What Is The Difference Between Circuit Breaker and GFCI?

What Is The Difference Between Circuit Breaker and GFCI?

Ensuring electrical safety is an absolute must for both commercial and residential environments. In the realm of electrical safety, two components that are absolutely indispensable are the Circuit Breaker and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). As one of Sacramento’s premier electrical contractors, Sac Town Electric has been ensuring the optimal and safe functioning of these devices in numerous electrical setups across the city.
Many people, however, do not fully comprehend the difference between these two devices and their individual functions. To better understand this important topic, we at Sac Town Electric, have written this blog to compare and contrast Circuit Breakers and GFCIs, so that you can know the difference and what each of them does for your home.

What is a Circuit Breaker?

A Circuit Breaker is a safety device that is designed to protect an electrical circuit from getting damaged by an overload or a short circuit. When the current flowing through the circuit exceeds a set limit, the circuit breaker interrupts the electrical flow, preventing overheating and potential fires.
As part of our work at Sac Town Electric, we regularly install and maintain circuit breakers in Sacramento homes and businesses, ensuring their efficient functioning and preventing electrical mishaps.

What is a GFCI?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is another type of electrical safety device that protects against electric shock. By continuously monitoring the difference between the current flowing into and out of an electrical device, it can identify any leakages of current (known as “ground faults”) and immediately shut off the electricity supply.
In Sacramento, where we have a mix of older homes and new constructions, Sac Town Electric frequently installs GFCIs in areas where electricity and water may intersect such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor locations, helping to ensure the safety of our city’s residents.

The Key Differences

When it comes to differentiating between a Circuit Breaker and a GFCI, here are the key points to consider:
  • Protection type:
    While both devices serve as safety measures, a Circuit Breaker primarily protects the electrical circuit from potential damage due to overloads and short circuits. In contrast, a GFCI is designed to protect people from electrical shocks caused by ground faults.
  • Sensitivity:
    GFCIs are more sensitive than circuit breakers. They can detect imbalances as small as 5 milliamperes and respond promptly to prevent potential electric shocks. Circuit breakers, on the other hand, are designed to respond to significant overloads or short circuits.
  • Application:
    As a rule of thumb, Circuit Breakers are used universally in all electrical installations to safeguard wiring and devices from electrical faults. GFCIs, conversely, are primarily installed in wet or damp locations where ground faults are more likely to occur.


In summary, while Circuit Breakers and GFCIs both serve to enhance electrical safety, they perform distinct roles and functions. Circuit Breakers protect the electrical system itself, while GFCIs are in place to protect individuals from electric shocks. At Sac Town Electric, we understand these differences intimately and apply our knowledge to ensure that all our clients in Sacramento receive the highest level of electrical safety. Whether you’re looking to safeguard your home or business, you can count on our experienced team to deliver expert service and peace of mind.