Correct plug size 15 0r 20

justretiredNovember 29, 2013

Hi

I am usually on the home decorating and kitchen forums but a recent kitchen remodel has sent me over here. We wish to replace our outdated almond outlets and covers with white. Here is what a man at Menards told me when I was wondering cluelessly in the electrical aisle. "Look at your circuit breaker box. What ever the number on the toggle switch (15 or 20) that is the size outlet you buy." Is this correct?

Before we get to work on this I want to make sure.

Thank you

This post was edited by justretired on Fri, Nov 29, 13 at 16:54

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llaatt22

Ah, plugs are on the ends of power cords.
Are you sure you aren't trying to communicate your thoughts re new wall outlets?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 4:45PM
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justretired

Of course. You are correct. I will try to edit my post. thanks:)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 4:53PM
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bcarlson78248

The Menards guy gave you the correct advice. If the circuit has a 20 amp breaker it should be wired with 12/2 wire and the outlets should be 20 amp rating. All standard 120 volt outlets at the big box stores will be marked, but there will probably be more 15 amp choices.

20 amp outlets look like a standard grounded outlet, but one of the two vertical slots will also have a cutout that is perpendicular to the vertical slot (it will form a T). A 15 amp rated outlet will only have the two vertical slots and ground.

Bruce

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 6:17PM
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westom

> If the circuit has a 20 amp breaker it should be wired
> with 12/2 wire and the outlets should be 20 amp rating.

Makes no difference which breaker. A standard NEMA 5-15R wall receptacle is powered by 14 gauge wire (older homes) or 12 gauge (newer homes).
http://www.cesco.com/b2c/product/305587?gdftrk=gdfV25445_a_7c1847_a_7c7081_a_7c305587&gclid=COXAgdGli7sCFct9Ogod2W8AhQ
or
http://cloudfront.zorotools.com/product/full/6LP25_AS01.JPG

It might be powered by a 15 amp or 20 amp breaker. But the rectangular holes and round safety ground prong define it and associated appliances as less than 15 amps.

A 20 amp receptacle has different prongs. Selecting that receptacle requires breaker box and wire inspection. That other receptacle designed for both 15 amp and 20 amp appliances is rare since an appliance rarely requires 20 amps.

That Menard guy was wrong. View breakers in the breaker box only if using a 20 amp receptacle. The above picture is not a 20 amp receptacle and is the typical receptacle for all circuits powered by 15 or 20 amp breakers. Shape and position of the prongs define its current rating.

This post was edited by westom on Fri, Nov 29, 13 at 20:11

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 8:03PM
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bus_driver

For residential 120 volt 20 amp circuits that have more than one receptacle-- and that includes one duplex receptacle which counts as two-- it is permissible to use receptacles rated either 15 or 20 amperes. Table 210.21(B)(3) 2011 NEC.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 8:52PM
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petey_racer

" A standard NEMA 5-15R wall receptacle is powered by 14 gauge wire (older homes) or 12 gauge (newer homes)."

The age of the home has NOTHING to do with it. Newer and older homes will have receptacles on both 15 and 20 amp circuits.

The rest of your post is basically correct and I agree.

I do know some states have amendments that do require 20A devices (receptacles) on 20A circuits. I think Canada may also have this requirement.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 9:22PM
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justretired

well this seems way too complicated for a couple of non electricians. The outlets are on our kitchen counter. I guess the most sensible course of action is to take out the old and replace with same. I assume it is ok to put 15 amp outlets in if the toggle says 20? You can go lower, right? Just not higher.

This forum is clearly out of my league. You guys are technical:)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 10:35PM
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westom

20 amp circuits for older homes used 14 gauge wire - not 12 gauge. Age of wire has plenty to do with it since code once defined 14 gauge wire sufficient for 20 amp circuits.

Again, if prongs on that receptacle are as shown (two parallel rectangular prongs), then the receptacle is only for 15 amp or less appliances - even in Canada. That is the Nema 5-15 standard. And that is the most typically used AC wall receptacle on 15 and 20 amp circuits (14 or 12 gauge wire).

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 11:05PM
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westom

> This forum is clearly out of my league. You guys are technical:)

Posted was layman simple stuff. This is also fundamentally important. If anyone makes a recommendation without a number, assume he may be lying. At least the Menard guy recommended looking at circuit breaker numbers. Every honest answer from electricity to taxes to food has a number.

