Circuit Breaker vs Safety Switch

When it comes to the electrical wiring in your home, the safety of you and your family is the most important thing.This is why devices such as safety switches, circuit breakers and RCDs were created, and why they are used extensively throughout a majority of buildings… to ensure the best protection around for both humans and infrastructure. But do you know the difference between a circuit breaker and a safety switch? And do you know what they do? If you have any further questions, give your local electrician a call and they will be able to assist.

Safety Switch

Electrical safety

The electrical safety of your home is one of the most important things, and there are a few mechanisms that can help with ensuring you are as protected as possible from any electrical mishaps. The most common devices are safety switches, RCDs and circuit breakers, and all have an important role in ensuring the safety of you, your family and your home.

Electrical Safety

What is a safety switch?

The first, and likely most known, safety device is a safety switch. A safety switch is designed to protect people from an electric shock, through monitoring the electric current running through the circuitry of a building and cutting the power any time a current leak is detected. The power cuts pretty much instantly, meaning a safety switch is sort of like an insurance policy against electric burns or electric shock, by stopping any stray current making its way to a human.

What is an RCD?

RCDs are also known as a residual current device, and they have the same protection capabilities as a safety switch.

Electrical hazard

What is a circuit breaker?

Finally, a circuit breaker is designed to protect the wiring and appliances in a building. They stop the overheating of circuits by cutting power when there is too much current running through the circuitry. Although circuit breakers aren’t directly installed to protect humans, they help protect against electrical fires and other damage due to power surges.

Circuit breaker vs safety switch

So, after all that, what is the difference between a circuit breaker and a safety switch? They both offer protective purposes, however, the difference is in what they are to protect. A safety switch is designed to protect you, and those around you, from an electric shock from a leaking current. A circuit breaker, on the other hand, is designed to protect the appliances, circuitry and wiring within a building from a current overload.

There is also a combination of the two available, offering an ‘all-in-one’ kind of device. This offers the advantages of both units, and also takes up less space. Due to these factors, they are quite a common choice, meaning less crowding on your switchboard and less interference with other circuits if it does trip. Have a chat with your local electrician to see if a combination device is an available option for your home.

Do you have a safety switch or a circuit breaker installed in your home?

If you would like to know if you have a safety switch and/or a circuit breaker installed in your home, take a look at your electrical box, which houses your switchboard. Generally, there should be markings visible (that have been written by an electrician) above any fuses, circuit breakers and/safety switches indicating which is which. If you can’t seem to locate any writings or markings, take a look for a switch that has a test button or ‘T’. If you can find one of these, this is your safety switch.

Can you install a safety switch or circuit breaker yourself?

No! Installing safety devices on your electrical wiring, whether it be in your home or office, can be quite dangerous and should never be a DIY job. Call a local electrical specialist who will be equipped with the appropriate tools and knowledge to complete the job properly. Realistically, any and all work that is completed on the electrical circuits in your home, workplace or other areas should always be carried out by a professional.

Electric Shock Risk

Also, if your electrical work is carried out by someone who isn’t a qualified electrician it can potentially void your insurance!

Circuit breaker vs safety switch video

Worksafe Queensland has put together a short video regarding busting the myths surrounding safety switches and circuit breakers - take a look below.

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Your electrical experts in Brisbane

If you have any further questions regarding circuit breakers, RCDs or safety switches, or would like one of our qualified professionals to attend your home or workplace to arrange the installation, replacement or repair of any devices, give Alltronic Electrical a call on 07 3353 3248 or complete an online quote form today. We can assist with all your electrical safety needs, so get in contact now!

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Resources :

Workplace Health and Safety (Electrical Safety Office - FAQ) : https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safetyswitches/frequently-asked-questions

Workplace Health and Safety (Playing it safe with safety switches) : https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/safetyswitches/safety-switch-films

South Australia Government (Safety Switches) : https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/energy-and-environment/using-electricity-and-gas-safely/safety-switches

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