Whether it's protecting a complex electronic circuit, your home's electrical system or a high voltage piece of equipment, fuses are found all throughout the electrical world. What is the purpose of the fuse? Why are they so important? Let's take a closer look into the life and times of the fuse.
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The history of the fuse is rather cloudy. There is recorded history and evidence of platinum wire fuses being used as early as the 1860s, but they didn't get patented until 1880 by Thomas Edison. One of the earliest uses of fuses was by Sir Joseph Swan, an English physicist. Swan used tinfoil fuses to protect the filaments he used in his rudimentary light bulbs. In the nineteenth Century, W.M. Mordy patented the first cartridge fuse. At the time, Mordy was the chief engineer to the Brush Electrical Engineering Company. His unique cartridge design solved the problem of arcing when a fuse was blown.
The function of a fuse is to prevent continued voltage flow through a circuit. This can occur as a result of a voltage overload, in which the fuse melts or trips, thus terminating the line voltage at that point or by way of manual intervention, like removal of the fuse. The job of the fuse is to protect the equipment against damage caused by fluctuations in voltage.
There are many different types of fuses in use today. From cartridge fuses in home air conditioning units to small Buss fuses found in your automobile, they each have the same job--protect the circuit. Fuses can still be found in some homes where the electrical panel hasn't been upgraded to circuit breakers (which are a variation of the fuse). There are fuses found in nearly every electronic device made, from televisions and DVD players to game consoles and stereo receivers. In truth, any component that requires voltage to operate will usually be protected by an internal fuse somewhere within its wiring configuration.
On every fuse, there will be information that details exactly what kind of fuse it is. For example, most fuses will have information relating to ampere rating, voltage rating, manufacturer/part number/series, time-current characteristic and breaking capacity (interrupting rating).
When replacing a fuse, you should always use an exact match. If you replace a fuse with one that delivers less protection, it will trip almost instantly. If you use a fuse that is rated higher than the one you removed, it can prevent the circuit from being interrupted and ultimately present a fire hazard.