Table of Contents

Is a GFCI Circuit Breaker Equivalent to Surge Protection?

Phillip M. Way
Table of Contents

Since the discovery of electricity, mankind has harnessed a great source of power; however, this beneficial discovery has inherent dangers. An electrical accident that is not immediately brought under control will cause damage or even death.


Electricity can be man-made or naturally occurring. When generated from a power plant, it provides light, heating, air conditioning and power for equipment and tools. In nature, it appears as electrostatic discharges, lightning and as bioelectricity pulsing between cells in living organisms.

Circuit Breakers

Electricity is generated, sent along power lines and passed through a circuit breaker box before entering a home or building. A circuit breaker will “trip” in the event of an overload to interrupt power going to the circuit.


A GFCI is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Wires that come into contact with another conductive surface allow electricity to flow out to the ground instead of completing its circuit. This new flow of electricity, or ground fault, is uncontrolled and may cause damage and death to anything it passes through. The GFCI stops the flow of electricity in this event.

Electrical Surge

An electrical surge, the most destructive form of power disturbances, occurs when the voltage in an electrical line spikes. Surges are caused by lightning or a malfunction at the power plant and will damage electronic devices, start fires and shock people.

How Surge Protectors Work

Surge protectors divert or suppress a voltage surge, protecting electrical equipment from overheating or other damage. The best surge protectors also include a fuse as a fail-safe to interrupt the power if the suppressor fails.

GFCI vs. Surge Protection

Both devices offer protection from electrical accidents, but they work to prevent different types of power disturbances. Instead of an “either-or” option, they are a “both-and” necessity for electrical safety.