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20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Posted by daft_punk (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 22, 10 at 18:04

Hi all...

The original contractor-grade electrical outlets in my home are in rough shape. Many of them are too loose to reliably accept a plug. A few are even cracked (not the outlet cover, but the face). Most of them (with exception of the bathroom and kitchen) are the "backstab" style.

I want to replace the whole lot with something "different". Other than the bathroom, I want to change all of the two-outlet boxes to quads. I really like some red outlets I've seen on a design website. My dilemma...should I go with the "standard" or Decora style?

- The "standard" red ones come only in 20A. These are NOT the isolated-ground orange ones. I plan on upgrading to 12-2 and 20A breakers wherever these are installed; no 20A outlets will go on a 15A circuit. Advantage: half the price of Decora outlets. Disadvantage: Will have to upgrade wire and breaker on each new outlet right away.

- The red Decoras come in either 15A or 20A. Will still upgrade wiring in future. Advantage: No need to upgrade wire or breakers right away with 15A units. Disadvantage: Decoras are expensive.

I don't know if "standard" outlets are more durable than Decoras. I also don't know if 20A outlets will "wear out" more quickly when plugging/unplugging only 15A plugs.

Here's what I do know...

- House panel is a 200A Square-D QO-series with plenty of room for more breakers.
- Some breakers trip from time to time because too many outlets are fed by a single breaker (iron + aircon or TV plus microwave).
- Using 20A breakers/wiring, or more breakers/homeruns will stop the nusance breaker trips.
- A dual or quad 15A outlet can be fed from a 20A breaker. However, a 15A single outlet needs a 15A breaker.
- It's my own home so local BI will issue me a permit (he's done so in the past).
- The only place "backstab" outlets should be installed is in a landfill.
- I'm a little nuts to go through all this trouble to get red outlets.

Here's what I need to know...

- Adding 20A outlets in every room would be overkill, but is it otherwise "wrong" ?
- Should I spend twice as much to get the "lesser" 15A Decora outlets, even though my pitiful wiring will be upgraded anyway ?
- Have any of you pros seen wear issues from connecting/disconnecting 15A plugs on 20A outlets ?
- Sould I install one of those KVAR units to save on my electric bills...JUST KIDDING !!!

Thanks !

Marco


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

If your plan pleases you, carry on. I had a friend who built his house with 5 circuits in each room. One for ceiling lighting, and one circuit for each wall in the room. Expensive and time consuming to install- but it was what he wanted. I like to have my way about some things, too.
But instead of the quad receptacles everywhere, the distance between receptacles could be closer than code minimums.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

It is your money, feel free to waste it as you see fit.

There are not that many things in living rooms and many spaces that need a 20 amp circuit outside of the already required ones.

Your money might be better spent making sure there are at least two circuits in each room.
That way no all the lights go out when a breaker trips.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I like to use "specification grade" receptacles. They hold the plugs better and last longer. I think the significant increase in cost is worth it.

I have yet to see Decora receptacles in this higher grade. I haven't cracked one open, but Decoras feel to me much like the cheap half-buck, bottom shelf stuff at the big box stores. Perhaps the pros here know where to find heavy duty, long lived Decora recepts. Or maybe they can refute my judgement of Decora recepts.

PS - Most GFIs, in terms of plug-holding, remind me of the cheap receptacles, too.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

If all you ever shop in is the big box stores, you'll never find more than the mass market crap.

Leviton makes heavy duty decora receptacles, they even make hospital grade ones as well.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

When I had house rewired I had all circuits done in 20 amp, more for my peace of mind than anything.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I think I've mentioned in the past that I've done some work on a friends recently new home that was entirly wired with with 20 amp Breakers and 12/2 wiring except, obviously, where heaver service was required. There is at least two circuits in each room, one for lights and one for receptacles. What did bother me was that the original electrician, now deceased, wired external GFI receptacles from inside circuits and the outside receptacles were not weatherproof. I ran new circuits for the outside receptacles and placed them in weatherproof fixtures.

