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

Switchboard

Most houses are equipped with circuit breakers in the main switchboard to protect the wiring from overloads. It's a device that controls and protects the electrical power system in your property. Circuit breakers provide short-circuit and over-current protection such as when a power point is overloaded, but it does not protect an individual from electrocution - that's what safety switches do. Safety switches are designed to prevent death or injury when an electrical fault is detected and are an additional form of protection to be used with circuit breakers and fuses.Safety switches switch the power off within 0.03 seconds, when a person makes direct contact with electricity. Fuses and circuit breakers protect against short circuits and current overloads.

  • Safety Switches

Safety switches or residual current devices (RCD’s) are devices installed in your switchboard, designed to provide protection to you against electrical faults, which may cause electrocution and fires.

Through a circuit the device monitors the flow of electricity and once an imbalance occurs wherein the current on the two wires are not equal, the safety switch or RCD turns off the power within 0.03 of a second, before further damage occurs. Summarized, safety switches are designed to protect one's life by cutting off the power when an individual comes in direct contact with live wires or live appliance parts. They can be recognised either with a test button and 30ma printed on them or labelled with the words safety switch.

(Safety switches are not a substitute for common sense!)

  • Circuit Breakers

Circuit Breakers are an automatically operated electrical switch. They provide short-circuit and overcurrent protection such as when a power point is overloaded. They interrupt the current flow after a fault is detected and disable power to the circuit so that no further damage can be done to the internal wiring of your home or business. The Circuit Breaker can be reset, either manually or automatically. Circuit Breakers do not act as safety switches for personal protection against electrical shock.

  • Fuses

Fuses are a safety device to provide protection against overloads and short circuits. Fuses work much the same as Circuit Breakers but are very inaccurate in the measurement of the amount of amps that are required for the fuse to blow, therefore proving a higher risk of electrical damage to your circuit or appliances. Their essential component, a metal strip or wire interrupts the current flow by melting when too much current flows through it. As it is a sacrificial device it must be replaced or rewired once it has operated (blown)

 

  • Legal requirements

In South Australia it is a legal requirement to have a minimum of 2 safety switches in your switchboard. One for power and one for lighting. By law, safety switches protecting power points and lighting circuits must be installed in all new homes and in buildings where electrical circuits are altered or added. This law was introduced in 1991, so if your home was built before this time, it may not be protected by safety switches.


If you would like to be sure that your home or business is protected, we can identify this for you and recommend if any upgrading is required. Call us now for a free consultation - 1800 350 350

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