Simple wire gauge question

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  #1  
Old 10-24-05, 08:07 AM
intheJC
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Simple wire gauge question

I need to install an outdoor security light. The light would be on a circuit with a 20 amp breaker. This might be a stupid question; but can 14 gauge outdoor wire for this application, or do I need to go up to 12?
 
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  #2  
Old 10-24-05, 08:11 AM
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20 amp breaker means 12 gage copper wire. Make sure that the wire is rated for outdoors if the wire is outdoors.
 
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Old 10-24-05, 08:34 AM
intheJC
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Thanks racraft. How about the other way around? Any problem having 12 gauge wire in a 15 amp circuit?
 
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Old 10-24-05, 08:47 AM
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While it is allowed to put 12 gage wire on a 15 amp circuit, it is not recommended unless necessary for voltage drop. Generally speaking, all wire on a circuit should be the same gage.

The problem is that someone looking at a circuit later on may only see the larger wire (12 gage in this case) and may think they can change the breaker to 20 amps. This would be a real problem.

If you do mix wire gages, you should make a note of this on the circuit breaker panel so that it is obvious to someone that there is 14 gage wire on the circuit. However, my advice is to not mix wire size on the circuit.
 
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Old 10-24-05, 12:55 PM
intheJC
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Thanks. If I can ask a related question; In another room I have a single 20 amp receptacle used for an air conditioner. The receptacle is in the same box as a duplex 15 amp receptacle and has a wall plate that is made for the three - which is broken. I can't find a replacement wall plate like it. Can I replace the single 20 amp receptacle with a duplex 20 amp receptacle? I don't necessarily need 2 20 amp outlets in one place, but it would make getting a wall plate easier.
 
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Old 10-24-05, 01:02 PM
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Yes, you can do this. But here again I recommend against it.

A single receptacle was most likely used because the power requirements for the air conditioner dictate a separate circuit. With an open receptacle someone will be tempted to plug something in when the air conditioner is running and you may just trip the breaker.

If you this, at the very least place one of those plastic child proof inserts into the unused receptacle, in hopes that this will remind everyone not to use the receptacle.

Search for the desired cover plate on the Internet or visit an electrical supply house.
 
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