A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused byoverload or short circuit. Its basic function is to detect a fault condition and interrupt current flow. Unlike a fuse, which operates once and then must be replaced, a circuit breaker can be reset (either manually or automatically) to resume normal operation. Circuit breakers are made in varying sizes, from small devices that protect an individual household appliance up to large switchgeardesigned to protect high voltage circuits feeding an entire city
The circuit breaker must detect a fault condition; in low voltage circuit breakers this is usually done within the breaker enclosure. Circuit breakers for large currents or high voltages are usually arranged with protective relay pilot devices to sense a fault condition and to operate the trip opening mechanism. The trip solenoid that releases the latch is usually energized by a separate battery, although some high-voltage circuit breakers are self-contained with current transformers, protective relays and an internal control power source.
Once a fault is detected,within the circuit breaker must open to interrupt the circuit; some mechanically-stored energy (using something such as springs or compressed air) contained within the breaker is used to separate the contacts, although some of the energy required may be obtained from the fault current itself. Small circuit breakers may be manually operated, larger units have solenoids to trip the mechanism, and electric motors to restore energy to the springs.