Difference Between Switch & Circuit Breaker

Difference Between Switch & Circuit Breaker

Many people think that switches and circuit breakers are the same type of product. Frankly, to speak, they are two different products. Although they have similar functions, they still have differences. This article will help you understand the differences between switches and circuit breakers.

The Difference in Functionality

There are many types of switches, among which isolating switches and load switches may be two types of products that are functionally close to circuit breakers.

Isolating switches physically isolate circuits without arc extinguishing devices. They are divided into low voltage and high voltage, as well as indoor and outdoor. The traditional isolating switch is also called a knife switch. It cooperates with the circuit breaker and closes the circuit breaker first and then the isolating switch to avoid arcing. The main purpose of the isolating switch is to switch off a certain section of the circuit without exceeding the rated current to ensure the safety of maintenance personnel and the entire circuit.figure 1 What Is the Functional Difference Between A Switch and A Circuit Breaker-Isolating switches

The load switch has a simple arc extinguishing device with a relatively simple structure and the function of cutting off a certain overload current. The load switch uses compressed air in the cylinder to achieve the purpose of arc extinguishing. Load switches include high-voltage load switches and low-voltage load switches, but they all need to be combined with fuses to cut off the short circuit function of the circuit.

figure 2 What Is the Functional Difference Between A Switch and A Circuit Breaker-load switch

The circuit breaker has a complete arc extinguishing device, which mainly relies on automatically disconnecting the circuit after detecting abnormal current. It has the function of preventing overload and short circuit, overvoltage and undervoltage, etc., and plays a protective role in the circuit. Circuit breakers are also divided into high voltage circuit breakers and low voltage circuit breakers. According to the number of poles, there are 1P, 2P, 3P and 4P.

figure 3 What Is the Functional Difference Between A Switch and A Circuit Breaker-circuit breaker

The purpose of switches and circuit breakers is to break electrical circuits. Due to their different price points, a reasonable combination can not only save the cost of the entire circuit system or distribution network system, but also better ensure the normal operation of the circuit and ensure the safety of workers.

The Difference in Application Scope 

Switches and circuit breakers perform different functions in different scenarios. They can be used together in the entire circuit system.

The isolating switch is mainly operated manually and cannot protect itself. It mainly plays a big role in substations, power plants, and distribution networks. It isolates the power supply and protects the personal safety of operators when repairing equipment or a certain circuit.

figure 4 What Is the Difference in Application Scope between Switches and Circuit Breakers-isolating switch


Load switches are used frequently and generally need to be used in conjunction with fuses. Load switches are widely used in 10KV power distribution systems because of their low price and simple and convenient use, ensuring the safe and reliable operation of the power grid.

figure 5 What Is the Difference in Application Scope between Switches and Circuit Breakers-load switch


A circuit breaker is a widely used electrical component. It pays more attention to the protection of the entire circuit, can carry a wider range of current, and contains a variety of intelligent protection functions. A circuit breaker can automatically cut off a circuit, or it can be operated manually. It also has self-protection capabilities. It is mainly used to protect the safety of circuits or equipment and prevent overload, short circuits and other circuit faults from affecting equipment and personal safety. Suitable for power generation, transmission, consumption and distribution in buildings, circuit systems and distribution systems.

figure 6 What Is the Difference in Application Scope between Switches and Circuit Breakers-circuit breaker


This is the difference between switches and circuit breakers in practical applications. If you want to know more about the specific application differences between the two, you can search for more related articles.


Are the Switches Safer than Circuit Breakers?

The two usually perform their functions, and it is impossible to compare who is safer.

What Are the Similarities Between Circuit Breakers and Switches?

They can control the on and off of DC or AC power manually or automatically.

What Are the Common Safety Issues with Switches and Circuit Breakers?

Wiring errors, line short circuit, circuit overload, tripping, etc.

What Is the Degree of Protection of Switches and Circuit Breakers?

The general protection level of switches is IP65, and the highest protection level can reach IP68. The protection level of circuit breakers is generally IP30 or IP40.

Are Switches and Circuit Breakers Interchangeable?

It cannot be replaced at will and needs to be judged according to the specific circuit conditions.

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