Regarding protecting your electrical devices and appliances from power surges, circuit breakers, and surge protectors are two commonly used solutions. While these devices serve a similar purpose, they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different situations.
This article will explore the differences between circuit breakers and surge protectors, their functions, and when to use each. By the end, you should better understand which device is best suited for your needs.
What is a Circuit Breaker?
A circuit breaker is an electrical switch that automatically interrupts the flow of electricity when it detects an overload or short circuit in a circuit. It is a safety mechanism to prevent damage to electrical appliances and devices caused by overheating or excessive current flow.
Circuit breakers are typically installed in the main electrical panel of a building, where they can monitor the flow of electricity through all circuits in the building. They come in different sizes and ratings, depending on how much current they can handle before tripping.
What is a Surge Protector?
A surge protector, also known as a surge suppressor, protects electrical devices from sudden voltage spikes or surges in the power supply. These voltage spikes can be caused by lightning strikes, power outages, or switching on high-powered electrical devices.
The surge protector acts as a barrier between the electrical device and the power source, absorbing excess voltage and redirecting it to the ground, thereby protecting the device from damage. Surge protectors come in various forms, including power strips, wall outlets, and whole-house surge protectors.
Differences Between Circuit Breakers and Surge Protectors
The primary function of a circuit breaker is to prevent electrical fires caused by overloads or short circuits, while the function of a surge protector is to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes.
In other words, circuit breakers are safety devices, while surge protectors are damage control devices.
Circuit breakers are usually installed at the main electrical panel of a building, whereas surge protectors can be used at individual outlets or as a whole-house solution.
Surge protectors are also commonly used for sensitive electronic devices such as computers, televisions, and appliances.
Circuit breakers offer basic protection by shutting off power to the circuit when an overload or short circuit is detected.
On the other hand, surge protectors provide a more advanced form of protection by actively blocking and redirecting excess voltage away from the devices.
Circuit breakers are inexpensive and often included in a building’s electrical system. Surge protectors, especially whole-house surge protectors, can be more costly but are worth the investment to protect expensive electronic devices from damage.
Circuit breakers are designed to trip instantly when an overload or short circuit is detected, whereas surge protectors may take a few nanoseconds to respond to a surge.
In most cases, however, this response time is not noticeable and still provides adequate protection.
When to Use Circuit Breakers or Surge Protectors
Use circuit breakers to prevent electrical fires caused by overloads or short circuits in your building’s electrical system. If you live in an area where lightning strikes or power surges are common, installing a whole-house surge protector is also a good idea to protect your home’s entire electrical system.
On the other hand, use surge protectors to safeguard individual devices from voltage spikes. This is especially important for sensitive electronics like computers, televisions, and home theater systems. It’s also a good idea to use surge protectors for expensive or difficult-to-replace devices.
In summary, circuit breakers and surge protectors have different functions and serve different purposes when protecting your electrical devices. While circuit breakers prevent electrical fires caused by overloads or short circuits in the building’s electrical system, surge protectors protect individual devices from voltage spikes.
Using both of these devices in conjunction is important for maximum protection and peace of mind. So, next time you shop for electrical safety equipment, choose the right device based on your needs. So, next time you shop for electrical safety equipment, choose the right device based on your needs.