Considering switches and receptacles, we purchase from our wholesale electrical suppliers. However, good quality fixtures and recessed and track lighting are available at retailers such as Lamps Plus. Many upscale electrical retailers ofter Decora fixtures, usually Leviton but others also.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"When I had house rewired I had all circuits done in 20 amp, more for my peace of mind than anything."

Why do you think 20 amp circuits are any safer?


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Brick, I like the idea that even though most new appliances are rated for 15 amp I am less concerned with what gets plugged into each circuit


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Wiring with only 20 amp circuits can create box-fill problems if one isn't careful.

Adding circuits may require them to all be arc-fault protected...a potentially expensive decision.

But as brickeye said, its your money...and there really is no need or benefit to ever wire circuits as 20 amps except where required by Code.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Ron: "Leviton makes heavy duty decora receptacles, they even make hospital grade ones as well."

I buy as much of my materials as I can at an electrical jobber in my area, but also buy some at the big blue store that's quite a bit closer to my home and open later. I don't generally use Decora and never had cause to ask about good quality ones at the jobber, so you're right, the only ones I've seen have been in the junk stores.

Good to know that high end Decora recepts are available. Thanks for the info.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

20 amp plugs are now a code requierment on kitchen counters of our new homes.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

? I'm really surprised by the responses to this thread.

I have always used 20A wiring for all receptacles, and at least two of the major electricians in my area seem to do the same. I use 15A and 14awg for lights.

Personally I like one 20A 'receptacles' circuit per room. If there's a section of the house where loads will be random, I'll still put the same number of circuits in but make sure they are mixed in each room. IE, a house with four bedrooms clustered together, each bedroom will have at least one receptacle on each of four circuits. Weird, but it seems to work out well.

When all of your wiring is already 12AWG and on 20A circuits, it's really immaterial whether the receptacles themselves are rated 15 or 20.


If it's your own house, then it really comes down to your own preference. I, personally, do not think 20A circuits everywhere is an insane idea at all.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"I like the idea that even though most new appliances are rated for 15 amp I am less concerned with what gets plugged into each circuit"

Outside of kitchens and bathrooms (were 20 A receptacle circuits are required) there are not a lot of residential loads that even approach 15 A (unless you plan on using large power tools in every room).


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reRE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Cutting the receptacle spacing from the minimum 12 feet to 6 feet is actually far more useful.

With a 6 foot receptacle spacing you can actually plug in most lamps without using extension cords (since every place on the wall will be within 3 feet of a receptacle).


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

The "12 foot rule" came from the idea that most appliances come with 6-foot cords... sooooo you should be able to plug in "most lamps" without extension cords even with the receptacles at 12 feet.

You're right, very few people plug in anything that uses 15A.

I do. Power tools yes. We've got a refrigerator in a bedroom. I like the idea of plugging an air conditioner into any outlet and not expecting to trip a breaker. A vacuum cleaner that pulls 12A?

My stereo dims the lights - not just at turn-on, but also in time with the bass. Bad wiring? Nope, just a manufacturer-claimed total of 7100 watts worth of amplifiers. YOU? Probably not, but someone? Yes.

You might not, but the next guy to live in what's currently your house might.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Thank Pharkus...you nailed it. I've popped breakers using the vacuum + aircon, iron + aircon, ect.

I like the idea of quads because because it is easier to line up bits of furniture with one set of outlets than two. One bureau has a shaver charger, cordless phone, and phone charger on it.

So do any of the pros here any experience with these outlets ?...

- Pass & Seymour CR20 commercial-grade "standard" 20A

- Pass & Seymour LeGrand 26242/26342 spec-grade Decora 15A/20A

These are the red ones I'm looking to order online. Are these "good", junk, somewhere in-between ? Please let me know.

Thanks !

