What is the difference between MCB, MCCB, ELCB and RCCB?

Differences Between MCB, MCCB, ELCB, and RCCB


In the realm of electrical engineering and circuit protection, the acronyms MCB, MCCB, ELCB, and RCCB often arise. Understanding the distinctions between these devices is crucial for ensuring the safety and efficiency of electrical systems. In this article, we’ll delve into the unique characteristics, applications, and functions of Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs), Molded Case Circuit Breakers (MCCBs), Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (ELCBs), and Residual Current Circuit Breakers (RCCBs).

Differences Between MCB, MCCB, ELCB, and RCCB
Differences Between MCB, MCCB, ELCB, and RCCB

1- Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs):

MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker): MCBs are compact devices designed to protect electrical circuits from overloads and short circuits. They are commonly used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings due to their versatility and reliability. MCBs operate by automatically opening the circuit when an abnormal condition is detected, thus preventing damage to equipment and mitigating the risk of electrical fires.


Construction: Typically installed in distribution boards, MCBs consist of a thermal bimetal strip and an electromagnet. The bimetal strip responds to overcurrents, while the electromagnet reacts to short-circuit conditions.

Trip Characteristics: MCBs offer various trip characteristics, including B (normal), C (medium), and D (high). These trip characteristics determine the response time of the MCB to overcurrents.

Key Features of MCBs:

  1. Trip Characteristics: MCBs are available with various trip characteristics, including B, C, and D types, each suited for different applications and levels of protection.
  2. Breaking Capacity: MCBs are rated for a specific breaking capacity, indicating the maximum fault current they can safely interrupt without sustaining damage.
  3. Modular Design: MCBs are often designed to fit into standard modular enclosures, allowing for easy installation and replacement.

2- Molded Case Circuit Breakers (MCCBs):

MCCBs are larger and more robust circuit protection devices compared to MCBs. They are commonly used in industrial and commercial applications where higher currents and fault levels are present. MCCBs offer enhanced protection against overloads, short circuits, and ground faults, making them suitable for demanding environments.

Construction: Unlike MCBs, MCCBs are housed in a molded case, providing enhanced durability and protection against environmental factors.

Trip Mechanisms: MCCBs utilize thermal-magnetic trip mechanisms, combining thermal overload protection and magnetic short-circuit protection in a single device.

Key Features of MCCBs:

  1. Thermal and Magnetic Protection: MCCBs provide both thermal and magnetic protection mechanisms to ensure reliable operation under various fault conditions.
  2. Adjustable Settings: Unlike MCBs, MCCBs often feature adjustable trip settings, allowing for precise calibration based on the specific requirements of the electrical system.
  3. Higher Breaking Capacity: MCCBs are designed to handle higher fault currents and have a correspondingly higher breaking capacity compared to MCBs.
Type of Device Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB) Molded Case Circuit Breaker (MCCB) Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker Residual Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB)
Application Residential and Light Commercial Commercial and Industrial Residential and Industrial Residential, Commercial, and Industrial
Trip Characteristics B (Normal), C (Medium), D (High) Fixed NA NA
Protection Type Overload and Short Circuit Overload and Short Circuit Earth Faults Residual Current and Earth Faults
Construction Compact, Thermal Bimetal Strip Housed in a Molded Case Typically Electromagnetic Typically Electronic
Operation Thermal Bimetal Strip and Electromagnet Thermal-magnetic mechanism Detects Imbalance Between Live and Neutral Currents Detects Residual Current Imbalance
Sensitivity Lower (Protects Circuits) Higher (Suitable for Higher Currents) Detects Low Levels of Leakage Currents Detects Small Residual Currents
Main Functionality Protects Against Overcurrents Protects Against Overcurrents Protects Against Electric Shocks Protects Against Electric Shocks and Ground Faults

3- Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (ELCBs):

ELCBs, also known as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in some regions, are specialized devices designed to protect against electric shock hazards caused by ground faults. They monitor the imbalance in current between the live and neutral conductors, tripping the circuit if leakage current exceeds a predetermined threshold.

Types: There are two main types of ELCBs: Voltage Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (vELCBs) and Current Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (cELCBs).

