Should Kitchen Outlets Be 15 Or 20 Amp?
Amp is the short form for ‘ampere’, a standard unit measurement used when defining the measurements of electricity.
Amperage (amps) is the name given to the strength of a constant electrical current unit. Amps are measured using a tool called “ammeter.”
You can use an ammeter to measure direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC), which are all currents and are measured in amps.
Ampacity is a term used to refer to devices and wires rating to be used on a particular application.
Ampacity helps us know the maximum current flow a wire can sustain. But, Should Kitchen Outlets Be 15 Or 20 Amp?
Yes. Kitchens are required to have a 20-amp outlet. Most kitchens, if not all, are wired with 20-amp, 120-volt circuits, mainly on the countertop areas.
A kitchen needs to have at least two 20-amp outlets.
Having two 20-amp outlets for the area coverage and not the total load can be on the same circuit and have different plug-in points in the kitchen for the various appliances.
20-amp outlets are recommended for kitchens because they provide enough energy to power all the kitchen appliances.
With a high voltage like microwaves, ovens, dishwashers, etc. There are several reasons why 20-amp outlets are recommended.
The main one being they can sustain enough amps to power the heavy-duty kitchen appliances.
When moving into a new home, always ensure you get an electrician to inspect the circuits and let you know which one is 20-amp and which one is not.
When it comes to 15-amp outlets, you are not recommended to have them in your kitchen.
15-amp outlets cannot power high-voltage kitchen appliances like microwave ovens.
15-amp electrical outlets are purposedly used for lighting equipment;
Or areas such as all standard kitchen counter lighting, cabinet lighting, and generally all lighting in the house from the ceiling bulbs to the bedside lamps.
Can You Plug A 20-Amp Appliance Into A 15-Amp Outlet?
No. You cannot have 20-amp appliances being mounted on a 15-amp outlet.
15-amp circuit breakers protect 15-amp circuits, and having a 20-amp appliance connected to it would mean overloading the circuit.
But you can put a 15-amp appliance on a 20-amp circuit, and it would not cause any damage since the power provided by the 20-amp circuit is enough to run the 15-amp appliances.
If you put a 20-amp appliance on a 15-amp circuit, that means you will be exceeding the limit load the circuit can handle,
And the extra heat will heat the wires and melt them; it might even start a fire.
Can An Outlet Be Above A Sink?
Yes. You can place an outlet above a sink. As much as we know that water and electricity do not tag along pretty well.
There are no minimum distances on how far an electrical outlet should be from the sink, but there is a maximum distance for it.
Following the National Electrical Code (NEC), any kitchen countertop at least 24 inches deep and 12 inches wide must have electrical outlets installed next to them.
The electrical outlets do not have to be close to the sink, and they can be installed anywhere on the wall holding the countertop.
NEC requires you to protect your countertop outlets with Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.
(GFCI) to protect homeowners against shock from the outlet while working in the sink or anywhere in the kitchen within the countertop coverage.
When it comes to bathrooms, they must have at least one electrical outlet.
You should place the outlet within 3 feet from the sink’s edge, and it must be GFCI protected.
The outlet cannot be placed on the opposite side of the sink but beside or behind the sink is where it should be.
For bathrooms with two or more sinks, they must all have personal electrical receptacles and should be nothing beyond 3 feet.
If the sinks are two, you can install an outlet between the sinks, or you have separate outlets for each sink.
Having the required outlets does not restrict homeowners from installing more outlets in the bathroom.
And if the added outlets are within a 6 feet radius of the sink, they should also be GFCI protected. If you have a bathroom vanity;
it’s recommended by NEC to install an outlet within 36 inches from the outside edge of the sink to the adjacent wall from the countertop or basin.
Again, you are allowed to install another outlet far from the sink, but the required one must be 36 inches from the sink’s outer edge.
All outlets in the bathroom are supposed to be on a dedicated circuit exclusive of the lights, and the outlets are ground-fault protected.
Can 14-Gauge Handle 20-Amps?
No. A 14-gauge wire cannot handle 20-amps.14-gauge wires’ cross-sectional area is smaller compared to 12-gauge cables.
And this would lead to them overheating if connected on a 20-amp breaker and the current being produced is at maximum.
As we all know, a 20-amp outlet is installed for high voltage house appliances and power tools like welding machines.
On the other hand, a 12-gauge wire- which works on a 20-amp circuit- can be used on a 15-amp circuit because it has very little chance of overheating.
Having the rule of thumb in mind, this is how the connections work standard Non-Metallic (NM) cables;
- 14-gauge wire = 15-amps
- 12- gauge wire = 20-amps
- 10-gauge wire = 30-amps
- 8-gauge wire = 40-amps
- 6-gauge wire = 55-amps
The ampacity calculation is done by rating the amp of a circuit breaker to relate with the wire size to be used.
A 14-gauge wire can safely transport 20-amps if the connection is for lights as long as the wire is not a fire hazard.
The National Electrical Code states that no one should ever use a smaller wire than a 12-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit; they would be looking to cause a fire in their homes.
Does A 20-Amp Circuit Need A 20-Amp Outlet?
