15A outlets on 20A circuit???

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  #1  
Old 01-29-07, 06:14 PM
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15A outlets on 20A circuit???

I'm buying a new house, and my wife and I looked at the house with our real estate agent last Friday and put our offer in, today I stopped by the sales office and asked if I could look at the house some more for some notes and measurements, which I did...

One thing I noticed is that a lot of circuits have 20A fuses in the panel, and some have the 20A outlets, but one thing is notable - GFCI circuits for the receptacles of the bathrooms and the kitchen are 20A on the panel, but do not have 20A receptacles. Is this allowed, or should I ask about it?

(I figured I ought to ask here since I'm sure the sales office might say it's okay whether it is or not.)

I also noticed that about 1 in 5 receptacles are 'upside down'... I've always thought that best practice is to have all of them installed the same way. I'd probably only complain about that, though, if I wanted to be a pain in the ass.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-29-07, 06:22 PM
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If you are in the US it is perfectly acceptable to have 15 amp receptacles on a 20 amp breaker. All the wire would need to be 12 guage. This is a fairly normal set up.

The question of "upside down" comes up often. As far as I know, in residential contstruction, there is no specification for the orientation. In hospitals, there is a requirement, and I believe it is for the obvious reason of what a dropped instrument would hit if a plug was partially exposed. I guess that for residential, this is such a far fetched happening that it is not necessary to put it into code. Someone please correct me if my read on all this is not correct.
 
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Old 01-29-07, 06:27 PM
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Here's a story: I was doing a service call in a restaurant about a receptacle that wasn't working. I pulled the equipment out of the way and found it burned to a black crisp. After looking at the device, I saw that it was a 20 amp receptacle, but the breaker it was on was 30 amps....and the equipment was pulling more than 20 amps constantly. That's basically what can happen to receptacles not rated for the breaker size. So, if you buy the house, spend a few extra dollars and put in 20 amp receptacles. And yes, code does require all devices connected in a circuit to be rated for the amps of the overcurrent protection, <breaker/fuse>, as well as the supply voltage <NEC 210.7(a)>. Unfortunately, because there are 15 amp receptacles available, which would only require a 15 amp breaker and #14 wire, people often use them based on the fact they cost about 40 cents apiece. Good luck w/ the house!
 

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Old 01-29-07, 06:43 PM
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As long as there is more than one place to plug a cord into on the circuit 15 amp receptacles are fine and Code compliant on a 20 amp circuit. A normal duplex receptacle counts as 2 places.

There is no reason to pay the extra to get the 20 amp receptacles installed. None of the common household equipment will need the crossed slot of the 20 amp receptacle.

As far as the upside down receptacle it is commonly done to indicate which receptacle is switch controlled vs one that is hot all the time. One or both halves could be switch controlled.
 
  #5  
Old 01-29-07, 06:45 PM
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the upside down recepticles may be for your "1/2 hots"... they are commonly installed upside down to identify that they have a switched recepticle (for a lamp for instance)..
 
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Old 01-29-07, 06:50 PM
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Article 210.7(a): "....receptacles shall be installed only on circuits of the voltage class and current for which they are rated....". Don't get me wrong, many people do it, but a 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is a code violation. Did you ever smell burning plastic? Kinda stinks....
 
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Old 01-29-07, 06:57 PM
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See... that's why I was asking, hypothetically you can plug in something that pulls 20A, it would not trip the breaker but it would exceed the rating of the receptacle. In this case though, if my grasping at hypothetical straws in lieu of knowing code, maybe you can't pull 20A at the receptacle because you would trip the 15A GFCI?

The upside down receptacle on a switched circuit makes sense, thanks! There are a lot of switches that don't apparently connect to anything, and that would seem to make sense! That actually sounds kinda slick if that's what it is.
 
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Old 01-29-07, 07:05 PM
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No, the circuit could still be loaded up to 20 amps, even w/ a GFCI in the mix. The GFCI only protects against a faulty ground condition, doesn't discriminate in how many amps are running through it. About the upside-down receptacles.....about 10 years ago, electricians around here began installing receptacles upside-down <or rather, rightside-up now, with the ground hole up> based on inspector's preference. The inspectors stated that if anything were dropped on a plug by accident, and the prongs on the plug were exposed, the ground prong would most likely be exposed first, rather than the hot/neutral, which could shock you if you touched them by accident. Questionable logic to me, but every receptacle I install is ground hole up. Interesting, huh?
 
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Old 01-29-07, 07:12 PM
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The internals of 15 and 20 amp receptacles are the same. It is the slots that differ.

Since the cord caps are matched to what the equipment draws the chance of a single appliance overloading the circuit by itself is remote. The trouble is when too many are used at the same time. Look at the packaging for a GFI receptacle. It will say 15 amps for the slots but be rated for 20 amp feed thru.

As stated before as long as you have a duplex, not a simplex receptacle the 15 amp configuration IS Code compliant.
 
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Old 01-29-07, 07:48 PM
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You cannot use 20-amp receptacles on a 30-amp circuit to judge 15-amp receptacles on a 20-amp circuit. The former is illegal and dangerous. The latter is allowed and safe.

It is probably worth the extra cost to install $2 15-amp receptacles instead of 40-cent 15-amp receptacles, but there is no advantage of installing $2 20-amp receptacles instead of $2 15-amp receptacles. As pcboss said, the internals are identical.

Don't lose one second of sleep over 15-amp receptacles on a 20-amp circuit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. All 15-amp receptacles are rated for 20-amp pass through.
 
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Old 01-29-07, 07:48 PM
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This is related.


210.21(B)(2)---- Table. 210.21(B)(2)
 
  #12  
Old 01-29-07, 08:10 PM
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or Table 210.21(B)(3) regarding receptacle ratings for various size circuits.

Don't forget what 594tough said earlier though, that if you have a 20A breaker, you need to insure that the circuit wiring is 12 AWG. If it's only 14 AWG, then you will need to replace the breaker with a 15A, and remove any 20A receptacles on the circuit.

Best wishes.
 
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Old 01-29-07, 08:20 PM
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RDN: Good post. That will be helpfull for the garage upgrade.

Loosing the misconception that some may have.
 
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Old 01-30-07, 04:31 AM
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In a residential setting in the US there is no right side up for receptacles. Sometimes it is done to indicate the switched receptacle, sometimes it is done to accommodate a cord or transformer, and sometimes it just is done one way or the other.

As far as 15 amp receptacles go, in the US they are legal and to code on 20 amp circuits as long as there is more than one receptacle (and a duplex receptacle counts as more than one).
 
  #15  
Old 01-30-07, 05:48 AM
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15 AMP receptacles on a 20 AMP fuse:
Absolutely common practice and done all the time in the U.S.

Right side up, upside down, 45 degrees, 90 degrees,:
Who cares? It is a personal choice and not covered by code.

Everything you found and descibed thus far is completely common and found all over the U.S and should not be a concern in purcasing your new home.
 
  #16  
Old 01-30-07, 12:17 PM
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Okay, just looked at Table 210.24, allowing a 15 amp receptacle for a 20 amp circuit. Good work guys.
 
  #17  
Old 01-30-07, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by WillK View Post
One thing I noticed is that a lot of circuits have 20A fuses in the panel.
Wait a second here. Am I the only one that noticed he's talking fuses? I hope that he means breakers and not fuses. If you are dealing with the Edison style fuses (light bulb base), and the majority are the 20A variety, I would definitely look at the wires to see if they are 12 gauge.

The 15 vs 20 amp receptacle debate is less important.
 
  #18  
Old 01-30-07, 03:39 PM
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Fubar...well noted.
 
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