How Many outlets are allowed on one breaker?

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Old 03-23-07, 08:45 AM
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How Many outlets are allowed on one breaker?

My home was built in the 1950's. The home was originally built 3 bedrooms. The previous owner prior to passing away had put an addition on the back of the house to make a fourth bedroom. (Around year 2000-2001). In my backyard, around the addition on the outside walls of the house are 4 watertight GFI outlets. 2 are on the side of the patio 1 on the back and 1 on the other side of the addition. I believe they are all connected to the same circuit. (I recall one tripping and they all went dead).

So my question is a little complex but...

1) So on the back side of the home there is 1 of the four outlets. I removed the cover, added an extension box, replaced the original GFI outlet there and ran a piece of grey PVC conduit up the wall into a wet location on/off switch box and into a wet location dual outdoor floodlight and across the wall to a second outdoor wet location floodlight.

2) Then about 30 feet behind my home I have a "tool shed" but it is on a slab and built with 2x4's just like a little home. (64 sq. Ft.). So at some point I had the bright idea to turn it into an electronics work room. So I ran from the bottom of the same outlet as mentioned in #1 another grey pvc conduit from that extension box an underground wire to my "tool shed" and connected on the inside a quad outlet box to plug my computer or other low amperage stuff.

I used solid copper 3 wire #12 for everything.

I am not planning to use the floodlights outside + the outlet outside + power in my "tool shed" all at the same time. How dangerous is this and should I be concerned about fire?

I forgot to mention that I used the load side of the GFI outside for the power to my "tool shed" I have tested it by pushing the test button on the outlet GFI and have zero power in the tool shed.

Lastly, is it necessary to have smoke detectors connected to the breaker box. I believe it has it's own breaker. Since my box is full, I would rater use that breaker for something else. I have plenty of battery operated smoke detectors in the home.

Thanks for your help.

Fred
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:02 AM
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You are asking a lot of different questions. I will attempt to address them all.

In a residential setting in the US there is no limit to the number of receptacles or the number of lights on a single circuit. Each circuit can supply only so much power. A 15 amp circuit can supply 15 times 120 = 1800 watts of power. A 20 amp circuit, 2400 watts. When you exceed the current rating of the breaker, the breaker will trip.

There are rules about locations in the house and types devices (lights verses appliances verses receptacles) that can share circuits. However, none of your locations fit this category.

Still, I think you have too much on this circuit. I would never place an outdoor shed (or detached garage or work room or whatever you want to use it for) on the same circuit as something in the house. I might use a circuit that serves outdoor receptacles, but probably not.

Your tool shed (as you called), is only legal if run with UF rated cable properly buried. And you need a switch inside the tool shed to shut power off to the entire shed.

Smoke detectors are a local requirement. I'm not sure of your question. Electrically powered smoke detectors need electric power. Battery operated smoke detectors do not.

Finally, never let the fact that your breaker box is full prevent you from properly wiring a circuit. Use tandem breakers or install a sub panel, but do not improperly or otherwise connect new equipment just because you donít have a separate breaker.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:06 AM
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You can put as many outlets as you want on a circuit.

What you did generally sounds fine. However, to be sure, you'd have to tell us EVERYTHING that is on this circuit. There may be more than you mentioned in your post. Specifically, there may be some bathroom receptacles on this circuit, which would be a problem.

One other potential issue is if this shed has any other power other than what you just ran to it (e.g., even a light bulb).

I don't know what you mean by, "is it necessary to have smoke detectors connected to the breaker box." Of course, nobody would physically connect a smoke detector to a breaker box. And a smoke detector obviously needs power to operate, so it either needs to be electrically connected to the breaker box, or needs to have a battery. In new construction, it cannot run off battery alone, but in existing construction, it often is.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:12 AM
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There are no restrictions on the # of receptacles you can put on a circuit, but there is a restriction on the # of lights, based on the maximum wattage of bulbs the fixture can accept. You can legally mix lights and receptacles, but it's not a very good idea to mix a lot of lights on a circuit with a lot of receptacles, especially those that will see a lot of use.

