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Hey, you're in the home improvement zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Electrical Category: Fuses

Improvement Project:

How to identify a blown fuse or otherwise bad fuse.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Voltage meter

  • Fuse puller (that is nonconductive)

Guide:

There are various types of fuses, many types of plug fuses and cartridge fuses.   Here, what is focused on is the general types of plug fuses and cartridge fuses.

Caution: When dealing with any device that requires electrical power, make sure you take precautions before you work on it, including disconnecting the power; in this light, before disconnecting any fuse, make sure you turn off the main power, and have a flashlight in your hands to carefully navigate around.

Plug fuses.

If you find that the window of a fuse is darkened/blacked out or otherwise cloudy, the fuse blew out most likely as a result of some short circuit.  (A short circuit occurs when hot and neutral wires come into contact with each other, causing an electrical surge, at which point the fuse comes into play when it senses this surge, causing the interruption of this surge through the melting of its thin metal component, and hence the term, "blown fuse.")

If you otherwise find that the window of a fuse is clear as before, but that the inside fusible metal piece/metal ribbon is, nonetheless, broken/disconnected, the fuse evidently incurred a circuit overload, and must be replaced just as if it were blown as a result of a short circuit.

 

For some reason, if you cannot tell if the fuse is no longer good through observing any of the above visual indications, you may opt to use your voltage meter to determine whether the fuse has continuity and is, therefore, in good working order.  Simply, if you have not already done so, unscrew the the suspect plug fuse counterclockwise from the fuse box with one hand to unscrew (and the other hand on yourself for the time being to avoid a ground contact as a precaution).  Having unscrewed the plug fuse, with your voltage meter turned on and set to the correct settings (for an analog meter, this setting means that while its meter test probes--red and black--are touching, use the thumbwheel to set the needle to hit "zero," which means having the needle hit the far right of the scale), have the two test probes of the meter touch--one on one side and the other on the other side) the metal strip that is attached on the outside of the plug fuse (AKA, "fuse ends"), which is near the tip of the plug fuse that is screwed into the "socket" opening of the fuse box.  If, doing this, the needle of the meter hits the far right, you have continuity and the fuse is good; if, however, the needle of the meter fails to move to the right, the fuse is bad and needs to be replaced.

If you find that your fuse is blown/bad, be sure to only replace it with another fuse of the same amperage rating.

Cartridge fuses.

Like plug fuses, cartridge fuses also exist to protect your house and appliances from electrical irregularities.  Specifically, though, cartridge fuses are designed to handle the protection of much larger appliances than those of plug fuses.  While they generally perform the same function, unfortunately, there is no immediate visual way of checking the condition of a cartridge fuse except to use a voltage meter; a cartridge fuse lacks a window to check on the condition of its fusible metal piece/metal ribbon.  The only practical way to check on the condition of your cartridge fuse is to subject it to a continuity test, as generally shown above for a plug fuse.

If you have not already done so, use a fuse puller that is nonconductive to pull out the cartridge fuse from the spring clips of the fuse box. Then, with the suspect cartridge fuse in your hand, with your voltage meter turned on and set to the correct settings (for an analog meter, this setting means that while its meter test probes--red and black--are touching, use the thumbwheel to set the needle to hit "zero," which means having the needle hit the far right of the scale), have the two test probes of the meter touch--one on one side and the other on the other side) the metal strip that is attached on the outside of the cartridge fuse (AKA, "fuse ends"), which is near the tip of the cartridge fuse that is placed back into the spring clips of the fuse box.  If, doing this, the needle of the meter hits the far right, you have continuity and the fuse is good; if, however, the needle of the meter fails to move to the right, the fuse is bad and needs to be replaced.

As with a plug fuse, for your cartridge fuse, if you find that it is blown/bad, be sure to only replace it with another cartridge fuse of the same amperage rating.

So, without much effort, one can find ways to conserve energy and costs, and even with something as traditional and commonly found in a house as a water heater.

Ed the Handyman

            &

Your Handyman Zone Team

 

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