Fuses play a major role in protection of electrical circuits, loads and operators. Fuses are used to protect against short circuit under extremely high currents, as well as overload. They are suitable for use in the protection of transformers, electric motors, magnetic and solid-state control assemblies and power distribution runs, just to name some of their many applications in industry today.
There are a number different types of fuses used in industry. Common categories are high-voltage, current limiting, resettable fuses, and thermal fuses (described below). Some of the major manufacturer's of fuses are Busman, GE, Cutler-Hammer, Littlefuse and Ferraz-Shawmut (Mersen).
Common Types of Fuses
High-voltage FusesUsed on power systems up to 115,000 volts AC. High-voltage fuses protect instrument transformers used for electricity metering or for small power transformers where the expense of a circuit breaker is not warranted. For example, in distribution systems, a power fuse may be used to protect a transformer serving one to three houses. A circuit breaker at 115 kV may cost up to five times as much as a set of power fuses, so the resulting savings can be tens of thousands of dollars. Pole-mounted distribution transformers are nearly always protected by a fusible cutout, which can have the fuse element replaced using live-line maintenance tools. Many of these fuses, after being blown, can be rebuilt and placed back into service. Large power fuses use fusible elements made of silver, copper or tin to provide stable and predictable performance. High-voltage expulsion fuses surround the fusible link with gas-evolving substances, such as boric acid. When the fuse blows, heat from the arc causes the boric acid to evolve large volumes of gases. The associated high pressure (often greater than 100 atmospheres) and cooling gases rapidly quench the resulting arc. The hot gases are then explosively expelled out of the end(s) of the fuse. Such fuses can only be used outdoors. High-voltage, high-power fuses are standalone protective switching devices used to 115 kV. They are used in power supply networks and for distribution uses. The most frequent application is in transformer circuits, with further uses in motor circuits and capacitor banks. These types of fuses may have an impact pin to operate a switch mechanism so that all three phases are interrupted if any one fuse blows. High-power fuse means that these fuses can interrupt several kiloamperes. Some manufacturers have tested their fuses for up to 63 kA cut-off current.
Current limitingHigh interrupting capacity fuses can be rated to safely interrupt up to 300,000 amperes at 600 V AC. Special current-limiting fuses are applied ahead of some molded-case breakers to protect the breakers in low-voltage power circuits with high short-circuit levels. Current-limiting fuses operate so quickly that they limit the total "let-through" energy that passes into the circuit, helping to protect downstream equipment from damage. These fuses open in less than one cycle of the AC power frequency; circuit breakers cannot match this speed.
Resettable fusesSo-called self-resetting fuses use a thermoplastic conductive element known as a polymeric positive temperature coefficient (PPTC) thermistor that impedes the circuit during an overcurrent condition (by increasing device resistance). The PPTC thermistor is self-resetting in that when current is removed, the device will cool and revert back to low resistance. These devices are often used in aerospace/nuclear applications where replacement is difficult, or on a computer motherboard so that a shorted mouse or keyboard does not cause motherboard damage.
Thermal fuseA thermal fuse is often found in consumer equipment such as coffee makers, hair dryers or transformers powering small consumer electronics devices. They contain a fusible, temperature-sensitive alloy which holds a spring contact mechanism normally closed. When the surrounding temperature gets too high, the alloy melts and allows the spring contact mechanism to break the circuit. The device can be used to prevent a fire in a hair dryer, for instance, by cutting off the power supply to the heater elements when the air flow is interrupted (e.g., the blower motor stops or the air intake becomes accidentally blocked). Thermal fuses are a ”one shot,” non-resettable device that must be replaced once they have been activated (blown).
Major Components of an Industrial Fuse
ROMAC's Reconditioned Fuse InventoryReconditioning is the process of returning electrical equipment to safe and reliable operating condition based upon the design of the original manufacturer at the time of manufacturing. ROMAC follows PEARL industry standards to recondition a fuse. However, electrical fuses cannot be fully reconditioned in the same sense as motor controls, circuit breakers, etc. ROMAC regularly carries inventory from all the major fuse manufacturers, including: Busman, GE, Cutler-Hammer, Littlefuse and Ferraz-Shawmut (Mersen). Surplus and used fuses can be tested to verify adequate protection. Reconditioning for low-voltage and medium-voltage fuses, both refill and non-refill types, includes disassembly, cleaning, degreasing, deburring, plating, sandblasting and painting. Completion of the reconditioning process requires final inspection and testing. As with all testing, inspection and reconditioning operations, final inspection and test results are recorded onto the evaluation and test forms included with the standard.