Do I need a 20 amp or 15 amp outlet?The electrical wiring system in your home is an essential aspect of its functionality. As a homeowner, you must ensure that the wiring has sufficient electrical outlets to accommodate all your appliances. It’s critical to know which outlets are suitable for your appliances. A 20 amp (A) outlet functions differently from a 15A outlet, and it’s important to understand the differences between the two.
Understanding the Differences Between A and 20A OutletsThe primary difference between a 15A and 20A outlet is their amperage ratings. A 15 A outlet is suitable for handling a maximum of 1,800 watts, while a 20A outlet can accommodate up to 2,400 watts. The amp rating corresponds to the amount of electrical current that will pass through the outlet. Therefore, a device that draws more current than the outlet’s rating can cause the outlet’s wires to overheat and potentially become a fire hazard.
Factors That Determine Whether You Need a 15A or 20A OutletThe decision of whether to install a 15A or 20A outlet depends on the devices you intend to plug into it. Most residential homes come with 15A outlets since they are less expensive to install than 20A outlets. Most common household items such as lamps, TVs, and computers operate with lower amperage and can be plugged into 15A outlets comfortably. However, if you have high-powered appliances such as air conditioners, electric grills, or heavy machinery, a 20A outlet is an ideal choice.
When to Use a 20A Outlet in Your HomeHere are some scenarios when a 20A outlet is the right choice.
- If you have any high-current-draw appliances in your home, ensure that the outlet is rated for 20A.
- If the circuit is a dedicated one, such as for your refrigerator, you can use a 20A outlet since it would be out of the way of other household appliances
- If you plan to install a wall air conditioner whose BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating is over 4,800, use a dedicated 20A outlet.
- Heavy-duty equipment such as welders, compressors, and table saws also require a 20A outlet
Recommended Appliances for 20A OutletsIf you’re considering installing 20A outlets in your home, you’ll want to know which appliances will work best with them. Here are a few appliances that are compatible with 20A outlets:
- Electric wall and space heaters
- Large power tools including table saws, routers and jointers
- Cooking equipment such as electric grills, ovens, ranges, and microwaves
- Air conditioning units and dehumidifiers
How to Upgrade from a 15A to 20A OutletUpgrading from a 15A to a 20A outlet is straightforward, but it requires a basic knowledge of electrical systems to ensure that it’s done safely and that you comply with local electrical codes. Here are the steps to follow:
- Turn off the circuit breaker that controls the existing outlet circuit, or turn off the main switch before you begin any work.
- Check the electrical wire gauge you have by looking at your existing outlet. If it’s a 14-guage wire, upgrade it to 12-gauge wire to avoid any overloading issues.
- Replace your existing outlet with a 20A outlet and connect the wires in the proper configuration.
- Install new cover plates to cover the old outlets.
- Turn back on the power, and test the new 20A outlet with a electrical appliance that requires this amount of power.
Tips for Properly Installing 20A Outlets in Your HomeIt’s important to note that proper installation techniques are necessary when upgrading to a 20A outlet. Also, it is recommended that you hire a licensed electrician for safety reasons. Here are some tips for properly installing 20A outlets:
- Ensure that the wire you’re using is the right size for the new outlet you’re installing.
- The outlet should be installed in a box that has been approved for the use of the 20A outlet rating.
- Always follow the wiring diagram on the electrical box when wiring the new outlet, and verify that your connections are tight.
- Use a voltage tester to ensure that all wires are properly connected before you turn the breaker on.
- Do not ignore any electrical code requirements that may apply to your municipality or state.