When it comes to upgrading your home wiring system, keeping within safety limits for each circuit is very important. Overloading a circuit can lead to drastic consequences and even put your life in danger.
Your home circuit system is designed to handle a specific current draw. The maximum current it can handle depends on the size of the circuit breaker as well as the circuit wiring. Keeping within the limits ensure safety and prevents overloading.
If you are bothered about the number of outlets on a 20-amp circuit, we can help you clear your doubts. In this guide, we will tell you how many outlets on a 20-amp circuit are safe. So, without wasting time, let’s get into the details.
What is a 20-Amp Circuit?
The amp rating of a 20-amp circuit indicates the amount of current that can flow through it. Most lights, devices, and outlets in your home are rated as 20 amp or 15 amp.
For those unversed, amps are the unit of measurement for current. So, it tells you about the amount of current that can safely flow through a circuit. For your information, a circuit’s amp rating depends on the size of the wiring installed in a circuit.
It also tells you the number of outlets a circuit can support without overloading it. Besides, it considers the amp rating of a circuit breaker as well.
A 20 amp circuit is mostly used with a 12 gauge or 10 gauge wire. There also exist 14 gauges that can only carry up to 15 amps of current. So if you are using a 20 amp circuit, you will need a 12 gauge wiring.
In case, you are using a 14 gauge wiring on a 20 amps circuit, you are increasing the risk of overloading the circuit. This can lead to a power surge, overheating of the wires, and fire.
Having a 20 amp circuit doesn’t imply that there are always 20 amps of current flowing through it. Rather it indicates the maximum amount of current that the circuit can handle without overloading.
Even if you have outlets on a 20 amp circuit, you should never get close to using that much current. This may not be risky, but using a large appliance like a microwave, can overload a lesser circuit with a power surge.
A 20-amp circuit can support up to 10 outlets safely. You should not push a circuit to run beyond 80% of its capacity. The rule of thumb is to use one outlet for every 1.5 amps of the 80% maximum. Make sure that the current flow doesn’t exceed 16 amps on a 20-amp circuit.
How to Make a Layout Plan Before Installing Your Outlets?
A receptacle will not draw current unless something is plugged into it. Trying to cross the ten outlets limit for every 20-amp circuit in the house is where you go wrong.
You need to understand that every circuit or area doesn’t consume power equally. This is because every tool or appliance is different. The two most heavy power-consuming areas in a house are the bathrooms and the kitchen.
If you use a single 20-amp circuit for both your bathroom and kitchen, it can overheat the wires and thus, lead to electrical damage. This is why it is important to make a layout plan before installing outlets.
You should start by putting your lights on one circuit only. That’s because lights consume much less power than other devices.
For a 20 amp circuit in a kitchen, you should install dedicated outlets for electric stoves and dishwashers. The best thing to do is to divide the outlets into two separate circuits. You can add a few lights to prevent circuit tripping. This will help you to balance the electrical load.
Coming to your bedroom, you should install an outlet on every wall. Alternatively, you can install outlets every 6 feet. A single 20 amp circuit is enough for all the lights in a bedroom.
You may have multiple outlets on a 20-amp circuit, but only one or two outlets are used at the same time. You should follow the National Electric Code (NEC) guidelines while installing outlets within the 20 amp circuit.
Calculate How Many Outlets are on a 20-Amp Circuit?
The maximum current draw of a single outlet is 180 watts or 1.5 amps, while a 20-amp circuit has a power draw of 120V and it can reach its peak at 2400 watts.
Theoretically, a 20-amp circuit can take up to 13 devices (1.5-amp × 13 devices = 19.5 amps). But in practical terms, it is a big no.
Putting 13 devices on a single 20 amp circuit will not let other devices get enough power to start up. Also, if your circuit is 90% occupied, it can make the breaker trip. This is why it is advised by NEC to limit the load to 80% or less.
This 80% rule proves to be helpful during power surges. During those times, bigger appliances can consume the remaining 20% of the circuit.
80% of a 20 amp circuit rounds up to 1920 watts or 16-amps on a 120V system. This means you can put ten receptacles on a 20-amp circuit.
Having fewer electrical outlets in your house increases the risk of circuit overloading. Many people think of getting an extender plug so that they can connect multiple devices to a single outlet.
Using an extender may seem like a great idea for limited outlets, but at the same time, it can also be quite dangerous. It is especially true if the extender plug is without any overload protection.
In this case, it will be better to divide the number of circuits over two 20-amp circuits. Let’s say, you need 12 outlets. To meet your power requirements, you should install two 20-amp circuits with six outlets each. By doing so, you can divide the capacity on both circuits while leaving room for future expansion.
What is the Best Type of Outlet for My Circuit?
A good outlet follows the national and local electrical codes. Besides, you should also consider the type of plug your electrical devices have.
You can easily identify whether an outlet is 20 amps or 15 amps. Even though both outlets have a similar appearance, they have some distinctive features. For example, 20 amps plugs have a T-shaped hole, whereas a 15 amps plug has two standard holes.
Both 15-amp and 20-amp receptacles are widely used in residential areas. For average household appliances like chargers and lamps, a 15-amp outlet will do fine. But for demanding appliances like power saws, you need a 20-amp outlet.
The good thing is that both outlets can connect to a 20-amp circuit. But the wiring of a 20-amp circuit is thicker than a 15-amp’s wiring. This is why you should consider the incompatibilities of an outlet or circuit.
If you are using a 15-amp circuit, you shouldn’t get a 20-amp outlet. But a 20-amp circuit can have a 15-amp outlet. This practice is common in residential homes.
Compared to 20-amp outlets, 15-amp outlets are more affordable. Not just that, but they also have a better design. On the other hand, 20-amp outlets are best suited for heavy-duty electrical appliances and tools.
Q1. What is a 20-amp outlet used for?
Ans: The 20 amp outlets are mainly designated for heavy-duty tools and appliances. For example, you can use it for power tools, air compressors, etc. The 20 amp outlets are commonly found in garages, bathrooms, and kitchens as they are the most energy-consuming areas in your home.
Q2. What is the difference between a 20-amp and a 15-amp circuit breaker?
Ans: A standard 15-amp receptacle is commonly used for household appliances, such as lamps and other devices. On the other hand, a 20-amp receptacle is suitable for power tools and heavy-duty appliances, such as air compressors. You will find 20-amp receptacles in residential garages as they can accommodate larger power tools.
Q3. What does a 20-amp outlet look like?
Ans: A 20 amp receptacle comes with a single slot that looks like a T. If it is a dedicated circuit it will be a single receptacle, not a duplex.
Q4. What happens if you put a 15-amp outlet on a 20-amp circuit?
Ans: You can overload a 15 amp outlet if you use an appliance of 20 amps or more. But a 20 amp plug cannot fit in a 15 amp outlet. If you try to force a circuit to carry more current than its actual limit, it will melt the wires, thus, starting a fire.
Q5. Can I plug anything into a 20-amp outlet?
Ans: You can use a device with a 15-amp plug with a 20-amp or 15-amp receptacle. A 20-amp receptacle is mainly suitable for heavy-duty appliances and power tools.
When installing a 20-amp circuit in your home, make sure you don’t exceed the limit of 10 outlets. If you need more outlets, you should divide the outlets equally into two 20-amp circuits. Hopefully, you found this article helpful.