Site Information


 Loading... Please wait...


The Advent of Circuit Breakers

Posted by Breaker Outlet on

While the discovery of fire has been heralded as life changing in the history of humans, the struggle to control fires is a fight we are still continuing. We’ll never outright control fires (think lightning strikes) since ultimately fire can be considered a living, breathing thing since it needs fuel and oxygen to survive; however, we can do a lot to prevent fires.

Circuit breakers are one of the more recent inventions to help curtail fires in our homes. Once electricity began to gain ground and be transported to our homes, controlling its outage became a big concern, even for Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. Breaker Outlet, an online purveyor of circuit breakers, electrical breaker panels, and refurbished circuit breakers, will delve into the advent of the circuit breaker and how it is vital to electrical power in your home, office, or business. Contact us today!


The name itself says something about it; it breaks circuits. In essence, a circuit breaker is a simple switch that cuts off the flow of electricity when it senses damage or overflow in order to prevent damage to electrical appliances in homes and ultimately, fires.


Interestingly, circuit breakers were the brainchild of Thomas Edison. Back in 1879, he applied for a patent that used fuses in his commercial power distribution systems. This circuit breaker was designed to protect electrical lights (Edison’s forte) from short circuits and overloads. Expensive at the time, light bulbs were breaking as more and more people tapped into the electrical grid and more power was in demand. The Boston Electric Light Company was the first to actually implement a circuit breaker (which at the time was called an electrical breaker) in 1898. The modern circuit breaker that is very much what we use today, which utilized thermal-magnetic breakers did not see the light of day (pun intended) until 1924, which utilized thermal-magnetic breakers.

Trial and error continued throughout the 20th century as the need for electrical grids and generators grew — and thus the need to control the surge of power grew. Simple air-break manual switches created more hazardous conditions than they prevented. Pressurized air and oil were then tried to fix the problems with the air-break manual switches.


  • Protective relay pilot device. First, a faulty current must be detected. A protective relay pilot device opens up a mechanism to interrupt the circuit.
  • A spring or compressed air is deployed. These components interrupt the circuit and break the contact points.
  • Medium for the arc to form in. When a current or voltage is interrupted, an arc is generated, which must be contained, cooled, and extinguished in a controlled manner so no damage is done and no fires are caused. Highly conductive metals are used to make the contact points, such as copper, silver, or alloys of both. Vacuum, air, gas, or oil are the preferred mediums for arcs.
  • Reconnect the contact points. This is where your “tripped circuit breaker” comes into play. The contacts or connection points must be restored in order to allow the flow of electrical current once again.


The mediums extinguish the arc, which is usually hot due to the amount of current or voltage that was detected. Any medium that can cool the arc is employed. Splitting the arc into smaller components is also done to make it easier to extinguish.

Oil circuit breakers blast the arc with a stream of oil. Gas circuit breakers stretch the arc (similar to splitting it up into smaller parts) and then rely upon the arc to effectively dissect itself in a process known as dielectric strength. Vacuum circuit breakers have very minimal arcs to begin with since there is not much for them to ionize with, allowing them to peter out. These circuit breakers are common in medium-voltage switchgears, up to 38,000 volts. Air circuit breakers use compressed air to blow out the arc.


Invented in the early 1900s, circuit boxes or electrical service panels began to be installed in homes and offices in order to hold circuit breakers that were being implemented to control the flow of electricity. In the beginning, when power demand was little and there were no TVs, computers, wireless devices that needed to be plugged in, and huge appliances, small fuse boxes were installed. Gradually, beginning in the 1950s, larger electrical fuse panels were installed in homes and offices. Finally, tired of dealing with blown fuses, almost all new buildings have a circuit breaker panel installed, which allows for added circuit breakers to be installed in the future as well as containing a wide variety of volt currents (including both 120- and 240-volts) and amps to be utilized for that circuit.


Circuit breakers are amazing modern inventions that keep our buildings safe, usually having the arc extinguished in 30 to 150 milliseconds. Ever since circuit breakers were employed, the number of house fires has fallen and lives have been saved — all from a simple device invented to stop another one of our inventions — electricity.

Breaker Outlet is passionate about supplying the best circuit breakers to your home and office. We stock most electrical components to keep up with building code changes that can happen every year. Whether you need standard circuit breakers, ground fault breakers, motor circuit protectors, or any other type of circuit breaker, Breaker Outlet endeavors to offer both new and refurbished circuit breakers to fit the needs of your electrical components and breaker boxes. We carry the best brands and all the goodies you’ll need to install circuit breakers, such as mounting hardware kits and tools for circuit breakers. We ship internationally and offer expedited shipping as well as standard shipping. We offer a 30-day money back guarantee and a customer service experience designed to make your shopping easy. Contact us today!

What to Do if Your Circuit Breaker Trips?

When the power goes out, why does it seem like it’s the most inopportune times, such as the middle of the night or after a long day at work? However, dealing with a tripped circuit isn’t as easy as it seems. Breaker Outlet, a proprietor of residential circuit breakers, offers up tips on what to do [...]

Read More »

Different Types of Circuit Breakers

In a previous blog post, we discussed the common causes of a tripped breaker. These include an overloaded circuit, a short circuit, or a ground fault. Circuits are safety mechanisms invented to help control the flow of electrical current into your home. This not only protects your electronic devices, such as refrigerators and computers, that [...]

Read More »

Issues with Your Circuit Breaker

We all have issues that are peculiar to us. Some of us are particular about the spreading of germs. Others are bothered by certain smells. Some of us have to do the dishes every night before bed. Similarly, circuit breakers have their issues as well. Breaker Outlet, the best retailer of industrial circuit breakers, explains issues [...]

Read More »

What is Ground Wiring

Electrical wiring is by no means something that we expect everyone to understand or know about. It’s a complex and all-encompassing subject that professionals are required to attend school and get an education of. While we don’t expect everyone to have a thorough understanding of how their electric wiring works or how to make any [...]

Read More »

Signs It’s Time to Update Your Electric Panel

Certain items make it clear when it’s time for them to be replaced. While it’s easily one of the most important pieces of your home, your electric panel is one of the few things that can be slightly more challenging to acknowledge when a replacement is needed. Here at Breaker Outlet, we carry a huge [...]

Read More »

The Dangers of an Outdated Electrical Circuit

Electricity is a significant component of the comfort that we get to experience on a regular basis. Be it in our homes or our workplace, having safe and reliable electrical wiring is a crucial component to structural safety. Given that so many new buildings are popping up across the United States, it’s not common for [...]

Read More »

GFCI Breakers vs GFCI Receptacles

In this day and age, we rely on electricity for so many things in our homes. In fact, electricity has become so commonplace that many people don’t even realize how dangerous it can be any more. Apart from electrical fires, the biggest risk our electrical systems pose is electrical shocks, particularly in areas with lots [...]

Read More »

Is It Time to Replace Your Circuit Breaker?

Believe it or not, circuit breakers don’t last forever. The circuit breaker is the one part of a home’s electrical system that homeowners are most aware of and use most frequently. But what most homeowners don’t know is that circuit breakers don’t last forever. If you leave a failing circuit breaker unattended for too long, it [...]

Read More »

Breaker Outlet Has All of the Electrical System Components You Need

If you are an electrician, you understand how important it is to have access to the electrical components that you need to complete a job on time, safely, and to your high standards. While there are seemingly more places to order what you need online every day, it can be difficult to know whether or [...]

Read More »

Powered by Top Rated Local®