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What's the difference between a safety switch & a circuit breaker?

Both safety switches and circuit breakers are important to maintain electrical safety in your home or business. They prevent damage to your property and protect residents from electrical accidents but they have completely different functions.

In this article, we discuss the key differences between safety switches and circuit breakers. So if you would like to learn more about electrical safety mechanisms, keep reading. And if you have any questions, give us a call on 0420 798 861 and we would be happy to help.

Difference between Circuit Breakers and Safety Switches

Circuit breakers check the circuit for overload and protect the electrical circuit and wiring, while safety switches protect people from getting electrocuted by a stray current.

Circuit Breakers

They are designed to protect the electrical wiring and appliances from damage. A power surge can damage appliances and also create electrical fires. If the circuit breakers detect an irregular amount of current, they cut off the power supply immediately.

Circuit Breaker - HMP

Safety Switch

Safety switches are also known as a RCD (residual current device). They are designed to protect people from getting hurt due to an electric shock.

They monitor the current flowing through the circuit. In case of any leak or faults, safety switch turns off the power supply within milliseconds.

Safety Switch - Clipsal

Combination Safety Switches and Circuit Breakers

Safety switches and circuit breakers are also available as a combination device. This device performs the functions of both in one device taking up less space and offering the benefit of complete electrical safety. It is an attractive option especially if you have a crowded switchboard and want a simple solution. Other circuits do not get affected if the combination device trips.


Can you install a circuit breaker or safety switch yourself?


DIY electrical work is illegal in Australia and you can be fined for doing unlicensed electrical work. Moreover, if something goes wrong, you can also void your home insurance. Always call a licensed electrician to install circuit breakers and safety switches.

How to check if safety switches and circuit breakers are installed?

Observe your switchboard and see if the switches are marked. Usually, electricians label the fuses or circuit breakers - if there is no marking, look for switches having a T button (which indicates a safety switch).

Both circuit breakers and safety switches look similar, however, safety switches have a T or test button.

Safety switches prevent deadly accidents

One safety switch may not be enough. Many old homes still have one safety switch connected to the power point circuit which is good but won't protect you if the issue occurs on any of the other circuits running around your home.

Electrical safety regulators recommend homeowners to have safety switches installed on all circuits like hot water, air conditioners, swimming pools, etc. If you are unsure whether you have a safety switch installed, give us a call and our licensed electricians can install it for you.

How to Test Safety Switches?

Our electricians recommend that safety switches are tested every 3 months.

To test a safety switch:

  • Press the T button on the device
  • On pressing T, the power supply should be disconnected to that circuit and the switch should automatically flick to the OFF position
  • To reset the safety switch, turn the switch back to the ON position

If your safety switch doesn't trip and turn off the power supply when tested contact your local electrician.

Safety Switch Installation & Testing Sydney

If you need a safety switch or circuit breaker installed or tested or you require a general electrical inspection in the Sydney area, give our team a call on 0420 798 861 or complete our online Electrician Booking Form today.

0420 798 861