Activity: Breaker, Breaker!
Your home’s electrical system is divided into branch circuits.
Each circuit supplies power to a different area of your home. Most
household circuits are rated for 15 amps (20 amps for kitchen circuits).
This means that the circuit can safely carry up to 15 (or 20) amps
of current at one time. If you run multiple appliances at the same
time on a single circuit, and their combined amps exceed the amperage
rating of that circuit, the wiring will heat up. If the wire gets
too hot, the insulation could melt, causing a shock or fire hazard.
Fuses and circuit breakers are devices added to circuits to prevent
the circuits from overheating. A fuse is a round
glass or porcelain plug-like device that screws into the main service
panel. The fuse contains a thin strip of metal (zinc). If too much
current flows through it, the metal strip melts, opening the circuit
and stopping the flow of current. This is called “blowing
Newer homes contain circuit breakers instead of fuses. A circuit
breaker is like a switch that opens (“breaks”)
the circuit when it becomes overloaded. Each branch circuit in your
home is protected by a different breaker switch. Like fuses, the
circuit breaker switches are located on the main service panel.
Click here to play a game that
will teach you more about how circuits work.
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