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I'll leave my specific circuit out of this for a more broad question:

What criteria does one use when deciding whether to use a Zener diode or a transient voltage suppressor, for overvoltage protection on a particular application? Also when would one use a bidirectional TVS?

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One use for bidirectional TVS is when you need to protect a bus. For example in RS-485 you have maximum voltage between data lines and you'd use bidirectional TVS between the lines in order to protect the receiver. –  AndrejaKo Dec 4 '12 at 22:11

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The characteristics of TVS diodes are similar to those of zener diodes. However, the TVS diodes are specifically designed, characterized and tested for transient voltage suppression. Zener diodes are designed towards voltage regulation.

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