Detailed Guide to Circuit Breakers and Their Types
When operating with electronics or setting up an ,electrical circuit it is paramount that there are protective measures put in place in order to ensure the well-being of sensitive electronics and the safety of those around them. Circuit breakers are one of the most essential safety mechanisms for buildings and their electrical circuits, ensuring that excessive current is restricted to prevent fires, equipment failures, and shock. In this blog, we will discuss what circuit breakers are, how they protect electrical systems, and a few of the common types that are available on the market.
Within a typical building, electricity is supplied from a power plant through a power distribution grid. Through a network of circuits, electric charge moves throughout the building and may be utilized through outlets and other means. Generally, the voltage supplied to a building is rated at either 120 or 240 volts, though the resistance of a building’s circuits may vary. With the connection of electronic appliances, a resistance referred to as the “load” is offered, allowing for flowing charge to be supplied to the appliance in the correct amount. For safety purposes, the amount of voltage that is permitted to flow through a specific electronic appliance is generally limited as an excess of current can cause damages such as overheating, melting, and more. As such, electronic circuits utilize circuit breakers to cut off the flow of current when levels exceed safe values.
The most simplistic types of circuit breakers come in the form of fuses which are thin wires encapsulated in a casing. By plugging a fuse into the circuit, all electric current flows through the fuse wire. To provide safety, fuses are specifically designed so that they disintegrate when they are heated up to a specific level, and thus excess current causes the fuse to be destroyed before damage can be done. While fuses are very beneficial to systems, they may only be used once. As such, fuses must be replaced each time that they are blown. Beyond the fuse, there are also other types of circuit breakers that can be used more than once, each providing their own unique method of stopping current.
The low voltage circuit breaker serves as the most common type, often being found in numerous domestic, industrial, and commercial applications. Low voltage circuit breakers include the miniature circuit breaker and molded case circuit breaker, each providing a different rating for protection. With a miniature circuit breaker, currents up to 125 A may be controlled, and operations are conducted through thermal and thermal-magnetics. With the molded case circuit breaker, currents of up to 1,600 A may be protected through the same means, but trip current may be adjustable.
Air circuit breakers are another type that are often used for ratings ranging from 800 to 10,000 A, though they are most often implemented within low voltage applications such as distribution panels. With an air circuit breaker, the electric current flows through contacts within the device, and arc quenching is provided by separating the pairs of contacts. To stop the excess flow of electricity, contacts are disconnected from one another, and the electric arc is pulled upwards in an arc runner. To ensure that the arc does not reform again, dielectric gases are used to extinguish the arc, maintaining the safety of the circuit.
Beyond the low-voltage and air circuit breaker devices, there are many types of circuit breakers that serve various applications with their capabilities. Due to their ability to protect sensitive electronics and preserve the safety of those interacting with electronic appliances, having a functional circuit breaker is paramount for electronic applications. At Cogent Sourcing, we can help you secure the circuit breakers and other electronic parts that you need with competitive pricing and rapid lead-times for your benefit. Cogent Sourcing is a premier parts distributor, offering customers access to a variety of aircraft and airframe structural components that serve a variety of applications. Explore our expansive part catalogues at your leisure, and you may begin the purchasing process at any time by filling out and submitting an Instant RFQ.