Operation: ELCBs detect ground faults by monitoring the imbalance between incoming and outgoing currents. When a fault is detected, the ELCB interrupts the circuit, preventing electric shock hazards.

Key Features of ELCBs:

  1. Sensitivity to Leakage Current: ELCBs are highly sensitive to small leakage currents, typically in the range of milliamperes, making them effective in detecting ground faults.
  2. Two Types: ELCBs are available in two types: voltage-operated (VOELCB) and current-operated (COELCB), each with its advantages and applications.
  3. External Sensing: ELCBs require an external sensor to detect leakage currents, which is usually installed in conjunction with the main circuit breaker.

4- Residual Current Circuit Breakers (RCCBs):

RCCBs are advanced versions of ELCBs that offer enhanced sensitivity and functionality. They are widely used in modern electrical installations to provide comprehensive protection against ground faults and electrical shocks.

    • Operation: RCCBs constantly monitor the current flowing through the circuit. Any imbalance between the live and neutral currents indicates a ground fault, prompting the RCCB to trip and disconnect the power supply.
    • Types: RCCBs are available in two types: Type AC, which detects sinusoidal AC residual currents, and Type A, which can also detect pulsating DC residual currents.

Key Features of RCCBs:

  1. Differential Protection: RCCBs use a differential current transformer to continuously monitor the difference in current between the live and neutral conductors, tripping the circuit if an imbalance indicative of a ground fault is detected.
  2. Selectivity: RCCBs can be selectively coordinated with other circuit protection devices, allowing for precise localization and isolation of faults while minimizing disruption to the rest of the electrical system.
  3. Integration with MCBs: In many installations, RCCBs are integrated with MCBs in a single device known as an RCBO (Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Overcurrent Protection), providing both ground fault and overload/short circuit protection in one unit.


What is a MCCB used for?

MCCB (Molded Case Circuit Breaker) is used for protecting electrical circuits against overload and short circuit conditions in commercial and industrial settings.

What is the use of ELCB earth leakage circuit breaker?

ELCB (Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker) is used to protect against electric shocks caused by earth faults or leakage currents by detecting imbalances between incoming and outgoing currents.

Where is RCCB used?

RCCB (Residual Current Circuit Breaker) is used in residential, commercial, and industrial environments to provide protection against residual currents and ground faults.

What is the difference between ELCB and RCCB and RCBO?

ELCB detects earth faults, RCCB detects residual currents, while RCBO (Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Overcurrent Protection) combines both functions in one device.

Can ELCB work without earthing?

No, ELCB requires proper earthing to function effectively and detect earth faults accurately.

Where is ELCB installed?

ELCB is typically installed in residential, commercial, and industrial electrical installations near the main distribution board to provide protection against electric shocks.

Does ELCB need earth?

Yes, ELCB requires a proper earth connection to detect earth faults and operate effectively.

Is ELCB better than MCB?

ELCB and MCB serve different purposes; ELCB protects against earth faults, while MCB protects against overcurrents. The choice depends on specific safety requirements of the electrical installation.

Why is RCCB needed?

RCCB is needed to protect against residual currents and ground faults, which could lead to electric shocks or fires in electrical systems.

Where is RCCB installed?

RCCB is installed in various electrical systems, including residential, commercial, and industrial applications, at the distribution board or in specific circuits requiring protection.

What are the disadvantages of ELCB?

Disadvantages of ELCB include sensitivity to moisture, difficulty in detecting low-level leakage currents, and reliance on proper earthing for effective operation.

What is the principle of RCCB?

RCCB operates based on the principle of detecting residual currents caused by ground faults. When an imbalance between incoming and outgoing currents is detected, it trips to disconnect the power supply.


In summary, MCBs, MCCBs, ELCBs, and RCCBs are essential components of electrical systems, each serving a specific role in protecting circuits and ensuring safety. Understanding the differences between these devices is crucial for selecting the appropriate protection mechanisms and designing reliable electrical installations. Whether in residential, commercial, or industrial settings, choosing the right circuit protection devices is paramount to safeguarding both people and property against electrical hazards.