Marco


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"The "12 foot rule" came from the idea that most appliances come with 6-foot cords... sooooo you should be able to plug in "most lamps" without extension cords even with the receptacles at 12 feet. "

Purchased any lamps lately?

There is NO requirement for cord length, and in cost saving mode most of the cords have been reduced to about 3 feet.

That means that extension cords are used many times to reach outlets on a 12 foot spacing.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I didn't say that most lamps actually DO come with 6-foot cords, only that the people who dreamed up this 12-foot rule had that IDEA.

Most older appliances I have DO have 6-foot (or longer) cords attached, so it was a sound idea at some point in history.

I also know cord length was never a requirement. I only assert that it was common at the time.

I haven't seen 3-foot lamp cords yet though. Kitchen appliances, yes. Lamps, no.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I am on the electrical code board of review commission for a large city in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. We recently passed a regulation that all new residential construction and remodeles must all be wired with 12/2 20 amp systems.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

okay, will you let a 14/2 and 14/3 15A circuit powering ONLY fixed lighting through? (in addition to the 20A circuits)


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"We recently passed a regulation that all new residential construction and remodeles must all be wired with 12/2 20 amp systems."

And what do you hope to accomplish by that ruling?


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

It is ironic that each new edition of the NEC requires more outlets than the previous edition. And the NEC is often adopted as law. At the same time other branches of government are adopting regulations to limit the use of electricity. And some of those restrictions are becoming quite intrusive.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Manhattran, I don't really know. I was the lone no vote. In the real world, we wire receptacles on 20 amps and lights on 15 amps.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"Manhattran, I don't really know. I was the lone no vote. In the real world, we wire receptacles on 20 amps and lights on 15 amps."

Reason I asked is that codemaking panels have tried for years to develop some sort of parameters to regulate the size of circuits and number of outlets on them to limit overloading, but none have never succeeded.

One such scheme is the NEC's current one for residential wiring that requires 20 amp circuits for small appliance, bathroom, and similar power circuits. This is an attempt to reduce overloading by permitting the most common larger household loads to be served from larger cicuits.

Another is the NEC's requirement to calculate receptacles at 180va for load purposes which has the net effect of setting a maximum number of outlets on any given 15 or 20 amp circuit.

The problem, is that neither method is effective in the prevention of overloading because there is no way to control what gets plugged into such power circuits.

If people are hell bent of plugging anything and everything into receptacles, and using multioutlet strips to increase receptacles on circuits when they run out of them, neither limiting the number of receps or demanding the circuits be 20 amps will help.

That is why the Texas scheme requiring all power circuits to be at least 20 amps remains puzzling, because although the intention appears noble, it carries the same innate flaw, and the reality is, it does nothing to prevent overloading of any circuit...and just ends up being a costly add-on with no real benefits.

Just like wiring all power circuits or the entire house with only 20 amps.
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So until one can actual control the loads that get plugged into circuits, only then can protection from overload really be achieved, but that will likley never happen.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Uh, why stop at 20 AMPS?

As for overloads, don't overloaders get the message when the breaker trips a few times?

After seeing reno disasters for decades, I'd suggest the regulatory authorities might put more of their effort into re-inspecting older homes, say on resale, than absurdly upgrading new homes. I'm finding that the rising costs of electricity and the increasing efficiencies of household appliances are actually reducing the actual amount of power we're using.

**********
My hydro instructor, also a textbook writer on the topic, was an advocate of "spec" grade switches and receptacles. They make sense in commercial environments, but in a home are a waste of money, as far as I'm concerned. How many times a day are you plugging and unplugging things?

Oh well, overkill is certainly safer than wiring new circuits with lampcord. I hate to tell you how many times I've seen that!


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Other than circuits for ceiling lights, all the 120 volt circuits in my house are 20 amp. But most of the receptacles are 15 amp. It is easy to propose mandatory upgrades to existing dwellings. But someone has to pay for such. Government NEVER makes housing more affordable. But government often makes housing more expensive.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

It is easy to propose mandatory upgrades to existing dwellings.