Yes. You need a 20-amp outlet for a 20-amp circuit.
20-amp circuits need 20-amp outlets because 20-amp outlets can accept both 15-amps and 20-amps plugs and are safe to carry 15 to 20 amps of power.
If you install a 15-amp outlet on a 20-amp circuit, you would be risking your home to fire.
An appliance that draws 20A or more power in a 15-amp outlet will make the circuit breaker in the distribution panel trip to protect the appliance from an electrical short circuit.
If the appliance draws more than 15A to 20A, it might overload the outlet and make the outlet heat up.
But if the appliance draws lesser power than 15-amps, it is safe.
A 15-amp outlet will work on a 20-amp circuit, but it should be a duplex 15-amp receptacle, also known as multiple 15-amp receptacles.
The difference they have from a 20-amp receptacle is the faceplate configuration.
The only problem of having a 15-amp receptacle on a 20-amp circuit is you cannot use appliances that require 20-amps of power to run them efficiently.
The outlet will overheat and melt or even lead to a fire outbreak.
When installing 15-amp outlets on a 20-amp circuit using a 12-gauge wire, you are encouraged to use the side terminals and not the backstab terminals.
Do You Only Need One GFCI Per Circuit?
Yes. You only need one GFCI per circuit. Safety is a significant concern when it comes to handling electricity.
We thank GFCI development for coming in to help reduce the chances of getting severely electrocuted.
GFCI outlets were designed to stop electrical injuries; standard outlets do not protect from electrical shock, making humans prone to electrical injuries.
GFCI outlets have two- three-prong plug-in slots and an additional two buttons on the faceplate.
One button is for testing, while the second button is for resetting the GFCI outlet.
Ordinary house electrical outlets only have the same plug-in structure as a GFCI but without the two additional buttons on the faceplate.
A single GFCI receptacle, just as a single GFCI breaker, is enough to protect a whole electrical circuit.
You will need to identify the outlet ahead of the chain and place the GFCI outlet there.
To add to that, the rest of the receptacles should be on the same chain as the one being replaced by a GFCI receptacle.
When installing the GFCI receptacle on the circuit, turn off the circuit, ensure the rest of the receptacles are on the same circuit as the primary receptacle.
And there is no GFCI breaker in the distribution panel. Next to the circuit breaker is one of the head receptacles.
You will open it, and if there are two cables in the panel, you will take out the receptacle and remove a black wire.
Turn the circuit back on to test if the other receptacles are working and off; then, you are doing the right thing.
Now, one should feed the two cables and the one not removed from the receptacle.
You will connect the feed cable to the “line” and the other cable to “load” on the GFCI receptacle.
You can put as many GFCI on a single circuit, and nothing will happen. The problem arises when more than one of the GFCI trips and you do not know which one to reset.
Apart from that, you are allowed to put as many GFCI outlets as you want on a single circuit.
But it is recommended to only have one in the receptacle ahead of the circuit chain.
Can You Mix A 12-Gauge Wire And A 14-Gauge Wire On A 15-Amp Circuit?
Yes. You can mix a 12-gauge wire and a 14-gauge wire on a 15-amp circuit.
It’s not recommended to mix the two wires, but if you are to do it, this is possibly the best way to do so;
Start with a 14-gauge wire from the circuit breaker, then connect a 12-gauge wire at the other end of the 14-gauge wire.
If done the other way around, it might be perilous. You are still not encouraged to do so.
Another reason for not being encouraged to mix a 12-gauge wire with a 14-gauge wire on a 15-amp is that;
The owner moves out and there is a new house occupant.
They might end up changing the 15-amp breaker and put in a 20-amp breaker whose full power cannot be sustained by a 14-gauge wire.
Kitchen outlets require at least two 20-amp circuits. Two because it will help spread the power all over the kitchen to the 20-amp outlets connected to the circuit.
Installing a 20-amp circuit in your kitchen will save you the cost of having to pay electricians to come and make repairs in your house.
20-amp circuits are used for heavy-duty appliances like dishwashers, freezers, microwave ovens, etc.
Such appliances require a tremendous amount of energy to power their motors to work efficiently.
15-amp outlets should not be connected to 20-amp circuits because if an appliance is connected and uses more than 15-amps of power.
It might lead to the outlet overheating and melting; to some extent, it might cause a fire.
We have seen outlets in kitchens and asked ourselves if they can be connected above sinks;
well, they can be connected to a maximum of 3 feet from the outer edge of the sink.
All electrical outlets connected to a sink, bathroom, and kitchen, should always be GFCI protected and on a 20-amp circuit.
Different wires support different amounts of power.
For instance, you cannot use a 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit because it might be short as it cannot handle the maximum current flow of a 20-amp circuit.
Another thing, 20-amp circuits need 20-amp outlets, and as much as some people say you can connect a 15-amp outlet when using small appliances, it is not recommended.
Each wire gauge is assigned to a specific amount of amperage it can safely carry.
Lastly, having a single GFCI receptacle is enough to protect the whole circuit as long as the other outlets are on the same circuit.
You will need to identify the receptacle ahead of the circuit and replace it with a GFCI receptacle, and that’s it.