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Surge Protector vs GFCI: What’s the Difference!

Both Surge Protectors and GFICs are used to prevent electrical occurrences. But people often mistake them to be the same, whereas they are totally different. I understand if you are struggling with the same confusion.

Surge protector vs GFCI – which one should you buy?

We can compare them on several parameters. We can compare the differences between their purpose and functionality. We can also consider the differences between their electrical durability and the benefits that they offer. And finally, we will be comparing their affordability as well.

That is not all though. I have prepared this article to help you understand their differences better and choose one of them.

So, what’s the hold-up? Let’s get right into it, shall we?

Overview of Comparison

Let’s have a look at the overview of a comparison between a surge protector and a GFCI:

FeatureSurge ProtectorGFCI
PurposeIt works to prolong the survival of the equipment and appliances from repetitive spikes and surges.GFCI works to avoid ground faults.
FunctionalityIt takes the electrical flow down to a safe level as it reaches the equipment.If it finds a 5 mA difference in its observation, it’ll block electrical flow.
Electrical DurabilitySure protectors are made to withstand high electrical surges GFCIs cannot withstand high electrical surges
BenefitsLesser ReplacementsSurge Protectors are Affordable
Avoids Electrical Fires from Taking Place Protects You from Electrical Shock
AffordabilityAround $20 – $70Around $135 – $150 

I hope you got the zest of it. Now let’s dive into more detail.

In-Depth Comparison

I have acquired surface-level knowledge about the differences between surge protectors and GFCIs. 

Let’s get an in-depth look into them, shall we?

Feature 1 of 5: Purpose

A surge protector provides protection against the sudden power surges. 

Most electronic devices in our homes like TV, PC, Refrigerator– come with certain ratings. They indicate the electrical flow these appliances can sustain without getting damaged.

Electrical surges are very likely to occur in your home from time to time. The surge protector prevents your appliances from facing the immense surge. It does that by absorbing the blow itself.

Whereas, Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) help in preventing disastrous ground faults. They respond quickly similar to a circuit breaker. 

If there is a ground fault in motion, the GFCI shuts off the current. It secures both the appliance and you as well.

Feature 2 of 5: Functionality

Surge protectors regulate the electrical flow and voltage within the electrical equipment. It does so in two ways- blocking or grounding. It takes the electrical flow down to a safe level as it reaches the equipment.

It works to prolong the survival of the equipment and appliances. Repetitive spikes and surges aren’t something that they are made to handle. This is where the protector steps in to take one for the team. 

They are rated to withstand much more electrical abuse. It makes them reliable for prolonging the survival of the electronic devices at your home.

But, the surge protector will wear down a bit with each blow that it endures. Surge protectors can malfunction sometimes. But that’s a rare sight.

On the flipside, a GFCI has a very simple working mechanism. It analyzes the total current going and returning from circuit conductors and equipment.

If there is a 5 mA difference in the observation of the GFCI, it’ll take action. The GFCI will immediately block the electrical flow. 

This safety measure protects both your equipment and you from the ground current.

Feature 3 of 5: Electrical Durability

Surge protectors are made with the purpose to withstand high electrical abuse. On the contrary, GFCIs are not designed to withstand power surges. They could get damaged in an event like that.

A 15 amp surge protector on a 120-volt circuit,  can withstand up to 1800 watts. GFCIs will not be able to handle that much.

Feature 4 of 5: Benefits 

Now, you may wonder how they could benefit you. Let’s have a look:

Benefits of GFCI

First, let’s discuss the benefits of a GFCI

Avoids Electrical Fires from Taking Place

There could be more serious consequences than a shock when it comes to electric surges. An electrical surge near exposed wiring can very well start a fire in your home.

The GFCI makes sure that the electric flow doesn’t reach those vulnerable wires. You should definitely have a GFCI at home in order to prevent any sort of fire. Houses that are fairly older than usual would be much benefitted from a GFCI.

Protects You from Electrical Shock

GFCIs were made with the purpose to prevent electrical shocks. It observes the flow of electricity via its sensors. The GFCI will divert electrical flow to the ground if it takes an unusual course.

If someone contacts the ground fault, the consequences could be fatal. These GFCIs cut off the power to the outlet immediately when it senses any inconsistency. This could be something that’ll save your life.

Hopefully, now you understand how GFCIs may benefit you!

Benefits of Surge Protector

Powerful surges are sure to damage your appliances. But surge protectors can safeguard them. Let’s look into the benefits of a surge protector:

Lesser Replacements

Power surges can inflict heavy damage to devices attached to your outlets. They cannot withstand repeated surges according to their ratings. The right surge could knock the lights out for your electronic device.

Using a surge protector, lessens the risk of that happening by a fair margin. That decreases the number of repairs or replacements that your equipment may require.

Surge Protectors are Affordable

The best feature of surge protectors is their affordability. All you need is a few hundred dollars to get your full house surge protected. Also, the installation doesn’t take much time. You may enjoy these benefits any time you want!

Power strips and other plugins with surge protectors can also be a viable option. For an extra layer of protection for your appliances, this is the way to go!

Feature 5 of 5: Affordability

Surge protectors cost around $9 – $55 in general. And for one outlet of GFCI, you’ll have to pay somewhere around $135 – $150.

Which One Should You Get?

Both of these are very good at what they do. Attentively go through the benefits once again and choose which one would serve you best.

The GFCIs are very good at saving you and your appliances from shock. So, you can go for them if your primary focus aligns with that.

However, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly solution, go for surge protectors. Here I have mentioned two quality GFCI and Surge Protectors just for you!

Product 1 (GFCI)
Product 2 (Surge Protector)

I’m hoping that you’ll like these!

People often wonder if they can plug a surge protector and GFCI together. You can use both at the same time. So, if you want to enjoy both of their benefits, you can get both.


Question: Is a GFCI similar to a surge protector?

Answer: No. If there is an incompatible electronic device within a GFCI and a surge protector, it’s trouble. It can cause either of these two to trip. GFCIs are usually positioned in places that can be potentially wet. So, it is not okay to place both of them together.

Question: Can a surge protector and a GFCI be installed together?

Answer: Yes, you do need a surge protector even if you have a GFCI. A GFCi doesn’t work to protect your equipment in the event of power surges. So, in order to safeguard your equipment from power surges, you’d need a surge protector.

Question: Can I replace a GFCI without any assistance?

Answer: Yes, you can. First, you need to rewire the GFCI outlet. Remove the old one and begin replacing it with the new GFCI outlet. You have to make sure the wires are ready to be put into the new GFCI. As you begin, turn the outlet over. Then install the GFCI yourself.


Hopefully now you have acquired knowledge regarding surge protector vs GFCI. They will protect you and your appliances from electrical disasters.

Make sure you don’t install these yourself and call a professional.

I’ll see you in another article very soon. Till then, adios!