Not me!

I do support electrical inspection of resale homes to ferret out lampcord circuits etc.

Grow-Op wiring Surrey, B.C.
Challenge: Diagram these circuits. Photo:RCMP

Just as when you resell a grow-op house in Ontario, you are first required to have the home inspected by a private electrical contractor and have it brought up to standards.

More broadly, insurance companies are the drivers of electrical upgrading. In the Toronto area, they will not as a rule insure homes with less than a 100 AMP service, aluminum wiring or k&t.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"Another is the NEC's requirement to calculate receptacles at 180va for load purposes which has the net effect of setting a maximum number of outlets on any given 15 or 20 amp circuit."

This limit is NOT applicable to residential receptacles, it is for commercial only.

There is NO NEC limit on 15 A & 20 A, 120 V convenience receptacles on a residential branch circuit.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"This limit is NOT applicable to residential receptacles, it is for commercial only.

There is NO NEC limit on 15 A & 20 A, 120 V convenience receptacles on a residential branch circuit."

Correct.

And I never said that the 180va limit on receptacles was for residential purposes nor that there was a limit on the number of receptacles on residential circuits.

The 180va rule is there, however, to limit to some degree, the loads that get attached in commercial environments on any given circuit....no matter how feeble the attempt.

"As for overloads, don't overloaders get the message when the breaker trips a few times?"

They ultimately do when the house burns down...:(


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"Another is the NEC's requirement to calculate receptacles at 180va for load purposes which has the net effect of setting a maximum number of outlets on any given 15 or 20 amp circuit."

"And I never said that the 180va limit on receptacles was for residential purposes nor that there was a limit on the number of receptacles on residential circuits."

All we are discusisng here is "20-Amp outlets throughout the house" so the entire statement is pointless in the present context, a house.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Uh, why stop at 20 AMPS?

ooh! ooh! pick me! why do I know this one? I read the strangest things...

because somebody eons ago did some math and figured out that, in the event of a short internal to an appliance, the resistance of a length of thin lamp cord could limit the current to a value low enough to NOT TRIP a breaker over 20A, while still setting that cord ablaze...

so we can't have receptacles that accept 15A plugs connected to circuits rated over 20A.


I read that in the same book as the idea that most devices have 6-foot cords, however, so it's probably outdated.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

brickeye stated just to be argumentative:

"All we are discusisng here is "20-Amp outlets throughout the house" so the entire statement is pointless in the present context, a house."

But I had previously stated:

"Reason I asked (sic: texasredhead) is that codemaking panels have tried for years to develop some sort of parameters to regulate the size of circuits and number of outlets on them to limit overloading, but none have never succeeded.

One such scheme is the NEC's current one for residential wiring that requires 20 amp circuits for small appliance, bathroom, and similar power circuits. This is an attempt to reduce overloading by permitting the most common larger household loads to be served from larger cicuits.

Another is the NEC's requirement to calculate receptacles at 180va for load purposes which has the net effect of setting a maximum number of outlets on any given 15 or 20 amp circuit."


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Apparantly brickeye does not know that the NEC code making panels consider adding the 180va limit for residential receptacles every code cycle....

Nor that my comments above were made in a direct exchange with texasredhead about his local code making panel in Texas now requiring 20 amps for all power circuits in a dwelling.

So my responses completely to the point in the present context....

But now brickeye will just have another negative and baseless retort, as always, I'm sure.... (rolls eyes)


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Uh guys...

I'm sorry this thread has taken a turn for the worse. However, is there someone here who has used the P & S "commercial" or "spec-grade" outlets I mentioned above ? If so...could you tell me if they are any good ??

Thanks !

Marc


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

While not a code requirement for specifying receptacle installations, the Article 220 requirement of 3 volt-amperes per square foot for general lighting load calculations for dwellings is useful for me in planning circuits serving general loads. A 20 amp, 2400 volt-ampere, circuit serves a maximum of 800 square feet in my planning. 15 amp serves 600 square feet.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

"Apparantly brickeye does not know that the NEC code making panels consider adding the 180va limit for residential receptacles every code cycle...."

