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It was America, 1896, and the very first large-scale power generation system had just opened at Niagara Falls. Americans were enjoying the very first national power grid, and all the perks that came along with a steady flow of electricity. But with great power comes great responsibility.

Between 1901 and 1902 there were 14 deaths resulting from electrical accidents in Massachusetts alone, which isn't too bad until you consider the entire country's population topped out at 105 million. Something had to be done to protect the unassuming public from this growing threat, but what? Enter the circuit breaker.

how a circuit breaker works

To truly understand the inner workings of circuit breakers, you've got to first understand a little bit about how electricity works in your home. The power grid delivers electricity to your home, which then travels in a large circuit, powering your outlets and appliances along the way. Your home's circuit breaker and all of its switches act like a bouncer, monitoring the circuit and shutting down any power outlets where it detects unsafe levels of electricity.

1) The terminal is where electricity enters the control switch and then travels into to the moving contact. This is where your home's electricity begins its journey.

2) The moving contact is connected to the stationary contact and is essentially the bridge that your electrical current must cross on its way to an appliance. When a home's electrical circuit is working properly at safe levels, the moving and stationary contacts will remain connected.

3) Connected to the moving contact is a catch that is controlled by your circuit breaker's switch. When the circuit breaker detects unsafe levels of electricity and flips the switch "OFF", the catch is triggered, breaking the connection between the moving and stationary contacts and stopping the flow of electricity.

4) At the bottom of the catch is the piece that makes the magic happen: the electromagnet or bi-metallic sensor. This piece senses the electromagnetic field and, if the flow begins to reach unsafe levels, the electromagnet bends and breaks its connection with the catch, neutralizing the unsafe electricity and causing the switch to flip "OFF".