What is the Difference Between a Circuit Breaker and a Fuse Board?

Patrick Dillon
April 30, 2024

Do you want to know the difference between a circuit breaker and a fuse? Electrical safety is a crucial aspect of every home and business. With the increasing number of electrical appliances and devices, protecting your electrical system from faults and overloads is more important than ever. 

Circuit breakers and fuse boards save you from overloads and faults that come into play, serving as your primary defense against electrical hazards.

In this blog, we will explain the differences between circuit breakers and fuse boards and explore how each system works, its pros and cons, and which might be better suited to different situations.

So, let’s get started!

What is a Circuit Breaker, and How Does It Work?

Circuit breakers work with a designed mechanism. A circuit breaker is an automatic electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overcurrent or short circuits. 

When a circuit experiences an overload, the breaker trips, cutting off the flow of electricity and preventing potential fires or damage to appliances.

How does a circuit breaker work?

Circuit breakers operate through internal mechanisms that detect abnormalities in the current. The switch contains an electromagnet or a bimetallic strip that activates when the current exceeds a safe limit. This action opens the circuit, stopping the flow of electricity instantly. Resetting the breaker involves manually flipping the switch back to its original position, allowing current to flow again. Circuit breakers play a crucial role in maintaining electrical safety and minimising dangers.

Types of circuit breakers:

Circuit breakers come in various types, each suited for different applications. The most common are Single-Pole Circuit Breakers that control a single phase of a circuit, handling currents up to 20 amps, making them suitable for lighting and outlet circuits.

Double-Pole Circuit Breakers that control two phases at one time and are capable of handling higher currents make them ideal for appliances like dryers, air conditioners, and ranges.

Residual Current Circuit Breakers (RCCBs) offer additional protection by detecting leakage currents to the ground and disconnecting the circuit to prevent killing by electric shock or fire dangers.

What is a Fuse and How Does It Work?

A fuse is an electrical device designed to protect a circuit from overcurrent or short-circuit conditions. It consists of a thin metal wire or strip enclosed in a non-conductive casing. When excessive current flows through the circuit, this wire or strip heats up and melts, breaking the circuit and preventing further current flow.

How do fuses function?

Fuses operate on a simple principle: they interrupt the circuit when an excessive current flows through it. This melting process is sudden, which makes fuses an effective means of protecting electrical systems from overheating, damage, or even fire. After a fuse blows, it needs to be replaced to restore circuit functionality.

Types of fuses:

Fuses come in various forms, including cartridge fuses, blade fuses, and screw-in fuses. Cartridge fuses are cylindrical with metal end caps and are often used in industrial applications. Blade fuses, commonly found in automotive electrical systems, have a plastic casing with metal prongs. Screw-in fuses resemble light bulb sockets, used in older residential electrical systems.

What is the Difference Between a Circuit Breaker and a Fuse?

Circuit breakers and fuses both serve the essential function of protecting electrical systems from overcurrent or short-circuit conditions. However, they differ significantly in terms of their mechanisms, features, and applications.

Mechanism and operation:

Circuit breakers function through electromagnetic or thermal mechanisms. They trip the circuit by breaking contact when the current exceeds a certain threshold. After tripping, circuit breakers can be reset manually or automatically, restoring circuit functionality.

Fuses rely on a thin metal wire or strip that melts when the current exceeds a safe level. This immediately disconnects the circuit, preventing further current flow. Once blown, a fuse needs to be replaced entirely.

Cost and maintenance:

Circuit breakers typically have a higher advance cost compared to fuses. However, they are reusable, which can lead to cost savings in the long run. Circuit breakers may also require occasional maintenance to ensure their mechanisms function correctly.

Fuses are generally cheaper than circuit breakers. However, the cost of replacement can add up over time, especially in circuits prone to frequent overcurrent conditions.

Application and convenience:

Circuit breakers are more convenient for modern electrical systems, as they can be reset quickly and easily. This makes them suitable for home, industrial, and commercial applications.

Fuses are often found in older electrical systems or in specific applications, such as automotive and industrial systems. They are less convenient due to the need for replacement but are still reliable in protecting electrical circuits.


We explored that circuit breakers offer the convenience of resetting and additional protection features, making them suitable for modern electrical systems, while fuses provide a simpler, more cost-effective solution, although with the drawback of requiring replacement after each trip.

When choosing between circuit breakers and fuses, consider factors such as application, cost, and convenience. For personalised advise or assistance with your electrical systems, including installation, upgrades, or maintenance, contact Unique Electrical today. Our experienced professionals will help you make the right choice and ensure your electrical system is safe and efficient.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between a fuse and a circuit breaker?

The primary difference is that a fuse contains a metal strip that melts to interrupt the circuit, while a circuit breaker uses an internal switch mechanism to break the connection. Fuses are single-use, whereas circuit breakers can be reset.

Which is safer, a fuse or a circuit breaker?

Both are designed to protect electrical circuits from damage. However, circuit breakers are considered safer in the long term due to their reusability and ability to provide more precise protection settings.

Can I replace a fuse with a circuit breaker?

Yes, it is possible to replace a fuse with a circuit breaker. However, this requires professional installation to ensure proper compatibility and function, including matching the breaker's rating to the circuit.

What are the advantages of using a fuse?

Fuses are simple, inexpensive devices that effectively protect against electrical overloads. They have no moving parts, making them reliable, and their compact design makes them suitable for smaller devices.

What are the advantages of using a circuit breaker?

Circuit breakers can be reset after tripping, making them reusable and cost-effective over time. They also offer adjustable trip settings, providing more precise protection for different types of circuits.

How do you know if a fuse has blown or a circuit breaker has tripped?

A blown fuse will show visible signs of damage, such as a broken filament or discoloration. A tripped circuit breaker will be in the "off" or "neutral" position, indicating it needs to be reset to restore power.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Founder @ UniqueElectrical

Patrick Dillon is the founder of Unique Electrical, a company dedicated to innovative electrical solutions for both home and business environments. With a wealth of experience in the electrical field, Patrick is driven by a commitment to integrating cutting-edge technology and energy efficiency into every project. His expertise extends to smart home systems, renewable energy sources, and advanced electrical installations. Patrick’s passion lies in enhancing functionality and sustainability through electrical design.