The shed on this circuit is a bad idea, too, and of dubious legality- I'm not going to say it's illegal (would have to look up the codes on that), but it would be far better off as a separate circuit.

You must wire up smoke alarms to building power (and to each other) in new construction in most areas. In renovation, you must hardwire all new alarms to building power and the existing hardwired alarms, but are allowed an exception for battery-powered individual detectors if wiring them up would require extra demolition in other areas of the house. It's permissible to tap off a lighting circuit for the alarms in the addition in most areas, I don't think you need a dedicated circuit. The alarms must all have battery backup in addition to the powered connection.

Edit: wow, beat twice while typing this up! lol....
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:37 AM
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A quick follow-up.

You guys are the greatest. Your responses were fast.

Sorry about some of the confusion.

I am almost certain there is 1 breaker 15-20A that powers all four outlets outside. I also believe (Almost certain) that this breaker has no connections to anything inside the home. For that reason, I tapped into one of those to run power to the outside lights and another tap for the four plugs inside the shed.

I did forget (sorry) that I have 1 flourscent light connected inside the shed and it gets power from the plug box inside the shed.

I believe the wire I used is UL listed. It is solid #12 that says oil and gas resistant on the outside of it.

When I bought the home, there are smoke detectors connected in every room of the home. They are supplied power from 120VAC. While looking at my panel outside, there was one label that said smoke detectors. The question I had was that if I could disconnect those smoke detectors and install battery operated instead.

I was thinking to free up that breaker.

Thanks again, I appreciate it!
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:46 AM
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You can't disconnect the smokes and install battery operated instead.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 09:51 AM
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I do not like your "almost certain" and "believe" statements. Eventually you will get yourself into trouble.

You should know what is on each and every circuit in your house. And by know I mean know. Period. Not believe, not almost certain, but know. You should have figured this out shortly after moving in. The information will help if/when you have a problem on a circuit and under the right circumstances it will save your life.

Take the time ASAP to completely and thoroughly map out every circuit in your house. You need to know what is on each and every circuit and what breaker controls each and every receptacle, light or appliance in your house. This is not a place where guesswork is acceptable.

No, you cannot disconnect the smoke detectors and install battery operated ones. Electric ones were either required at the time of install (and removing them would be a violation) or someone was forward thinking and installed them (removing them would be well, let;s say not so smart). If you need more space use tandem breakers (if you can) or install a sub panel.

The cable feeding the shed and any wires outside must be water resistant. This includes wires outside in conduit. If you used NM type cable (the kind with paper inside around the wires) then remove it and replace it. It won't last and is dangerous outside. For outdoor wiring you need UF cable (UF stands for underground feeder) which can direct buried or you need THWN (usually dual rated THHN/THWN) cable inside conduit. Further, any conduit visible and above ground needs to be sunlight resistant.

You need a disconnect in your shed. Place a switch inside the shed before the receptacles.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 10:31 AM
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Follow-up #2

Yeah, all of the posts put things in better perspective. I should have done better research first. The info is well appreciated.

Ok, then, back to basics.

The PVC Grey conduit was in the electrical section of Lowes/Home depot and says suitable for above and below ground. I don't recall if it says sunlight resistant but I will check.

Below ground should be how many feet below ground?

I just looked back at my paperwork and I actually used Romex through the PVC Grey conduit underground to feed the shed with power. Pull it or keep it?

My breaker box is full so maybe I should put the plug back the way it was and run separate power to the outdoor lights and shed from a subpanel.

Considering how I did not do this right so far, how hard will it be to install a subpanel?

I believe the main breaker in my box (the one that feeds the house) is 100 amps. About a year ago I hired an electrician to install separate power in my garage. I think he put a 50 amp circuit breaker in the main and ran the romex under the house into the garage and into a subpanel.

Would this be the same type of thing for installing a subpanel next to the main circuit breaker?

