Circuit Breaker vs Safety Switch

What’s the difference you may ask? You thought they were the same thing? You are not alone!

Safety Switch

It is quite shocking (or maybe no-so-shocking to some) to know that very few people can tell the difference between a circuit breaker and a safety switch, with around 40% of people thinking they are the same thing. Now that the Government is pushing for homes to be fitted with more than one safety switch for added home safety, it is super important to ensure that you know the difference and whether they are installed in your house. If you are having any issues, or are unsure as to where to start, give your local electrician a call and they can help you out!

What are the different electrical safety mechanisms?

Your home can be fitted with a few different devices for electrical safety. These include a safety switch, a circuit breaker and an RCD (among other things), and all offer protection to you and/or your home’s wiring from electrical dangers.

Electrical Safety

What is a safety switch?

A safety switch is a device that is designed to protect you from electric shock from the electricity running through the wiring in your home. They work by cutting off the electricity to a particular area of your home (or your whole home) the very millisecond a leakage is located. A safety switch therefore acts like insurance against electric shock or electric burns, as it stops any electric current making its way to a person.

Safety Switch

Safety switches can be installed in your homes switchboard or on individual powerpoints, however a switchboard install is the most common choice.

What is a circuit breaker?

Circuit breakers are designed to protect the circuitry. They will cut the power when too much current is present in the circuit, which stops overheating. Circuit breakers do not save people directly, they provide defence against electrical fires due to power surges.

Circuit Breaker 

What about an RCD?

An RCD, otherwise known as a residual current device, offers the same protection as a safety switch and is essentially the same thing. The terms ‘safety switch’ and ‘RCD’ can therefore be used interchangeably.

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

The major difference is what they protect - a circuit breaker is designed to protect the circuitry and wiring of your home, whereas a safety switch is designed to protect people from electric shocks.

What about a combination of the two?

Now, to confuse things even more there is an option available for an individual combined safety switch/circuit breaker. This allows for the advantages of both a safety switch and circuit breaker in one handy little device. This is a common choice as it takes up less space than each device on its own, meaning a less crowded switchboard, as well as not affecting other circuits if it trips.

How do I know if I have a safety switch or circuit breaker installed in my home?

To find if you have a safety switch installed you can check your electrical box for markings. Typically, electricians will write above each fuse, circuit breaker and safety switch. If there isn't a marking look for switches that have a "T" or Test button. This is a safety switch.

Safety Switch and Circuit Breaker

Who can install circuit breakers and safety switches?

Only a qualified electrician is allowed to install both circuit breakers and safety switches. This is not a DIY project and is a job for a professional only. You should only ever have a fully licenced electrician work on your switchboard or any other electrical fault on your home, as if electrical work is carried out by someone other than an electrician it can risk voiding your insurance and can also be very dangerous.

Electrician

Safety switches and circuit breakers video

The following is a video from the Queensland Government regarding busting myths surrounding safety switches and circuit breakers. It is important to know the difference and ensure your house and family are safe, so ensure you spare a few minutes and take a watch.


Your qualified electrical professionals

If you need some more safety switches and/or circuit breakers installed in your home or think it may be time for an electrician to check your home’s wiring, give the licensed team at Captain Cook a call on 0481 134 679 or complete an online job booking form today. We are your local professionals, so get in contact now!

Captain Cook Electrical

Resources :

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

Workplace Health and Safety (Electrical Safety Office - Rental Properties) : https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/injury-prevention-safety/electricity/homeowners-and-consumers/safety-switches-and-domestic-rental-properties

The Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory (Media Statements) : http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2018/4/4/safety-switches-save-lives-and-should-be-fitted-to-all-circuits

BUILD : http://www.build.com.au/safety-switch-laws-and-requirements

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