When it’s OK to blow a fuse.

We all get overloaded from time to time … too much work, too much pressure, too much birthday cake. You get the idea. When a circuit in your home gets overloaded, though, it can be much more serious than a headache or a case of indigestion. That’s when blowing a fuse is a good thing.

If you, like many Pittsburghers, live in an older home with older wiring, you may still have screw-in fuses to protect your circuits (more modern homes typically have circuit breakers, which do the same job.) When a circuit suddenly carries too much current, say if you should plug too many hair curlers into the same wall socket, the circuit heats up and causes the metal link inside the fuse to melt and break the circuit. This is what fuses (and circuit breakers) were born to do: sacrifice themselves to prevent your wiring from overheating and starting a fire.

How to re-fuse.

The Fire Department and your Friendly Local Electrician tell you to never replace a fuse with anything other than another fuse — no coins, wires, paper clips or bobby pins! And make sure the fuse has the same rating, whether it’s 15A, 20A, or something else. If you somehow manage to replace a 15A with 20A, you run the risk of “overfusing” the circuit — the fuse may not blow soon enough, and the heat could start a fire. This is true of screw-in household fuses as well as the in-line fuses you put in your car, appliances and home electronics.

Bottom line: don’t blow it. Let the fuse do it!