Also, the main breaker panel door is flush with the stucco. Any thoughts on how to get power to the subpanel for the lights and shed? How many amps circuit breaker to the new subpanel and or do I need to replace the original main 100A?

I would like to do it right and also learn at the same time.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 11:12 AM
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Romex is a brand name. Most people mean NM cable when they say Romex. I do not know what you have installed. NM cable is no good outside. Conduit fills with water due to condensation and small holes in the conduit. If you installed NM cable in the conduit outdoors, you need to replace it.

Certainly look at the conduit. I suspect that it is fine for above the ground use.

A sub panel next to your main panel is fed the same way that the sub panel in your garage is fed. Four wire cable will be run to the sub panel from a circuit breaker in your main panel. The size of the breaker and the size of the wire will be dictated in part by the size of the sub panel. I would install smaller than a 100 amp sub panel, but you can feed it with a smaller breaker.

Have you considered running the shed from the garage sub panel instead of from the main panel?
 
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Old 03-23-07, 11:20 AM
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The conduit is fine. It's what's inside the conduit that we're worried about. "Romex" is a brand name, used for both UF-B cable (which is okay) and NM-B cable (which is not).

Since the circuit is GFCI protected and not more than 20 amps, 12 inch burial depth is suffient.

Depending on how much power you need, you may or may not need a subpanel in your shed. Earlier you said that you were only running low-power stuff. You may not need it. If you do, you'll need to start all over and follow a hundred new rules we haven't mentioned yet. So you need to figure out exactly how many watts you need out there.

There are a lot more rules for subpanels in detached structures than for subpanels in the same structure.

In general, you cannot replace the main breaker with a higher one, without replacing a lot of other stuff as well.

Before we start down the subpanel route, figure out if you need one.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 11:24 AM
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NM cable may not be direct buried, and is not a good choice for passing through a conduit that is buried. As Bob has already pointed out, you need to use Type UF cable (either direct buried or through the conduit) to the shed. The NM should be removed.

If the conduit is already in place, a better choice, as Bob said, is to pull individual #12 AWG THWN conductors, since it will be much easier.

Cables or conductors should be buried at least 24-inches down. For conduit, 18-inches is the minimum depth.

As for your service panel, do as Bob suggested and see if you can replace any existing breakers with tandem breakers. These are sometimes referred to as "slimline" breakers, and most service panel manufacturers make them. If you cannot get tandem breakers, then consider the sub panel option.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 02:23 PM
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Ok.
There is a lot of knowledge and experience on this board.

I will check the "Romex" for what type it is and the ratings...etc.
When I bought it, I remember it saying on the box outdoor use.
I will check it carefully and based on the information in this thread either pull it out or leave it.

I burried the PVC pipe 18" in the ground already. I had glued the PVC pipe connectors and I am certain the pipe is waterproof throughout. I used special connections and sealed them with silicon at the plug receptical and the inlet to the shed.

Based on the formula and the items I am using in the shed, (light computer, fan) I don't think that I will ever draw enough current to even reach the rating of the breaker.

After rereading everything, there was a comment that racraft had said and now is really sticking with me about knowing what is on each and every circuit. What is the most reliable way to test what is connected to each circuit?

Is there some tool that I can buy to make it easier?

I was thinking about putting new wire in all of the plugs in the old section of the house because they are only two pronged and I can not see any groundwire in any of those outlets. They also have a lot of freying and cracking. I believe they are some old version of insulated romex. The new section is grounded to the water main and all of the plugs in the new section of the house have the ground connection.

I would then have new wire and know where each connection goes to the circuit main.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 02:53 PM
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To determine what is on each circuit enlist someone to help you and buy an electric radio.

First turn on all your lights. Plug something into as many receptacles as you possibly can and turn it on. Make sure that is something (like the radio or a light) that will come on or off as you turn on and off the variuous circuit breakers.

Then use one of two methods.

Turn all your breakers off and then turn one of them on. With the breaker on, walk around the house and figure out what has power. Check receptacles, built in lights and appliances. Make note of everything on this breaker. Turn the breaker off and then turn on the next breaker. Etc.

