outlet sharing breaker with counter top outlets

abbey_cnyMay 26, 2012

I recently mapped my circuit breakers and discovered my outlet under the sink, which I plan on using for a new dishwasher, shares a circut with my counter top outlets. I think that is not according to code? Since this is an outlet installed in 1950, and presumably code compliant at that time, would it be considered acceptable to leave it as is? I have another counter top outlet that is on its own circuit for the microwave. It will be available to be used as the microwave is being moved elsewhere, so should I look into having the under the sink outlet rewired to the other breaker? I am going to be doing a kitchen remodel and I am trying to figure out what electrical work should be done as part of it. Thanks for any assistance!


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"I am going to be doing a kitchen remodel..."

Your AHJ is likely to require upgrade to the present code in affect when you do the remodel.
While old work is generally grandfathered and only must comply with the code in affect at the time of the work, things like GFCI protection of kitchen counter receptacles has been required by many AHJs for a while.

The outlet sounds compliant for the date of installation, but newer code revisions you likely will be required to comply with no longer allow dishwashers or garbage disposal on the kitchen counter (AKA 'small appliance') branch circuits.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:10PM
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Thank you Brickeye. The electrical work to be done is being done under a permit, so now I know to add this particular item to the list. Better safe than sorry!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 2:51PM
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For a complete Kitchen remodel you will need to update the following at least to comply with the NEC 2011 electrical code. New kitchens use 7-9 circuits unlike old kitchens which may have only 2 circuits. If you install an Island that is where you get up to having 9 circuits. Hopefully you don't have an old small main service panel that doesn't have room for 7-9 new circuits, because then they will need to update that or add a subpanel as well to get more spaces. I personally had my tiny 100amp panel with only 20 slots updated to a completely new 200amp panel with 42 slots for circuits.

From section 210 of the NEC 2011 referring to Kitchens:

(1) Minimum of 2 -20amp circuits to supply small appliances on counter. These will need to be GFCI protected - usually one gfci is installed for each counter circuit and that protects the rest of the outlets on the counter for that circuit.

(2) Refrigerator can share counter circuit or be on a separate circuit. It is not a good idea for the fridge to be on a GFCI circuit so often people separate the fridge in a remodel.

(3) think about if you will have under counter CFL lights. if you want them to be direct wire or the linkable plug in type. If you are getting the plug in type, have an outlet installed in back of one of the cabinets so later the plug can go up in there. You might even want an outlet at very top wall above cabinets for rope light accent.

(4) Lights must be on a separate circuit from counter circuit. Pretty much nothing else is allowed on the small appliance circuit except the fridge.

(5) Gas range ignition (120v) outlet allowed on small appliance circuit, but in my area of California we usually put the gas range and hood on a separate circuit together. If you have an electric stove - that is a whole different problem b/c you need 40amp 240v sometimes - some people choose to have 240v outlet installed behind the stove at rough-in "in-case" they ever get a future electric stove or a dual type range that requires it. I didn't opt for this. I just got the normal outlet behind my gas range.

(6)Under the sink you will need 2 more 20amp circuits (typically non-gfci protected). One is for the dishwasher and one is for the garbage disposer. They allow you to have one circuit if the combined rating of both appliances does not exceed a single 20 amp. However, because the electrician typically doesn't know what model DW or GD you are buying during wire rough-in, 2 separate 20amps are best to be run. My DW is almost 10amps max and my GD is 7 amps which is 17 already. So you see why it is better to have 2 separate circuits. Plus we may get a future Instant hot water dispenser (11 amps). Sine I have 2 circuits under the sink, I will plug that in to share with the GD to stay under 20amps. The DW will stay solo on the other one.

(7) The island is minimum 2 -20amp circuits. I have one circuit supplying the outlets on the side of the island (gfci protected). I have a small sink in the island as well so under the sink, I have outlets on a separate circuit (not gfci) supplying the GD and the Wine chiller fridge.

Summary my Kitchen remodel has 9 circuits:
1 - 15amp AFCI all lights in Kitchen & Dining room
2 - 20amp for Island (one required gfci, other for wine& GD)
1 - 20 amp for Refrigerator (not gfci)
1 - 20 amp for Range/Hood (not gfci)
2 - 20amp small appliances circuit on counters (gfci)
2 - 20amp under main sink for separate GD & DW (not gfci)

I hope this helps. If you are in California don't forget title 24 and the need for CFL in the Kitchen. This is why I went with Fluorescent under cabinet, but used also Low voltage dimmable LED puck style in upper cabinets, and CFL 2-pin island pendants, and for main lights CFL 4-pin recessed lights (IC & AT rated).

