What’s the Best Type of Fuse to Use for Residential Appliances?

March 17, 2022
Fuse in Seattle, WA

When it comes to using electricity in your home, it’s always important to prepare for the unexpected. One way to do that is to protect your electrical system with fuses. If you have an older Seattle home, fuses are the main way for your electrical system to interrupt the flow of current if there’s a sudden surge in current for one reason or another. This quick power interruption can help prevent serious or fatal injuries and damage to expensive electrical appliances and devices. That’s why Brennan Electric encourages you to do your research to ensure you install the best type of fuses for your home’s particular needs. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

How Does a Fuse Work?

Under normal operating conditions, a fuse allows power to pass through a circuit. Inside the fuse is a wire that makes a good conductor but also has a fairly low melting point. In the event that a circuit becomes overloaded, heat will build up in the wire inside the fuse. Within a second or two, the wire in the fuse will melt, interrupting the flow of electricity. This will ensure that no more electricity flows to the affected devices or people so that injuries and damage are limited. Replacing a fuse with a fresh fuse is the only way to restore the flow of power after a fuse blows.

Screw-in Fuses

As the name suggests, screw-in fuses have screw-in bases so that they can be installed and replaced easily. For homes with fuses, screw-in fuses are the most common. That’s because screw-in fuses can generally handle any power demands up to 30 amps, which describes nearly every residential circuit. One problem with screw-in fuses used to be that they were too easy to place in the wrong circuit because 15-, 20-, and 30-amp fuses all looked exactly alike. Fortunately, newer replacement fuses solve this problem by using specially designed receptacles that only fit fuses with a certain amperage rating.

Cartridge Fuses

If you’ve ever replaced a fuse in a string of decorative lights, you’ve encountered a cartridge fuse. These fuses feature a thin glass tube with two metal ends. Inside the glass tube is a metal wire that melts when too much power flows through the circuit. Cartridge fuses used in home electrical systems are much larger than those used in strings of lights or other low-draw devices. In fact, cartridge fuses are designed to handle more power than screw-in fuses. In a fuse-based residential electrical system, cartridge fuses serve as the main fuses, handling over 30 amps of power each. Cartridge fuses also take care of any sub-panel duties for circuits running high-draw devices.

Choosing the Right Fuse

For the most part, replacing a fuse in an electrical panel is something that the average homeowner can do themselves. When selecting a screw-in fuse, Brennan Electric recommends using what’s called a tamper-proof fuse. Also known as a “Type S” fuse, these are the fuses that use the uniquely shaped base to ensure you don’t install the wrong fuse in the wrong circuit. Incorrectly installing a fuse can allow too much heat to build up in the wires and lead to an electrical fire, meaning this is important to avoid. Cartridge fuses, on the other hand, are clearly labeled with their amperage rating but don’t have any other distinguishing features to prevent incorrect installation. Make sure to pay close attention to the fuse you’re taking out so that you can purchase and install the correct replacement.

When to Replace Fuses

The most obvious time to replace a fuse is when the fuse blows due to an overloaded circuit. After you correct the problem that caused the surge, you can replace the fuse with an exact replacement to help prevent fire risks. Even if you don’t experience an electrical problem, though, Brennan Electric recommends inspecting your fusebox from time to time. Sometimes, you may have a slight surge that partially melts the wire in the fuse without completely breaking the electrical connection. In some cases, this can cause excess heat to build up in the circuit, leading to an increased fire risk. To spot replacement candidates, look for fuses that are discolored or dingy on the glass. If you can see the wire, look for any fraying or discoloration. If any of those conditions exist, replace the affected fuses immediately.

What to Watch Out For

In addition to discolored or worn-out fuses, there are a few other conditions to look out for if fuses are part of your home’s electrical system. First, if you notice any flickering lights or other power variations, it’s a good idea to give Brennan Electric a call. If the fuse receptacles become dirty or worn, it can inhibit normal electricity flow, making it seem like your home has serious electrical problems when it’s actually a fairly simple repair. Something else to watch out for are fuses that blow frequently. If you’ve done what you can to ensure there’s not too much power draw on the circuit, there could be a problem with that circuit’s wiring. Of course, it could also simply mean that you have purchased a bad batch of fuses with damaged wires.

Fuses in Individual Devices

While fuses are common in whole-home electrical setups, there may also be fuses in individual devices throughout your home. In addition to the aforementioned decorative lights, you can often find fuses on home theater equipment, large appliances, and other high-draw electrical devices. If you ever encounter trouble with these devices, replacing the fuse is a good place to start when attempting to perform repairs. Sometimes, as is the case in many home theater amplifiers, the fuse will be located on the outside of the device. In other cases, you may need to remove an access panel to get to the fuse. In any event, these fuses are important to keep in place because they provide an extra level of protection for both you and your devices.

Upgrading to Breakers

Although fuses are well-tested and still present in many homes, they don’t offer the premium protection that a circuit breaker can offer. When a surge happens in a breaker-protected home, all you have to do is flip a switch instead of replacing a fuse, saving both time and money. Plus, since breakers are installed by professional electricians, there’s no risk of installing a breaker on the wrong circuit. Additionally, the design of circuit breakers means that they can generally react faster if there is a surge, saving precious time that could literally be the difference between life and death for someone in your family. Therefore, if your home has a fusebox instead of a breaker box, talk to Brennan Electric about upgrading your electrical system as soon as possible.

Your Safety Is Our Top Priority

At Brennan Electric, we take the safety of our customers seriously. That’s why we take such pride in every electrical service that we perform. Whether you need to install a new electrical panel, replace some worn-out wiring, or replace an outdated light fixture, we can take care of you at Brennan Electric. We can also install surge protectors and generators to provide even more peace of mind during a variety of common emergencies. With over 30 years of experience, you can be confident that we’ll complete your service request quickly and correctly. This outstanding track record is one reason why our customers love to leave us five-star reviews. To learn more about protecting your home with fuses, contact us at Brennan Electric today.

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