And they have yet to force it though, so ot is NOT part of the NEC and is NOT applicable.
Lots of things get proposed to the code making panels.

"Nor that my comments above were made in a direct exchange with texasredhead about his local code making panel in Texas now requiring 20 amps for all power circuits in a dwelling."

Requiring 20 mps for all power circuits is not going to do anything without a clause requiring the estimated loads to be computed at some nominal value (like the 180 V-A commercial requirement).

Without a required load value (to force a limit on receptacles per circuit) the use of 20 amp circuits is NOT going to result in better installations.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

manhattan42 was only listing that as one item of evidence to support his claim that various organizations are trying to create limitations for circuit loads.

He did not say it currently applied to residential construction. The statement is that someone IS TRYING, or HAS TRIED. This has nothing to do with what is currently in effect.

texasredhead gave a CURRENT example of a regulatory attempt to prevent circuit overloading, and manhattan42 responded to it, commenting (correctly) that there are other attempts with similar intentions by other authorities.

His application of the 180va-calculation argument was correct: stating that it has been proposed, and making this statement in support of his argument (which may or may not be correct) that many attempts are made to regulate circuit loading.


There are only two possible ways to dispute this post, and three possible responses. Those three are:

A) You agree
B) You don't understand
C) You're arguing just because you like arguing

In application of A, one does not need to agree with the original point (that circuit loading regulations are attempted frequently), only that manhattan42's statement was asserting/supporting this.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

Lots of conflicting proposals occur in the code-making process. And in many cases, my opinion, the consumer is not well served by many of those. Early in the life of the ENT, Article 362, the makers of metallic conduits entered every conceivable objection and restriction possible to the inclusion of the ENT in the NEC. The material was severely restricted in permissible uses at first. Subsequent revisions of the NEC have enabled use in more applications. Trade unions representing the installers also have significant input and their input never reduces the cost or amount of labor involved. The consumer pays. Manufacturers work to get their products required- with AFCIs being one example.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I've only ever installed two P&S GFCI receptacles. They were spec grade, and from what I saw, I liked them more than the Levitons that I replaced (no idea if these were spec grade or not). It was mostly because the LED on the P&S illuminated only when it tripped and the design of the two buttons on the receptacle. Leviton uses little rectangular buttons and P&S uses larger square buttons which I find easier to press. Coopers are similar to P&S in this aspect. Although I used a metal plate, I found the P&S face plates that came with the GFCI strange too because they were very flexible and seemed more durable than the "unbreakable Leviton" covers which I've managed to break on numerous occasions.

P&S are generally good quality and since you are using commercial or spec grade I think you are fine. Even resi grade would be fine if you are using it in the living areas. How often are you going to plug and unplug things?

I put spec grade in the garage/basement because I figured those would see more frequent plug-unplug for shop lights, tools, etc.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I like to use spec grade everywhere. To me, plugs falling out of receptacles are a real hazard, especially with kids in the house, and I've seen that happening in too many older houses.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

first of all, i had a cooper 20a spec grade in my room, which i plugged in and unplugged numerous 15 and 20 amp plugs everyday. It wore it out in 6 mos. the p&s seems to be ok, but i like my hubbels with backwire the best. my house is wired with 12-2 for all of the outlets and i wish the lights, too. I have never tripped a breaker,with running a window a/c, this laptop, a 1440w heat gun, soldering iron, and 2 hot glue guns at the same time on 1 receptacle using a splitter i made with 20 amp parts.


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RE: 20-Amp outlets throughout the house - a nutty idea ???

I have several Cooper spec grade here in this very room. Probably not as good as the more expensive Hubs, but they've been going 6-7 years and still hold the plugs about as well as when new. They're definitely better than the half-buck cheapies from the bargain bins in the big box stores.


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