What Does a Circuit Breaker Do?
Generally speaking, we all have them in our households, but what does a circuit breaker do and how do they actually help us? Put simply, a circuit breaker is an over-current device - it acts as a safety guard and helps to prevent the risk of fire. As many electricians will tell you - an electrical circuit is only as strong as its weakest link and when a device exceeds its voltage rating it can arc.
Overloads of currents are less obvious to spot, but they are much easier to create. If the rating of a device is overloaded, it is likely to get hot. As the heat builds, the device can overheat - this is a common cause of many domestic fires. Some people may overload plug extensions with a variety of electrical appliances, without realising the damage that this can cause.
A circuit breaker is specifically designed to handle over-current situations and to this end, it is usually the 'weakest link' in an appliance. If this wasn't the case - wiring or other devices in your house could fail before the circuit breaker, resulting in over-heating and possibly a fire. The main purpose of a circuit breaker is to act as a safety device - it is used to protect conductors and equipment.
You may have experienced an appliance 'tripping' or 'popping' while you are using it. Sometimes, just the appliance will be effected and at other times, it may trip the main electric switch. Many people make the mistake of simply flipping the switch back on and continuing with their task. However, you could be ignoring a serious problem - the popping indicates that there is a problem with your appliance.
It's therefore important to get any electrical equipment checked out if it trips during use. Additionally, you should not replace or change electrical components, unless you have the expert knowledge and correct training required. Badly-wired electrics can have disastrous consequences, so it's best to take your appliance in for testing or call in a qualified electrical engineer for peace of mind.
If you do attempt to change a circuit breaker yourself - never replace it with a larger one. The circuit will not be able to handle the extra current and it is likely to burn up before the new breaker trips out. Again, if you are unsure as to how to replace a breaker, leave it to a professional.