Bath vent heater switch 15A or 20A

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Old 11-23-14, 11:06 AM
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Bath vent heater switch 15A or 20A

Hello,

I have a Panasonic FV-11VH2 bath vent/heater combo. I want to use a switch that is lit when the heater is on and off when the heater is off so its really noticeable to my wife/kids since leaving it on would cost $$$. I have such a Leviton lighted 15A switch (cost like $12) but the heater instructions call for 20A circuit (I have 20AMP breaker and 12 gauge wiring). I want to know if it would be ok to use a 15A switch with 20A wiring for this purpose because the 20A lighted switch costs like $40.

From the instructions: "The heater for this unit is a 1400 W sheathed heater. A thermostat and thermal cut-off switch have been added for safety in case of an abnormal temperature rise in the heater"

Thanks.
 
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Old 11-23-14, 11:27 AM
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Check the functioning of the lighted switch. Most are illuminated with the switch "off", so you may still not have what you need. Leviton 15 Amp Combination Switch with 25-Watt Neon Pilot Light - White-R52-05226-0WS at The Home Depot comes on with the switch in the "on" position. You will need to find a 20 amp version. What is the amperage of the heater from the nameplate?
 
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Old 11-23-14, 12:05 PM
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The switch I already have is a 15A pilot light. I've used them before.

The nameplate says 11.9A for the heat and .3A for the vent.
 
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Old 11-23-14, 01:04 PM
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The 15A switch should be fine for that heater.
 
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Old 11-23-14, 01:31 PM
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Great thanks!

Do you know why they would require a 20A circuit though? Is that taking into account if you use the heater vent and lights simultaneously on the same circuit? Mine is the non light model.
 
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Old 11-24-14, 08:47 AM
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If the switched part of the circuit serves only the heater (perhaps with a built in light) drawing a total of 1440 watts or less then a 15 amp switch will do. (Beware of cheaper 7 amp switches that might be available but intended for lights only subcircuits.)

For a switched subcircuit that serves the heater and also has several other light fixtures or some receptacles, you would need a 20 amp switch if the overall circuit is 20 amps 12 gauge.
 
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Old 11-24-14, 08:57 AM
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I have a beefy Leviton pilot light and plan to only put the heater and nothing else on that switch.

Does the wiring still need to remain 12 gauge on that switched circuit between the switch and the heater?

I am curious because the same 20A circuit supplies power to the lights (on a different switch) and its a pain in the behind to use 12 gauge wiring for the can lights.
 
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Old 11-24-14, 09:01 AM
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My guess is that if you run all the components at once it exceeds 80% of a 15A circuit, which is the limit for a continuous load on a circuit. It is somewhat debatable if this is a continuous load, but it could be accidentally left on all day and therefore meet the definition of continuous (>3 hours). There is a also a very similar code, worded slightly differently, for built-in electrical space heaters, which this unit might qualify for, that also imposes an 80% capacity limit on the circuit. The manufacturer is probably leaning on the safe rather than sorry side.

Yes all of the wiring on the 20A circuit needs to be #12. The switch needs to be sized for the load it directly controls, so you could have a few 15A switches on a 20A circuit.
 
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