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Fuses and circuit breakers are the two common types of devices to stop the flow of electricity should it overload or become dangerous. You’ll find them inside a central service panel inside a home or building that is easy to access. 

While fuses and circuit breakers serve the same purposes, their modes of operation differ. Circuits work through thermal energy, while circuit breakers use electromagnetism. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, which we explore below.

Fuses vs. Circuit Breakers: Head-to-Head Comparison

What Are Fuses?

Four fuses isolated against a white background

A fuse is a piece of metal filament (metal wire) inside a glass, ceramic, or glass casing. Fuses are connected to the circuits in a house through a fuse box. Electricity flows through the fuses and to the circuits. If the electricity overloads, the metal filament will melt, cutting off the electricity before a power surge occurs.

Fuses can last up to 40 years or more and are relatively inexpensive to install. Fuses come in different ratings and voltages, so you’ll need to choose the fuse that can handle a higher voltage than your home needs. 

Because fuses melt, you’ll need to replace the fuse every time it overloads. Fortunately, it’s usually an inexpensive and simple task. Fuses respond fast, making them a good choice for protecting sensitive electronic equipment. They can also prevent an electrical fire.


  • Cheaper installation cost
  • Stops the flow of electricity faster
  • Requires very little maintenance unless blown
  • Good for sensitive electronics


  • It must be replaced each time it’s blown
  • It can be difficult to figure out which fuse has blown when in a series

What Are Circuit Breakers?

Electric automatic circuit breakers isolated against a white background

The inner workings of circuit breakers are a slightly more complicated process. They work using either an electromagnet or a bimetallic strip. With an electromagnet circuit, if the current reaches unsafe levels, the breaker becomes magnetized and pulls the switch. The current then closes, stopping the electricity. Bimetallic strips work similarly, but the current bends the metal lever to open the circuit.

When an electrical current throws the circuit breaker, it’s an easy fix. You just flip the switch back in the right direction, restoring power. Circuit breakers can help prevent an electrical overload that can cause fires and damage your appliances or electrical devices. They can also prevent a short circuit.

Circuit breakers are more expensive to install than fuses. They need maintenance every one to three years, and their lifespan is between 30-40 years. Most circuit breakers are rated at 15 or 20 amps. However, most circuit breakers can only handle 80% of their capacity. It’s important to choose one with more capacity than needed.


  • Can be reset by flipping a switch
  • Can prevent electrical overload and short circuits
  • Good for appliances with heavier loads


  • More expensive to install and maintain
  • Slower response time than a fuse

Why Hire Expert Electricians?

A technician fixing a cable in the terminal of a circuit breaker

Whether you’re trying to decide between fuses or circuit breakers or if you’re ready to install your fuse and breaker system, it’s best to leave everything up to qualified electricians. Electricians are knowledgeable and experienced, so they can save you time and money. They can help a homeowner make the best choices for their property.

Electricians also know how to work with electricity safely. Homeowners who aren’t experienced with electricity run the risk of hurting themselves. An electrician does everything safely and correctly so that you can rest easy knowing your family, home, and appliances are safe.

U.S. Electric: Your Home Electrical System Experts

Any electrical project is risky and requires an abundance of caution. It’s best to leave it up to the experts. When you need electrical work done, U.S. Electric has you covered. Our team of certified, skilled, and experienced electricians provide guaranteed electrical services. We have provided services for more than 30 years in Richmond, VA, and surrounding areas. Whether you have repairs, replacement, or installation of new fuses or circuit breakers, we’ll get the job done! Call us today for a free quote!