OR

Turn off one breaker at a time and determine what has no power. Check receptacles, built in lights and appliances. Make note of everything that has no power.

When you are done, you should have a a complete list. Every receptacle, light and appliance should be identified, and you should have a complete list by breaker. If you are missing a receptacle or two then repeat either process until you figure out which circuit powers whatever is missing.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 03:14 PM
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There's no such thing as waterproof underground conduit. Even if you sealed the joints perfectly, air can still get in through the ends of the conduit. When the warm moist air gets to the cool underground, the moisture condenses out of it. Within a year, the conduit is always full of water.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 03:44 PM
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Ok. Since my home is not really big and I don't have more than two outlets per room, it should be a snap to get everything mapped out fairly quickly.

I am still up in the air now about the line running from the house to the shed. I didn't think about condensation and even though I live in California where the temperature is mild most of the time I don't like the thought of water being present in the pipe where my wires are.

Rewire Outlets:
As I mentioned, the old part of the house has those two prong plugs without any ground wire (at least that I can see). I noticed some freying on the wires.

The plug wires come up through the bottom of the house. Can I pull them out and put new wire through the same hole? I have seen some wire in the attic going through the wall plate into the wall for an outlet. Does it matter if the wire is inserted through the top wall plate or up from the bottom?

When is it acceptable to use stranded 12 Gauge wire? I like it because it is flexible and does not break like the solid 12 Gauge wire. I have quite a bit of it in Red, White, Green, and Black. I would like to use it someplace if possible.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 03:55 PM
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You can always use stranded in place of solid wire, but I don't recommend it. Stranded wire is very difficult to connect to a receptacle or switch. And solid wire should not be breaking. If it is, you're doing something very wrong.

Yes, you can pull out the old cable and put in new cable, if that's feasible for you. It doesn't matter if it come in through the top or bottom.
 
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Old 03-23-07, 04:04 PM
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As John Stated, conduit fills with water. This not a problem if the cable is the right kind, waterproof.

With only two receptacles per room, you should either completely rewire if it easy, or at least add new circuits to supplement. Not that if you rewire, you must meet today's code, which would require more than two receptacles per room. There are other requirements as well, such as AFCI circuit breakers for bedrooms, and specific requirements for bathrooms.

Before attempting rewiring of this wort, you need to fully understand what is required. It is also best if someone knowledgeable reviews your plan, as getting it completely right is not a trivial task.

You can wire from the attic or from the basement or crawl space. You can use the same holes. However, you most likely cannot use the old wires to pull new wire through. The cables should be stapled to the studs, and pulling new cable would damage the new cable, if it worked at all.

Individual wires, either stranded or solid, needs to be in conduit. Conduit has it;s advantages and disadvantages, but I do not recommend it for remodeling, except perhaps in the open area of garages or attics.
 
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Old 03-24-07, 09:03 AM
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Follow-up

I had printed the thread while I was at work yesterday and went over the basics that were mentioned after I got home.

The wire used for the power to the shed is Southwire 12/2 UF-B outdoor electrical wire with ground.

The Grey PVC used to bury the wire DOES say sunlight resistant!

I decided to hold off on the house rewire since this simple question at the beginning of the thread opened all of this discussion and really opened my eyes to how important details really are with home structure, electrical potentials, and everything around us.

I will be working this morning on the circuit box map for sure though!

What does anyone recommend I use for a switch to cut the power to the shed. I know it was said that I need a main disconnect at the main power entering the shed? Oh, and does that switch have to be at the wall receptical that I tapped for power or can it be right where the power enters the shed? The receptical I tapped is a GFCI plug on the load side (Top screws that had tape)?

Thanks to the experts!
 
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Old 03-24-07, 10:54 AM
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A simple ordinary light switch will work as the cutoff. Get a 20-amp rated one (most are only rated for 15 amps) because your switch may occasionally pass more than 15 amps. Put it in the shed between where the cable enters and the receptacle box.
 
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