03:12AM | 07/15/03
Member Since: 07/14/03
1 lifetime posts
OK, I've asked a couple of electricians this question with very hazy answers. I think I understand the purpose of a 20 AMP circuit (like going to a kitchen) with 12 Gage wiring going to multiple 15 AMP rated outlets. In theory, it's unlikely that all the appliances plugged into different outlets will exceed 20 AMPS demand if all were started simultaneously.

Now, on such a circuit, why do you almost always see in residential homes only 15 AMP rated outlets installed? Wouldn't it be dangerous to plug something into to one of these outlets that requires, say, 16 AMPS at start up? Why are not 20 AMP rated outlets required for 20 AMP circuits?


08:26AM | 07/15/03
Member Since: 02/13/03
90 lifetime posts
My understanding is none of the individual appliances would typically draw more than 15 amps. But running two 8 amp appliances would blow your breaker if it were 15 amp and your wiring would get hot if it were only rated for 15 amps.

You'd want a 20 amp outlet if a single device were going to draw more than 15 amps and less than 20. Thou for short durations the 15 amp outlet would work, it does in everybody's house!

I have a 110v 20 amp wire welder in my garage. I wanted versatility in where I used it so I put heavy 20 amp rated outlets in everywhere. Could I get by with 15's, probably, but any lengthy welding project could heat up the 15 amp components quickly.


11:14AM | 07/15/03
Member Since: 12/01/02
93 lifetime posts
Here is a follow-up question... Suppose I am building a new house or putting in an addition, aside from cost is there any reason _not_ to put in 20 AMP circuits instead of 15 AMP circuits?

Tom O

01:20PM | 07/15/03
Member Since: 09/17/02
476 lifetime posts
Drawbacks of #12 are pretty much limited to box fill. It is easy to end up with too many conductors in a box if you use #12 wire.



04:39PM | 07/15/03
Member Since: 09/17/02
524 lifetime posts
The reasoning for 15/20 amp receptacles on 15/20 circuits is this. 15a and 20a receptacles have different pin configurations. A 20a receptacle will have one slot that is turned sideways or T shaped to allow a 20amp plug to be used.
A 15amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit will not overload the circuit. You will only be allowed to plug in 15a devices. How many you plug in is always a concern that you should observe.
However if you put a 20 amp receptacle on a 15 amp it allows a 20 amp device(like an AC) to be plugged into a 15a rated circuit. This is an immedeate problem for the circuit.

[This message has been edited by joed (edited July 15, 2003).]


10:38AM | 09/13/13
If I currently have a 15amp outlet and a 20 amp plug in cord, Is it okay to just change out the 15 amp cover to handle the 20 amp plug in?


08:42PM | 03/16/14
Putting in a small room for central vac and freezer plus storage. Both require 20 amps. Can I just wire whole room for 20 amps?


02:33PM | 08/24/14
Yes it is easy to run all 20 amp circuits. Only a bad electrician would stuff the boxes with to many feeds to fit in a standard box. Run all 20 amp wire and plugs. (because your only talking about outlets)Its only going to cost more in materials.20 amp outlets and 12/2 is always better.


09:01AM | 11/11/14
My microwave is plugged in a 15 a outlet, don't know what happened but the outlet some how shorted out , microwave was not damaged, I tested it on a different outlet and works fine, when I replaced the outlet with an 20 a outlet thinking this will prevent the outlet from over heating, the circuit is still 15 a, is this ok


11:02AM | 11/12/14
Member Since: 11/12/14
1 lifetime posts

My microwave is plugged in a 15 amp outlet, don't know what happened, but the outlet some how shorted out , microwave was not damaged, I tested it on a different outlet and works fine,, I replaced the outlet with an 20 amp outlet thinking this will prevent the outlet from over heating, the circuit is still 15 amp, is this ok.??


12:58PM | 12/10/14
I would think it's okay as long as someone doesn't plug something that truly requires over 15 amps. Maybe mark the outlet with some text that says 15 amp? That's what I would do.


05:39PM | 12/12/14
I would check the wire and breaker and see what size it is. If the breaker is 20 amp and the wire is 12 AWG then it's OK. If it's a 15 amp breaker and the wire is 14 then go back to a 15 amp receptacle.


08:53PM | 04/13/15
i just replaced all my 2 prong outlets in my sons room with new 20 amp , i have no ground wire to attach to the new one the only reason i used 20amp is cause thats what my wife came home with is it safe having no ground and using 20 amp in a bedroom?


06:05AM | 04/14/15
Not safe and also a code violation.


10:51PM | 04/23/15
Older homes usually have no ground. No code violation. Unless you want to run new wire


04:56PM | 05/13/15
If the house is old and the outlets have no ground. You would be wise to use a ground-fault circuit interrupter(GFCI)outlet. See the following link It's an added level of safety (since the outlet is not grounded) so that you or one of your family members don't become the ground by accident


10:46AM | 09/30/15
I second replacing ungrounded receptacles with GFI receptacles if a ground cannot be achieved from the device box. This is what we do in DC regularly. To be up to code, the GFI has to be labeled with "No Ground." Also, a GFI tester will not work properly on a GFI with no ground.


07:46PM | 01/04/16
If I have a 15 amp breaker, can I install 20 amp outlets?


11:53PM | 01/07/16
> If I have a 15 amp breaker, can I install 20 amp outlets?

No! 20 amp outlets have a special pin configuration which allows a device drawing 20 amps to be plugged in. This would, at the very least, trip the 15 amp breaker. At worst, it could be a fire hazard. It is also a code violation.


02:51AM | 05/02/16
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10:23AM | 01/15/18
If you don't plug anything that requires over 15 amp draw, you're fine. The newer appliances that draw over 20 amps have a different style plug apparently. Keep in mind that you probably have 14/3 gauge for that receptacle, that's only rated for 15 amps. In the kitchen, the receptacles should be wired with two circuits, able to provide 15 amps on each side of receptacle, although I heard that they're wiring with 12/3 in newer homes now to provide 20 amp service, not sure about that, I'm not an electrician but know a bit.

To use 20 amps, you need to be wired with 12 gauge, the same gauge wire that is used for baseboard heaters, hot water tanks.
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