14g on 20a kitchen circuit

grandmumOctober 11, 2013

Old house. Kitchen circuit is on 20 amp breaker (feeds outlets on countertops, fridge, lighting). Noticed 14g wire on this breaker at lightswitches, assuming the outlets are the same.

Im assuming there no scenario when this is acceptable?

Is the fix as easy as downsizing to a 15 amp breaker?

Is there something I am missing here? Any harm in doing so?

Was my house wired before this became a code violation (1959)?

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Were there breakers in 1959? 14g on a 20A is dangerous.

As for having a single circuit that supplies countertops, fridge, lighting, etc.), that is certainly against current code. But are you doing any work to the kitchen that forces you to bring it to current code?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Ron Natalie

It's against any modern code (even 1959) Some clown upgraded the breaker inappropriately. Put a 15A in. Yes they had breakers in 1959 but they didn't permit this. Yes, they did not have special 20A small appliance circuit requirements back then.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 10:53PM
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The reason I hesitated just downsizing the breakers is I wasnt sure if that would harm something that I am not aware of.

also I thought the kitchen circuit was supposed to be 20amp by code, so I feared I am missing something. Is it possible switch wiring can have 14 and outlets must be 12 on a 20A breaker?

There is a second breaker for dining room I noticed on 20A as well and probably needs 15.... again the code question.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 6:38AM
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Ron Natalie

Nope, the downside is that if you have more than 15A of load on it, it will rightfully trip the breaker. That's preferable than having a larger breaker and a fire for exceeding the wiring ampacity.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 8:23AM
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I bet someone ran 14ga off the existing kitchen circuit. Even in 1959 it was common to use 12ga for kitchen receptacle circuits.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 10:33AM
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Thanks for the replies.

I just checked a few outlets and they all have 12 on them but I notice 14 on the switch legs for lighting.

Is it uncommon to have switch wiring that is 14 on the same circuit with the outlets that have 12?

If there is 12 at the breaker and 12 at the outlets but 14 on the switches, do I still have to downsize?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:00PM
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If you have a 20 amp breaker it should have all 12 gauge wire. Current code does not allow you to mix and match wire size that does not meet the minimum size for the breaker. However, it would be okay to use 12 gauge wiring with a 15 amp breaker, since you are downrating the circuit.

The current wiring is wrong but may not be dangerous if they correctly wired the 14 gauge wire for the lights as the last devices on the appliance circuit and there is no 14 gauge anywhere except the final leg going to the lights. However, its non-standard, not to code, and would be confusing for any later upgrades.

The simplest immediate fix it to swap back to a 15 amp breaker. The long term fix would be to use all 12 gauge wiring, or connect the lighting to a different 15 amp circuit.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 8:34AM
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