While these small yet crucial devices are familiar to electrical engineers, the average consumer is largely ignorant of the important role thermal cutoff fuses play in keeping them safe on a daily basis. When a thermal fuse functions correctly, nothing may be immediately obvious to the consumer, except for example, their dryer will suddenly stop working.
As any electrical engineer knows, a thermal cutoff fuse is a single use device, sometimes known as thermal fuse, TCOs, thermal link or a thermal cutoff. When the temperature in an electrical component exceeds the designed thermal cutoff temperature of the thermal fuse, the thermal element in the fuse melts, interrupting the electrical flow. The thermal fuse functions as an extra line of protection, preventing overheating. But once the TCO is triggered, the device is permanently disabled. That leaves some consumers wondering if it’s possible to safely replace these devices on their own. So is it possible, and more importantly, is it advisable?
Short answer? No – Leave it to the professionals. Trying to tamper with an electronic device is more likely to do harm than good. It’s crucial that end users understand that only trained professionals should try and repair electronic equipment that use thermal fuses. In many cases it is not possible to replace a thermal fuse since it may be enclosed and sealed in the device.
Understanding Thermal Fuse Functions and Electrical Manufacturing
As of November 2015, the U.S. Electrical Manufacturing industry includes 7,791 enterprises that employ a combined 371,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry includes a number of sub sectors covering a wide range of fields. By revenue, the major sectors of the electrical manufacturing industry include household appliances (15%); communication and energy wires/cables (15%); batteries (10%); lighting equipment (10%); industrial controls (10%), generators and motors (10%); switchboard equipment (10%); wiring devices (10%); and transformers (5%).
If a home or building contains any kind of appliance, electronic, or temperature sensitive device, then it is likely to contain a thermal fuse. , For example, thermal cutoffs can be found in hair dryers, motors, microwaves, toasters, refrigerators, electronic chargers, appliances, coffee machines, automobiles, and more. Whether they realize it or not, the average consumer owns dozens of appliances that use thermal fuses.
But while most Americans have at least a surface level knowledge of their fuse box, most people have no idea how a thermal fuse protects their home and how it differs from a typical line fuse. However, most consumers also lack the electrical knowledge needed to safely install or replace thermal cutoffs, which is why the repair of appliances with TCOs should always be left to a professional or the manufacturer of the device.
Of course, if a thermal fuse is installed correctly, most people will never even know it’s there. Electrical engineers looking to replace or order thermal fuses for use in upcoming projects should always contact authorized distributors like Chatham Components for more information.