14 wire on a 20 amp breaker, how bad?

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Old 03-28-10, 09:23 PM
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14 wire on a 20 amp breaker, how bad?

I own a 1972 built home and all wiring appears to be original. I have three 20 amp circuits in my home that that have 14 guage wiring at some point in the circuit. One circuit runs the refrigerator and basement lights. Another goes to the garbage disposal 2 outlets in a dining room and the bathroom. The third circuit is the lights for the dinning room, hallway, and all three bedrooms. I did load calculations for all three circuits, and for my usage a 15 amp breaker would be sufficent. The refrigerator says 6.5 amps on tag (so 120 x 6.5= 780 watts0 and the garbage disposal say 6.9 amps so = 840 watts. I never use dining room outlets. So, I don't get close to the 1440 watt safe operating limit on a 15 amp circuit. So, I don't see me over heating any of my 14 gauge wires. Should I change out the 20 amp for a 15 amp breaker? Also I was thinking of putting a 15 amp gfci breaker on my bathroom/garbage disposal circuit since they are not gfci protected. Can you see any problem with that? I have read that putting a gfci on a refrigerator circuit is bad because it could trip and all your food would go bad. Thanks for help.
 
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Old 03-28-10, 09:48 PM
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The breakers for circuits that contain #14 wire should be changed to 15 amps to protect the smallest wires. The smaller wires could overheat before the breaker would trip and could cause a fire.

I would install the GFI in the bathroom. If a refrigerator trips a GFI there is a problem with the refrigerator. Life safety is more imortant than food in a refrigerator.
 
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Old 03-28-10, 10:36 PM
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Put a gfci outlet in the bathroom rather than a breaker..and connect power in and out to the line side so you don't gfci the fridge
 
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Old 03-28-10, 11:10 PM
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you can install the GFCI on that circuit and with modern fridges they don't have much current leakage to trip the GFCI unless something wrong { I know it is common on older fridges to trip the GFCI }

second thint change the breaker from 20 to 15 amp so you don't burn up the wires.

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 03-29-10, 07:46 PM
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I would never put any refrigerator on a GFI. There is such a thing as nuisance trips.
 
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Old 03-29-10, 07:57 PM
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My house was built in 1987 with GFCI circuit breakers on the "small appliance branch circuits" which includes the refrigerator. The refrigerator is 10 years old and I have NEVER had the GFCI trip except when I tested it either with a hand-held tester or the test button on the circuit breaker.
 
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Old 03-29-10, 08:12 PM
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What makes me wonder about the 14 wire on the 20 amp circuit is if it's so bad, why do all ceiling chandelers, bathroom vent fans, table/floor lamps, etc come with a stranded 18 guage cable. I mean, everyone has lamps, alarm clocks, etc plugged into outlets that are on a 20 amp circuit with 12 wire running to them and it's obviously not a problem. On the refrigerator circuit 12 wire runs to it's outlet, then 14 runs to the lights. 40 years no fires it's probably no different than all the lamps in my living room with 18 wire being plugged into a 20 amp circuit with 12 wire right?
 
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Old 03-29-10, 08:39 PM
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Lamps, bathroom fans and the like have a maximum fixed load that is less than the rating of the wire that comes with the fixture. Also, more often than not what you may think of as "ordinary" #18 wire is in fact what is known as "fixture wire" and it has an insulation with a much higher temperature rating and THAT is why those items can have what appears to be undersized wiring.

Truth is, a single #14 wire with type PFAH or TFE insulation is rated at 59 amperes.

So, yes, it has been "okay" for forty years but why tempt fate?
 
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Old 03-29-10, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
My house was built in 1987 with GFCI circuit breakers on the "small appliance branch circuits" which includes the refrigerator. The refrigerator is 10 years old and I have NEVER had the GFCI trip except when I tested it either with a hand-held tester or the test button on the circuit breaker.
Outlets are not as reliable as the breakers tho

and thats not the point buddy...14 awg wire is rated for 20 amps but the NEC has determined that that is unsafe and it may only be protected at 15 amps


think about it like this you cant put a 20 amp light bulb in a lamp or light fixture.. so you really cant overload that wire

you could argue that someone could put in a screwshell adapter and plug in a 15 amp air compressor and overload the 18 gauge wire....but that person has a screw loose and :wal

all appliance cords are rated for load the appliance uses so it cant really be overloaded
 
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