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The Difference Between RCD and RCBO Devices Explained

RCD vs. RCBO use in an electrical installation
RCD vs. RCBO use in an electrical installation
Resource: https://electricalforum.nz

While both are protective devices, there is a difference between RCD and RCBO devices. One is used for general circuit protection while the other is used for more specific applications. Here’s a quick rundown of each device and when you might use them:

RCD RCBO Definition

To start us off, let’s first briefly define each device. This will give us a common understanding of the devices before we start to compare them. So, here is the RCD RCBO definition.

RCD Meaning

RCD stands for Residual Current Device. It’s an electrical safety device that monitors the current flowing through a circuit and trips if it detects an imbalance. This is usually caused by a fault in the circuit or faulty equipment.

RCDs are designed to protect against electrical shock and fires by quickly disconnecting the power before serious damage can occur. In short, residual current device fault protection is vital when it comes to preventing electrical accidents.

RCBO Meaning

RCBO stands for Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Overload protection. It’s a device that combines the functions of an RCD and a circuit breaker into one single unit.

An RCBO is used to specifically protect against electrical fires by detecting a fault in the circuit and quickly disconnecting the power before serious damage can occur. Like an RCD, an RCBO is a vital part of any electrical safety system and will also protect against shocks.

RCD application
RCD application
Resource: https://www.avforums.com

RCDs vs. RCBO

Even though both RCDs and RCBO provide electrical protection, there are some key differences between the two devices. This can be seen in the working, function, and features of each device. The difference between RCD and RCBO devices can be summarized as follows:

RCD and RCBO Difference # 1 Working

The RCD working principle involves monitoring the current flowing through a circuit. If it detects an imbalance, it will trip and disconnect the power.

An RCBO also monitors the current flowing through a circuit, in the same way as the RCD does and using a similar mechanism.

However, it will not only trip if it detects an imbalance but will also disconnect the power if it detects an overload or short circuit. It, therefore, works slightly differently from an RCD.

RCD and RCBO Difference # 2 Function

The main function of a residual current device, RCD, is to protect people from being electrocuted by residual currents or earth faults.

An RCBO has two functions. Firstly, it protects people from being electrocuted by residual currents or earth faults. Secondly, it protects against electrical fires by quickly disconnecting the power before serious damage can occur.

This difference between the two devices is due to the fact that an RCBO has circuit breaker functionality built-in, whereas an RCD does not. It makes the RCBO more suitable for applications where extra protection is needed, such as in circuits where there is a higher risk of fire.

RCD and RCBO Difference # 3 Versatility

An RCD can only be used to protect against shocks caused by ground faults. You cannot use it for overcurrent protection. In order to protect a circuit from such, you have to use it in combination with an MCB or other overcurrent device.

An RCBO, on the other hand, is much more versatile. Not only can it be used to protect against shocks caused by ground faults but also selectively protect circuits from overcurrent situations.

RCD and RCBO Difference # 4 Price

The RCD price is typically lower than that of an RCBO. That’s because its construction does not include the extra components and functionality of an RCBO. You can get one for as low as 20$ or higher depending on the required level of protection and other factors such as installation place or application..

An RCBO will cost you a bit more, with the price depending on the brand and specific features. Generally, the RCD MCB combination offers a cheaper option and may be preferred in some situations. In most residential applications, RCD use is more common than RCBO use.

RCBO use in an electrical system
RCBO use in an electrical system
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgPtehuAup4

RCD or RCBO?

Which device, between an RCD and RCBO, should you us? Based on the difference between RCD and RCBO devices given above, we can say this:

That the decision of whether to use RCD or RCBO protection will ultimately come down to a number of factors, including cost, the level of protection required, and the specific application.

Here is a brief overview to help you figure out what device suits your application.

RCD Application

You should use RCD protection whenever you need general circuit protection. This could be in your home, office, or any other building. Larger sized RCDs can also be used in industrial settings to provide equipment or circuit protection.

An RCD is the best choice for protecting against electrical shock because it will quickly disconnect the power before serious damage can occur. It also suits situations where only temporary protection against electrocution is required. That’s because it’s available as a plug-in device.

RCBO Application

You should use an RCBO when you need extra protection against electrical fires. This could be in a circuit that is particularly susceptible to faults or where there is a higher risk of fire, such as in the electrical systems that are susceptible to overcurrent.

An RCBO is also a good choice when you need both circuit protection and selective overcurrent protection. However, they are more expensive than RCDs, so you will need to weigh up the cost before making a decision.

Conclusion

Both RCDs and RCBOs are important devices that serve different purposes. RCDs are best for protecting against electrical shock, especially that it can be used almost anywhere, including in sockets. Be sure to choose the right device for your needs to keep you and your property safe. If you need extra protection against overcurrent, then an RCBO is the better choice. If you’re just looking for shock protection, then an RCD will suffice.

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