles usually have two fuse boxes – one under the dashboard and the other under the hood. If a fuse blows, check both boxes to identify the fuse. It’s usually possible to pull it out manually, but if not, use a fuse puller. Plug in and replace the blown fuse with one that has exactly the same specifications. Fuses usually display their amp rating at the top so it should be clearly visible when opening the fuse box. The color coding varies according to size – so a purple mini blade fuse is 3A but a purple maxi-fuse will be 100A. Note that there is no reliable link between the size of an auto fuse and its amp rating.
Bolted tag fuses are part of a broader category of fuses with raised metal tags. Their shape is cylindrical. Tags are attached to each end and are used to bolt the fuse into the fuse holder. These fuses are used in various industrial and electrical equipment. They are available in a variety of sizes and with varying current ratings, although are commonly used in low voltage circuits.
Bottle fuses are shaped like bottles, with two different sizes of ends. The bottom end aligns precisely with the screw holes in the circuit adapter, so no other type of fuse can be fitted into that slot. These fuses also have an indicator in their head that goes off when the fuse blows, to show that there is a problem in the circuit. Once this happens the fuse should be replaced.
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These are also known as diode fuses. Like other fuses, they are available in various sizes and voltages.
The cartridge fuse is probably the most familiar, general-purpose form of fuse. Cartridges can be made from a variety of conductive materials including glass, ceramic, and ceramic. Internal barrier wire is usually made from copper, silver, aluminum or zinc.
Cartridge fuses have a contact point on each end and are compatible with 240 volt settings. Like other fuses, they are available in a variety of sizes, including small ferrule fuses with a 60-amp rating and larger knife-blade cartridges with a 600 amp rating. They have a very high fuse speed, are cheap and, due to the cylindrical design, are easy to replace.
Fuse kits are convenient, portable boxes containing a useful selection of fuses of varying ratings, sizes and designs, all clearly labeled and in separate compartments for maximum clarity and ease of access. They are designed for seamless inclusion into the comprehensive toolkit of professional electricians, mechanics and technicians.
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Some kits may be specialized, offering different fuses for specialist tasks – for example in automotive engineering or plant maintenance. They may also include a range of both standard and heavy-duty options. Many include fuse pullers – these are hand-held tools for removing fuses from their housing.
Hole mounted tag fuses are so called because they have a threaded hole in their casing that allows them to be easily screwed into place.
Typically, hole mounted tag fuses are used for semiconductor circuit protection. Semiconductors are materials with moderate conductivity – between insulators, which block current, and metallic conductors, which allow free current flow.
Neutral links are metal connectors that provide a terminal in an electrical circuit. They are usually made of aluminum or brass and are often attached to one or more fuse holders. They serve as termination points for one or more neutral wires in an electrical circuit and can be used to isolate them from the power supply. When used to terminate two or more neutral wires, they are sometimes referred to as neutral bars.
All Types Of Fuse Symbols And Diagrams
Offset tag fuses are a category of fuses that have a metal tag at each end of a cylindrical body. The tags, which may or may not be symmetrical, fit into the fuse holder. Three different tag designs are used – slotted, bolted, and blade.
Slotted tag fuses are a category of fuses that include centered tag and offset tag fuses. These have a similar design to bottle fuses, but are distinguished by a slot in the raised tag, which slides into the connector or fuse holder.
Solid Link is a type of fuse accessory. These metal strips are connected to switches that activate when a fuse blows, creating an electrical isolator and freezing the circuit. This is an important safety measure if a malfunction occurs and repair is required.
Thermal fuses are used