07:48AM | 02/23/09
Member Since: 02/17/05
1 lifetime posts
The outlets in my basement are on a circuit with a 20 amp circuit breaker and 12/2 sheathed electrical cable wiring. However the outlets themselves are 15 amp and not 20 amp. Is this OK?


02:24PM | 02/23/09
Member Since: 01/09/07
198 lifetime posts
No, it's not OK. It doesn't meet code.

The receptacles are only rated for 15A, but the circuit breaker won't trip until over 20A.

But, in the real world:

- most electrical components are designed to handle roughly double their rating. So those can probably handle 25-30A before burning up.

- this only matters if you plug in something that draws more than 15A from this receptacle (or if you get a short in it). And that's a pretty big load -- things that draw that much usually are hard-wired, not plug-in.

This situation has been around in many houses, for many years, without problems. So it isn't an emergency that you need to fix immediately.

But do fix it. All you have to do is buy 20A receptacles (about $2-$3 each) and use them to replace the existing receptacles. That's probably only 10-15 minutes of work per outlet, even for a do-it-yourselfer.


05:02PM | 02/23/09
Member Since: 04/25/05
1915 lifetime posts
As long as there is more than one receptacle on the circuit the code specifically allows 15 amp receptacles on 20 amp circuits.

And duplex receptacles count as 2.

From the 2005 NEC.

"210.21 Outlet Devices

Outlet devices shall have an ampere rating that is not less than the load to be served and shall comply with 210.21(A) and (B).


(B) Receptacles


(3) Receptacle Ratings Where connected to a branch circuit supplying two or more

receptacles or outlets, receptacle ratings shall conform to the values listed in Table

210.21(B)(3), or where larger than 50 amperes, the receptacle rating shall not be less than

the branch-circuit rating."

Now table 210.21(B)(3) will not copy and paste, but it shows

For 15 amp circuit not over 15 amp receptacle.

And for 20 amp circuit 15 or 20 amp receptacle.

This is not code, but commentary from the NEC Handbook.

"A single receptacle installed on an individual branch circuit must have an ampere

rating not less than that of the branch circuit. For example, a single receptacle on a 20-

ampere individual branch circuit must be rated at 20 amperes; however, two or more

15-ampere receptacles or duplex receptacles are permitted on a 20-ampere generalpurpose

branch circuit. This requirement does not apply to specific types of cord-andplug-

connected arc welders."

15 amp duplex receptacles are rated at 20 amps pass through in the UL listings. And each 1/2 of the duplex is rated at 15 amps. So they can handle a 15 and 5 or 10 and 10 amp loads for example.

And if you look closely at 15 amp GFCI you will see that they are also marked 20 amps feed through.


11:46AM | 10/27/09
Member Since: 10/26/09
1 lifetime posts
No matter how you read it , a 15 amp outlet is not allowed on a 20 amp circuit. A duplex does not count as two outlets!!! Understand the code instaed of reading into it!

Tom O

03:39PM | 10/27/09
Member Since: 09/17/02
477 lifetime posts
15 amp receptacles are definitely allowed on a 20 amp circuit. Table 210.24 summarizes the requirements nicely. Table 210.21(B)(3) also shows that a 15 amp receptacle can be installed on a 20 amp circuit that serves 2 or more receptacles. Commentary following 210.21(B)(2) in the handbook clearly states that 15 amp receptacles are permitted on a 20 amp circuit.

Please cite a code section that prohibits 15 amp receptacles on a 20 amp circuit.


02:43PM | 01/06/14
cagy 22. Sir ... you need to understand basic electonics. The fact that you are permitted to have 15A receptacles on a 20A circuit (with a 20A breaker) is because the current draw from from the appliance plugged into that recepticle will draw no more than 15A. If you have an appliance that draws more than 15A, the plug common pin will be perpendicular to the hot pin and not fit in the 15A receptacle. Mind you, the wires (circuit) being 12 gauge, allows 20A to safely conduct if there exists a 20A outlet with a device plugged in that is capable of drawing that much current. Just because the breaker and wire are rated at 20A does not mean that much is being pushed. It all depends what you plug in. NEC does allow one duplex 15A receptacle on a 20A wire/20A breaker combo but it does not allow a singlular (non-duplex) outlet. If you only have one non-duplexed receptacle on the circuit, it must be a 20A receptacle.


08:22PM | 02/09/14
I know this thread is old but a lot of people google search for this so I will add. BV002953 is correct. That is the logic behind why 15 amp receptacles are permitted. The pass-through part of the receptacle (what the electricity would flow through if you had more than one outlet on a circuit) is rated for 20 amps, so they are technically fine on a 20 amp circuit as long as the draw on each outlet is not >15 amps. That logic being, as BV002953 said, is that anything that draws more than 15 amps should have a 20 amp plug and thus be impossible to plug into a 15 amp outlet.

Now, of course in the real world this it is very possible, although not the norm, for the load on one outlet to exceed 15 amps. Perhaps due to someone's entire home theater being run off one outlet via a power strip. Maybe someone is using multiple high draw devices on a power strip for some reason. You can say it's then the users fault for being dumb, but at the end of the day part of the purpose of circuit breakers and such are about protecting people from things like this. 90% of people or more are not going to know they are exceeding the limits of a 15 amp outlet. Most people don't even know outlets are rated for 15 amps. Most people don't even know what an amp is. That's probably why other countries such as Canada require 20 amp outlets on 20 amp circuits. We are just making a bet that the vast majority of people won't plug a lot of stuff into a power strip. If they do, we blame the person for being dumb and not the code for allowing that ignorance to cause a fire.

Now, some people say that 15 amp outlets are exactly the same internally as 20 amp outlets and that the only difference is the shape of the plug. If this is true, then there is no risk. But if this is actually true, why is it not clearly labeled as such. Why not say 15 amp outlet rated for up to 20 amps per outlet?


03:21PM | 04/01/14
There are tons of houses that have 15A recepticles on a 20 A main circuit. Theory is that you typically be using more than 1 outlet that each handles 15A to go to say 25AMPS then the circuit breaker blows. For me I always install 20A recepticles on a 20A breaker. If you had two thing plugged in such as a coffee pot and electric Grill you could find yourself over 15A then a meltdown and fire. Bad deal. Use 20A for 20A breakers 12 guage wire...


11:56PM | 04/22/14
I agree, 20 amp breaker needs a 20amp outlet. 12 gauge wire. Instead of changing the outlets you could always change the breaker to a 15 amp. You'll have a heavy wire than needed, but hey, that's not a bad thing.


06:46PM | 05/01/14
Wow... why is this so controversial?

Like the anon who said:
"Don't listen to him unless you want to burn your house down. "

People just make this bold, blanket, statements and think that they are doing the world some good. You're not, you're just being ignorant.

CLEARLY multiple people who KNOW have provided the clear answer. Yes, you CAN put a 15 amp outlet on a 20 amp circuit AS LONG AS that outlet is not the ONLY outlet on the circuit.

Yes, you can, yes, you can.. you can... can.

People have pasted code, remarks, and in-depth technical explanations on why it is how it is. Anyone else who'd like to post some "my daddy taught me", unfounded, nonsense should take another look at their professional choices.. because they're clearly not ready for the "rules and laws" system we have in place here in the U.S.

You can put 15amp outlets on a 20amp circuit as long as its not the only outlet on the circuit... Yes, you can, yes, you can.. you can... can. Positive, affirmative, yes, go, do it, go...

.. wow
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