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Circuit Breakers vs Fuses

Posted by Peter Kennedy on 1/13/2014



Here we are at the Presidential Debate looking as Fuses vs. Circuit Breakers:

The Blue Sea Systems 4306 WeatherDeck switch panel with fuses is almost identical to the 4376 switch panel with circuit breakers.  Both are waterproof switch panels with six positions but the 4306 uses ATO/ATC fuses for circuit protection whereas the 4376 uses Push Button reset only circuit breakers.  Which should you choose?

                             

Convenience when a circuit trips a fuse or breaker?

No contest here, when the circuit trips all  you have to do with the 4376 panel is push the button to reset the breaker.  As always of course you might want to check why it blew in the first place.  With the 4306 Fuse Panel you have to snap off the trim cover, remove the rubber boot covering the fuses and identify the fuse that has blown.  Then, as before, you should figure out why it blew in the first place.  Then you have to find a replacement fuse and put it all back together again.  Winner:  Circuit Breaker

Convenience for installation?

The 4376 panel comes with six 15 Amp circuit breakers.  If you use 16 awg wires or above and connect lights, pumps or whatever to these breakers you will have satisfied the ABYC requirements for protecting the wires.  However, especially with the pumps, you may not be satisfying the requirements for the items themselves.  If for example you have a baitwell pump that requires 5 Amp circuit protection then that is what it requires and 15 Amps is not correct.  So to meet the requirements with the 4376 panel you have to order the correct circuit breaker, remove one circuit breaker from the panel and install the replacement.

With the 4306 fuse panel when you want to install a pump or a piece of electronics you just insert the correct size fuse when installing the panel.  Its that simple.  Many electronics items come with fuses attached but if you instead substitute the same size fuse at the switch panel you are covered and end up without having untidy inline fuses all over the place.  Also if you get a new pump or piece of electronics that requires different circuit protection then all you have to do is swap out the fuse.

So for convenience of installation the 4306 Fuse Panel wins hands down.  Winner:  Fuse

Price

The price difference between the two is so close as to be not important.  The circuit breaker panel is about 6% more expensive.  Winner:  Too close to call

The overall winner?

You have to decide the overall winner here.  There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on what works best for your application.  Since this is an interactive blog feel free to add your two cents worth below!




Comments

Date 1/26/2015
carol coronella
I am interested in purchasing a Cape Dory 25 that has a 12 volt system with fuses. The owner has used a Garmin chart plotter on the boat in the past but it now does not work. He had the garmin tested and it checked out fine as do all other electrical equipment on the boat. The owner wants to sell the boat "as is" and believes replacing the fuse panel with circuit breakers will solve the problem. Is this a valid assumption and what would the fix cost for the "worst case"?
Date 5/6/2015
Edward Herlihy
Carol, the short answer is "NO." If the unit does not work with a fuse, simply swapping from fuses to breakers will not change the problem. It is more likely that the problem is somewhere in the wiring. What will it cost? How much would it cost to re-wire the boat? Frankly, it sounds like there are electrical problems, and you would probably get more piece of mind by re-building the electrical system. Figure on the cost of new batteries (~$100 each) plus new MARINE GRADE primary wiring (~$50) plus a new main switch (~$100) plus a new breaker panel (depending on the number of circuits, anywhere from $100 to $2000) plus MARINE GRADE secondary wire, plus labor.

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