14AWG wire part of 20A circuit that powers a street light

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Old 02-02-18, 04:32 PM
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Question 14AWG wire part of 20A circuit that powers a street light

While working on adding my 20A AFCI/GFCI outlet to my garage circuit I realized that my street light is connected to the same circuit with 14 AWG wire. Why anyone does this is beside me, maybe it wasn't against the code back then. Before you say it's not allowed and the house will explode, let me explain how it's setup.

In a dual receptacle, there is a pigtail off of the load of the last receptacle into the switch loop's line. So:

20A outlet's load -> Pigtail -> 14AWG White wire of the switch upstairs -> Comes back at black -> goes outside to the street.

From the point of the "pigtail" above, rest of the entire 20A circuit is powered using a 12/2 wire. the only thing on this 14AWG wire is that street light and any christmas lights we plug there (there is a 15A outlet by the street light as well). What should I do? I cannot dig 100 ft trench and put 12 AWG wire there. And the other thing to mention is this light has been there probably 30-40 years and nothing caught on fire. Plus now I am adding a AFCI/GFCI before it.
 
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Old 02-02-18, 04:39 PM
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The #14 on a 20a circuit is not code which you seem to understand. Since the #14 runs for some distance in the house can that part at least be replaced so the #14 is only outside?
 
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Old 02-02-18, 04:39 PM
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1. Replace the breaker for that branch circuit with a 15 amp breaker. The 12 gauge wiring may stay.

Or

2. Install a subpanel where the 14 gauge wire begins. Put the 14 gauge subcircuit on a branch coming out of the subpanel and protected by a 15 amp breaker.
 
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Old 02-02-18, 04:46 PM
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A 15 amp breaker on #12 would be okay. (a street light is owned by the city. Bet you mean yard light.)
 
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Old 02-02-18, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by pattenp View Post
The #14 on a 20a circuit is not code which you seem to understand. Since the #14 runs for some distance in the house can that part at least be replaced so the #14 is only outside?
About 10" of that wire is inside the house The outlet I am replacing now is literally on the foundation wall.

Guys,

I understand what "code" is. I am here for the practical question. Nothing will be on this part of the circuit besides that "yard light" with 1 bulb (which is LED) and whatever christmas light we put there on that out let.

-Redoing that entire trench/100ft of wire in February is out of the question

-Installing a subpanel there is out of the question (no room!)

The closest 15A circuit I can tap into is 25' of wire (and very hard to get to due to A/C ducts). I want to know if I wire this as is, will it catch on fire or what's the first that will happen? No inspector will see this and we are not selling the house soon.

Oh and as I said before, this wire setup has been this way for probably a few decades and nothing blew up I am not doing this myself, this is how it has been. I am just installing the AFCI/GFCI combo outlet in place of a regular outlet.
 
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Old 02-02-18, 05:14 PM
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I want to know if I wire this as is, will it catch on fire or what's the first that will happen? No inspector will see this and we are not selling the house soon.
I'm not sure what I'm reading here. This is YOUR house. Why would you leave a potential problem there that YOU know about it.

#14 wiring is not allowed to be on a 20A breaker. On a direct short and being a fairly long piece of wire..... it could overheat. Will it catch fire..... not likely but possible.
 
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Old 02-02-18, 07:27 PM
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Please understand that this is not as simple as you make it out to be:

1- This setup has been the same for at least 20-30 years (based on the age of the wires).

2- The right way to do this involve running a 12awg wire outside or adding a new breaker neither of which I can do.

3- My question isnt about if this is the right way or not. Its about whether based on my specific scenario this poses a risk.

This part of the circuit will never exceed 1A let alone 15A or 20A. How is the breaker sizd relevant here?
 
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Old 02-02-18, 08:53 PM
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Its about whether based on my specific scenario this poses a risk.
This part of the circuit will never exceed 1A let alone 15A or 20A. How is the breaker sizd relevant here?
If the load stays low, no it doesn't pose immediate risk.
But, can you guarantee that no load exceeding 15A will ever happen?
What if someone plugs a power tool to the outlet and the tool jams?
What if someone decides add more circuit down the line?

14 AWG wire can actually withstand 20A load as long as the wire is not packed in a tight space. It will warm up quiet a bit, but won't melt insulation. At least not right away.
The reason for requiring 12 AWG is to reduce all possible problem and have some room for unexpected issues.
 
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Old 02-03-18, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Derstig View Post
Please understand that this is not as simple as you make it out to be:

1- This setup has been the same for at least 20-30 years (based on the age of the wires).

2- The right way to do this involve running a 12awg wire outside or adding a new breaker neither of which I can do.

3- My question isnt about if this is the right way or not. Its about whether based on my specific scenario this poses a risk.

This part of the circuit will never exceed 1A let alone 15A or 20A. How is the breaker sizd relevant here?
1- This setup has been the same for at least 20-30 years (based on the age of the wires).

2- The right way to do this involve running a 12awg wire outside or adding a new breaker neither of which I can do.

3- My question isnt about if this is the right way or not. Its about whether based on my specific scenario this poses a risk.

This part of the circuit will never exceed 1A let alone 15A or 20A. How is the breaker sizd relevant here?
The Electric Code does not allow ad hoc risk management. THe clear violation is that you have not preserved a 20A circuit The fix seems simple to me. Swap the existing breaker for a 15.

You need to rethink this statement: "This part of the circuit will never exceed 1A let alone 15A or 20A. How is the breaker sizd relevant here?" HIstory has many instances of relevance here. Overloads, fires and melted/damaged insulation are almost ALWAYS non-intentional.
 
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Old 02-03-18, 06:28 AM
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Ok i m not taking any risks, will run the 25 new 14 awg line
 
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Old 02-03-18, 04:19 PM
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Job done the right way, everything works
 
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Old 02-03-18, 06:45 PM
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Excellent! Thanks for letting us know.
 
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