There are a lot lot more rules. I suggest buying Code check Electrical guide for a "mini" overview of the requirements. It has about 85% of what you need to NOT forget about in remodels. For example the Kitchen & Bath are two of the few places that do not presently require any circuits to be AFCI type.

The rules are a little ambiguous. In one section it says the Dining room outlets must be on an AFCI circuit and in another section of the code it says that the Kitchen small appliance circuit can serve wall receptacles in the dining room. For confusing situations like this you have to call your local Electrical Inspector since they have final say.

I know this problem first hand because I have an open style Kitchen/dining room area. Because the code 210.52B1 says that the small appliance circuit could serve exposed receptacles in the dining room, we thought we were good. But at rough-in the inspector said NO - dining room must be on a separate AFCI circuit per 210.12. We had to run a new circuit (AFCI breaker) for the dining room outlets.

I actually don't understand why the code is ambiguous in this area. One part says Dining room must be AFCI, another part says the Kitchen small appliance circuit can serve the dining room receptacles. Can anyone shed light on this?

In my case there is no wall between the dining room and the Kitchen and my counter runs straight down the wall from kitchen through the dining room, since we use the same base cabinets in the "dining area" for dishes/built in buffet so to speak.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Wow Kisu, thanks for all of that info. I won't be doing an island or under counter lights, so that will make things a bit simpler, but it is very helpful to know what is required in a kitchen so I will plan ahead accordingly.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 10:56PM
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Ron Natalie

Kris's description of the kitchen small appliance circuits is wrong. All the 120V 15/20A receptacles in the kitchen and related areas have to be on the two or more small appliance circuits. In fact, it is an exception that you can put the refrigerator on a different circuit rather than one that permits it to be on the small appliance circuit. Nothing else (no lighting, no other rooms, etc...) is permitted on these circuits.

There's no issue in the code with the dining room. The code requires both AFCI and the use of one of the small appliance circuit. The easiest way to do this is to use a different circuit for the ones that require AFCI and the ones that require GFCI. Nothing in the US NEC requires any particular distribution of receptacles on the minimal two circuits though most people would split the counter top receptacles between two of the circuits and use another for the AFCI areas. I definitely would avoid putting the refrigerator on an AFCI.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 8:47AM
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"Under the sink you will need 2 more 20amp circuits (typically non-gfci protected). One is for the dishwasher and one is for the garbage disposer."

Check the installation instructions or name plate power ratings of the GD and DW.
They rarely require a dedicated 20 amp each, and very often can share a single 20 A circuit (worth 20 amps * 120 V 8 80%).

gas stoves and GFCIs rarely get along any more since electr5onic (spark) ignitors are being used.

A separate circuit for a gas stove is almost always overkill, and it can share a refrigerator 20 amp circuit.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:58AM
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My refrigerator is not on an AFCI. It is on a separate regular 20 amp circuit so that it does not share with the GFCI protected small appliance circuits. Although the code says the refrigerator can share with the small appliance circuit it is standard practice here to put it on a separate circuit as well as the DW and GD. I haven't met anyone here yet who shares it with the small appliance circuit in a remodel as a best practice.

We live in a strange city where we have additional code that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country or even the state. We are one of the few cities that still requires the old code that you to cut 2 holes in your garage door for suicide vents. Drive around - it looks kind of funny, everyone has rectangular air vents in their garage door.

Yet someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge every week (really) because it's more romantic.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Ron Natalie

My refrigerator is not on an AFCI.
Unless you keep it in the dining room or some place other than the kitchen why would you?
Although the code says the refrigerator can share with the small appliance circuit it is standard practice here to put it on a separate circuit
The code says it can be on a different circuit rated 15A or more. As I stated, you keep phrasing this is a confusing manner. The exception is not to allow it to be on the small appliance circuit, it is to allow it NOT TO BE ON ONE.

You said you were talking about the 2011 NEC so I assumed that WAS WHAT WE WERE DISCUSSING. If you're going to invent some local goofball code, you shouldn't have called it the NEC.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 8:35PM
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