Different Types of Circuit Breakers & Their Respective Applications

When it comes to circuit breakers, it can be incredibly hard to understand which circuit breaker you can use with which type of circuit breaker goes where and how you’re supposed to use them! It’s also something you can’t experiment with because of how dangerous an error with it can be! Circuit breakers are integral to the safety of the building! Which is why it’s important that you’re fully aware about the different types of circuit breakers there are, and their respective applications so you’re 100% sure that you’re getting the right circuit breaker for the job!

#1: Molded Case Circuit Breakers
These are basically “protection devices” that are used with your main electrical panel. They use a thermal sensitive device paired with a sensitive electromagnetic device which work together to trip the electrical current whenever there’s an inconsistency in the way the electrical current is flowing. The devices come together to trip the circuit whenever there’s a danger detected for the electrical panel as a whole. They do so by ensuring that the mechanism stops the electrical flow anytime the current exceeds the trip value. Protecting the electrical panel from significant damage.

Application: These circuit breakers come in frame sizes measuring from 250 to 2000 amps. These work best in low voltage environments but can also be used in medium voltage ones too!

#2: Insulated Case Circuit Breakers 
The insulated case circuit breaker is kind of like the molded case one, at least at the base, but it has a few extra features that set it apart! These also have a two-step stored energy mechanism, which is made of molded plastic. They can operate both, magnetically and thermo magnetically, depending on the specific model you get. On these, you can even adjust the trip current so it only trips when a certain trip value is exceeded. 

Application: These circuit breakers come in slightly larger frame sizes than the regular molded case circuit breakers, at 800 to 5000 amps. This ensures that the circuit breakers can be more widely used too. However, these are still supposed to be used in low to moderate voltage environments. 

#3: Vacuum Circuit Breakers
A Vacuum circuit breaker functions like the others, but the 2 main differences are that the circuit breaker is usually in a glass or ceramic housing, which makes them a lot safer to use because they don’t pose as much of a fire hazard than most circuit breakers, and the actual “vacuum” section. This is the vacuum chamber that’s used for arc quenching. They’re also fairly low maintenance and easy to use!

Application: These circuit breakers are usually used in medium voltage environments. These would be places like hospitals and commercial buildings like hotels! The models that they usually come in are 6.6 kV, 11 kV, and 33 kV.

#4: Air Circuit Breakers
The “Air” in air circuit breakers refers to the fact that these circuit breakers are not enclosed. They’re meant to work out in the open. They can work on both AC and DC circuits, and are very easy to modify and repair if needed. They’re not very commonly used but their flexibility and ease of use makes them a popular choice for a lot of people!

Application: These circuit breakers are typically used in indoor, low voltage environments. Although, they can be used in medium voltage environments too. However, you might need an electrician to come check if it’s the right fit for the building.

If you can’t figure out which circuit breaker would be right for your needs, almost all Electricians in North Vancouver will be able to help you figure out which one you should go for for the needs of your building!