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What Are Circuit Breakers and Their Common Types?

Electrical components can often be sensitive to overload conditions, quickly breaking down or malfunctioning when voltages exceed intended limits. Faults such as short circuits can also be hazardous to individuals as well, posing the risk of shock or combustion if in the presence of combustible materials. As a result, it is paramount that all electrical system components are provided ample protection from overload conditions, that of which is achievable with a device known as a circuit breaker.

In their most basic form, a circuit breaker is a form of switching device which is capable of protecting circuits through its ability to trip and cut off a supply to a load. Automatic in their functionality, circuit breakers may be found within industrial buildings, homes, commercial spaces, complexes, and various other settings where electrical systems are in place. While circuit breakers may vary in their included components and processes, most work through the method of quenching electrical arcs that are produced when contacts are separated to break a circuit. Depending upon the amount of power that is moving through circuits, the surrounding environment, and various other factors, there are a number of circuit breaker types that one may use to enact protection.

Low voltage circuit breakers are those that are designed for voltages ranging up to 1 KV, and they may come in a variety of standard variations. The air circuit breaker, or ACB, is a type that quenches arcs through the use of air. An air circuit breaker may often be found in high current applications, guarding electrical systems against overload conditions that reach 6300 A. For smaller loads that are around 125 A, the miniature circuit breaker (MCB) is a great choice. While excelling in lower loads, the miniature circuit breaker can also provide protection against overload and short circuit conditions that occur through bimetals and solenoids. With a variety of sub-types available, the Class 3 MCB remains the most popular for its ability to rapidly trip and perform with low let-through energy loss. Beyond the aforementioned types, there are also a variety of other low voltage circuit breakers such as the molded case, motor protection, and residual current circuit breaker.

Medium and high voltage circuit breakers, on the other hand, are those capable of handling voltages on a range of 1 KV-69 KV and 69 KV-230 KV respectively. The vacuum circuit breaker is a type of medium voltage circuit breaker, featuring a contact operation in which arc quenching takes place within a bottled vacuum. The vacuum circuit breaker is known for its ability to achieve minimal arcing, stretching the arc out just a little before it dissipates. Oil circuit breakers are a common type of high voltage circuit breaker, utilizing oil as their quenching medium. With low cost, high reliability, and simplicity, such devices can be very beneficial for certain applications. 

Beyond such types, a number of other circuit breakers may be used, each of which may feature varying quenching methods, configurations, or operations in order to benefit a given application or system. If you find yourself in need of various circuit breaker parts or other various electronic components, look no further than Purchasing Union. Purchasing Union is a website owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, and we are your sourcing solution for top-quality items that have come from leading manufacturers that we trust. Take the time to explore our expansive inventory at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are always on standby 24/7x365 to assist customers through the purchasing process as needed. At Purchasing Union, we are your strategic sourcing partner for all your operational needs.


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May 5, 2021
January 27, 2021

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