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What is the difference between a safety switch and a circuit breaker?

In the world of electronics, it's easy to get circuit breakers and safety switches confused due to the functional similarities and look. Open your power box and you will see rows of circuit breakers usually followed by a safety switch.  These layouts are commonly ordered into zones. A safety switch will trigger a whole zone while a circuit will trip a local area or device. 

Both safety switches and circuit breakers primary purpose is to protect you and your family and they are one of the most important components to ensuring your home remains hazard-free.

Safety Switch

Put simply, a safety switch is a device that quickly switches off the electricity supply if an electrical fault is detected, to minimise the risk of electricity-related fires, electric shock, injury and death. Safety switches are also a legal requirement for power outlets supplying the public with power and are designed to protect people against faulty appliances, fittings and electrical faults by 'tripping off' when a leakage is detected.

Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker’s primary purpose is to protect an appliance from an overload of current, unlike a safety switch/RCD which is designed to protect a person. Circuit breakers and fuses can protect your appliances or circuit wiring by cutting power when there is a fault or an abnormally high flow of current is detected. This safety feature directly protects the circuits in a home. Leaks or faulty connections between wires can cause power surges in a circuit, which create electrical fires. To prevent this from happening, when an irregular amount of amps is detected, the circuit breaker cuts off the source of electricity.

Do you need Safety Switches or Circuit Breakers?

On the sunshine Coast, it is law to have both Safety switches and circuit breakers installed in the home. Safety switches have been compulsory on all new homes in Queensland since 1992 and safety switches must also be fitted to all powerpoint circuits when new electrical installations occur.

Your qualified electrical specialists

If you are having issues with your safety switches, or think it may be time for RDC Circuit Breaker testing give Static Electrics a call on 1300 206 004 or complete an online job booking form today. We are your local experts when it comes to safety switch issues and testing, so get in contact!

Remember, never carry out electrical work yourself and always use a qualified electrical contractor. The above information is basic fault finding that is simple and safe to do, however should be used as a guide only.




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