Even URLs were provided with pictures of what you need. This is a Nema 5-15 receptacle. View holes for prongs. Those holes define amperage.
http://cloudfront.zorotools.com/product/full/6LP25_AS01.JPG

Could that be easier? Is that what already exists?

I am seriously concerned that these simple layman concepts so confuse you. If something this simple confuses, then do not even attempt such simple work. Hire an electrician. Then have him to show you. And view the pictures.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 11:19PM
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bus_driver

Replacement receptacles must be of the tamper-resistant type.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 7:12AM
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petey_racer

"20 amp circuits for older homes used 14 gauge wire - not 12 gauge. Age of wire has plenty to do with it since code once defined 14 gauge wire sufficient for 20 amp circuits."

WHEN?? When was this?

I have been in the trade over 25 years. Been licensed for almost 20. Been online discussing this stuff with guys all over the country for over 10 years.
NEVER have I heard this. I call BS.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 9:03AM
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Ron Natalie

It's because he's wrong as you know, Petey. It's possible that bathrooms in older houses have 14g wire, but that's because they have 15A circuits.

Copper can't have any ampacity of 17A when it is enclosed either in cable or conduit. NM (Romex) 14g has been 15A for as long as I know.

The only time 20A is acceptable on 14g in residential wiring is in free air and the only free-air wiring EVER commonly in use is knob and tube.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 11:24AM
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Ron Natalie

It's because he's wrong as you know, Petey. It's possible that bathrooms in older houses have 14g wire, but that's because they have 15A circuits.

Copper can't have any ampacity of 17A when it is enclosed either in cable or conduit. NM (Romex) 14g has been 15A for as long as I know.

The only time 20A is acceptable on 14g in residential wiring is in free air and the only free-air wiring EVER commonly in use is knob and tube.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 11:30AM
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justretired

Thank you all for your replies. What I was asking was if I can safely replace a 15 amp outlet with a 20 amp. It seems as tho the answer is "no" due to wire differences. We have accomplished some simple light fixture and changing to dimmer projects so are not totally clueless. But I think the most prudent course of action is to replace the outlets with whatever amp is already there regardless of the number on the toggle.

Thanks again.

JR

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 1:20PM
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hexus

"But I think the most prudent course of action is to replace the outlets with whatever amp is already there regardless of the number on the toggle."

not necessarily. If it's 14 gauge, the over current protection (breaker) can not legally be over 15 amps, nor can your receptacle. Sometimes people think they are smarter than the codes and put larger breakers in though so you need to look at the actual wire size.
The device you install doesn't have to necessarily match like you're making it sound either. Like bus driver said, if you installed a normal run of the mill duplex receptacle (meaning you have two places to plug into) a 15 amp receptacle can be used on a 20 amp circuit.

You're over complicating it. Regardless of the wire size or the circuit breaker size, install a 15 amp duplex and call it a day. How many 20 amp devices have you ever even seen? Not many, and 99% of people install 15 amp receptacles anyway.

This post was edited by hexus on Sat, Nov 30, 13 at 18:13

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 6:11PM
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justretired

Thanks, Hexus. There are currently 15 amp outlets in place. We will just replace with 15 amp.

JR

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Ron Natalie

Note, that even places (kitchens, bathrooms, laundry) that require 20A circuits, there is NO requirement to install 20A receptacles. As nexus (and others) have pointed out, you can use 15A here whether it's 15 or 20A ampacity.

The only guidance I'd check is if the wiring is 14g then there should NOT be a 20A circuit breaker on that circuit. That I'd fix.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 10:30PM
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PRO
Sophie Wheeler

Be SURE that you are using a GFI outlet for the first outlet in the run, so that all downstream outlets are protected. You should have 2 small appliance circuits in your kitchen that need to be protected this way. Or, change the breakers for those runs for GFI ones.

If you're going to do updates, do the updates that really mean a difference in your safety.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 6:22PM
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Ron Natalie

ONLY the countertop outlets are required to be GFCI protected. While you are permitted you are not required to connect other receptacles to a GFCI.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 11:23PM
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justretired

Thank you Holly and Ron. I appreciate your bringing this to my attention. We are okay on the GFCI.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 7:48PM
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