What amperage breaker can I use?


Old 03-03-02, 09:25 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 146
What amperage breaker can I use?

I think I know the answer to this question, but I'll ask anyway.

I recently wired three circuits in my workshop. Two circuits are outlets behind the workbench for power tools, one circuit is overhead outlets for lights.

For the two workbench circuits, I used 12/2 with ground feeding a GFCI breaker and from there to the rest of the outlets. All the outlets are wired in series (daisy-chained).

The GFCI outlet is rated 15 amps at the socket, 20 amps downstream load.

The other outlets are rated 15 amps.

Am I allowed to run these circuits off 20 amp breakers? (The assumption is that no single outlet will have a load of more than 15 amps, but the problem is the upstream outlets are still sourcing power for the downstream outlets, so I'm not sure. If the total downstream current draw is > 15amps, it seems that I'm driving the upstream outlets past their rating. I suspect the answer to my question is no.)
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Old 03-03-02, 09:35 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
This question is asked here at least once per week. The answer is yes. This question is so common that it is specifically addressed in the code.

If you want some more positive reinforcement, go look at your kitchen counter receptacles and your bathroom receptacles. Those are also 15-amp receptacles on 20-amp circuits.
Old 03-09-02, 07:33 AM
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Ok, here is a bit of a different twist. I would like to replace a 15A breaker in my panel with a 20A. Must I use no smaller than 12 gage wire to the breaker? It currently has 14 gage.

Old 03-09-02, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497

Unfortunately, this is probably a colossally bad idea. You would need to replace every inch of the wire on the entire circuit with 12-gauge wire. And I'm not sure how you'd ever be sure that you got all the wire out of the wall.

If you need more power, it is a better idea to run a new circuit than to try to upgrade an existing circuit.

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