If you’re running multiple appliances simultaneously, then it’s possible that your circuit could overload.

Although the National Electric Code (NEC) does not directly rule on limiting the outlets on your circuit, it is critical to understand its power draw limitations.

In general, a 20A circuit should have no more than 10 outlets. The National Electrical Code (NEC) stipulates that the total load on a 20-amp circuit should not exceed 1250 watts. It includes all the outlets, lights, and appliances on the circuit. Continue reading to find out why.

What About the 20 Amp Circuit?

A typical 20 amp circuit is sufficient to power one or two bedrooms. It’s a common amp rating found in devices like outlets and overhead lights, as well as a 15-amp circuit.

A circuit with a 20-amp rating does not necessarily have a 20-amp current flow. The measurement is simply an indicator of how much power can safely pass through the circuit.

Different amps are appropriate for different wire sizes. Using 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit is prohibited under building rules based on the National Electrical Code. In such circuits, all wires must be 12-gauge or greater. According to the code, a 20-amp Ground-Fault Interrupter receptacle cannot be installed on a 15-amp circuit.

Source: canva.com

Computing the Count of Outlets in a 20 Amp Circuit

When it comes to the count of outlets or receptacles on a 20-amp circuit, the answer is as many as you want. It is preferable to have multiple outlets for even power distribution. But it could cause the wires to overheat, resulting in a tripped breaker or a fire hazard. 

Whether you or a paid electrician designed the electricity in your home plan, it should have well-designed load management.

But how can you compute the count of outlets for a 20 amp circuit? The first thing you need to know is how much watts a 20 amp circuit has. Here’s a simple formula:

Amps x Volts = Watts

We know that we have 20 amps. As for the volts, most US homes run on a 120-volt circuit in most rooms. It means you can reach up to 2400 watts with 120V on a 20-amp circuit. In theory, you can use 13 devices to get the most out of the 20 amps of circuit power. If you have 1.5-amp 13 devices, it will only consume 19.5 amps. But in practice, it’s not plausible.

Maxxing the 20 amps will prevent other devices from receiving the necessary power to start up. A circuit that is 90% occupied can cause the breaker to trip regularly. Because of this issue, the National Electrical Code (NEC) recommends limiting the circuit and breaker load to 80% or less.

You need to follow the 80% rule when using a maximum load of 1.5 or any load in particular. According to the regulation, 80% of a 20-amp circuit is 16 amps or 1920 watts on a 120V system. It means you only need to have ten receptacles on a 20 amp circuit. It’s based on the formula: 16 amps x 1.5 amp = 10.67 devices.

Following the rule can avoid any overheating and electrical hazards. But make sure your circuit, wire sizes, and outlets are all compatible. Also, use caution when distributing multiple outlets from a single 20-amp circuit throughout the house.

Related: Troubleshooting a Tripped Circuit Breaker

When to Upgrade Your Circuit Amps?

There are many tell-tale signs you need to upgrade your circuit amps. A risky way to know you’re next in line for an upgrade is a burning smell around your house.

Another sign is large or frequent sparks. It can indicate deteriorated wiring or a faulty circuit. Keep an eye out for warm or discolored outlets as well. Whether the problem is faulty wiring or an overloaded circuit, you should consult with an electrician.

Don’t shoo away those mild shocks and tingling sensations when you plug devices. It can indicate that the wiring is defective or was installed incorrectly.

Types of Outlets to Consider When Upgrading Amps

Suppose you’re thinking about doing some electrical renovations in your home. In that case, it’s a good idea to start by understanding the different electrical outlets that are available.

15 Amps Duplex

Most homes in the United States have a combination of 15-amp and 20-amp, 120-volt circuits. According to the regulations, 15 amp circuits are for lights. These are typically daisy-linked together, such as in your living room.

In older US homes, the light and receptacles. They have receptacles that have a U-shaped grounding hole and two slots. The normal American electrical outlet has a neutral (long) slot, a hot (shorter) slot, and a U-shaped grounding hole. They’re ideal for a variety of small gadgets and lighting.

20 Amps Outlets

In contrast, 20 amp circuits are for dedicated circuits and general-purpose receptacles. The breaker will not trip if these outlets are used appropriately for their intended function. Only when the circuit is overloaded, or there is a dead short, will these breakers trip.

20A circuits and breakers are typically found in kitchens and laundry rooms. In some cases, garages, where power-hungry machines are prevalent.

Tamper-Resistant Outlets

The tamper-resistant receptacle may effectively replace regular 5-amp and 20-amp outlets. One of the most significant advantages is protecting youngsters from electrical harm. A built-in mechanism prevents small things from being placed into these receptacles.

When a correctly rated electrical plug is introduced, the shutters will open. Instead of plastic outlet caps, they provide permanent protection, which can come off or be removed.

GFCI And AFCI Outlets

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupters. Outlets like these protect your property from dangerous ground faults. They should be put outside, bathrooms, basements, and moist kitchen areas.

On the other hand, AFCI or arc fault circuit interrupters prevent electrical fires caused by arc faults. When it detects a potentially harmful defect, it turns off the power. The AFCI can identify various hazardous arc faults caused by damage in branch circuit extensions.

Switched Outlets

Consider switched outlets if you want to keep certain appliances or lights plugged in even when they aren’t in use. The item includes a plug as well as a linked switch. 

Control the electricity to a connected device without removing the plug from the socket by using the switch. Also, there is no need for a new electrical box or additional wire to install these.

USB and Smart Outlets

There is an increase in technology-friendly home improvement ideas, such as USB and smart electrical outlets. USB outlets have one or more USB ports, allowing you to charge your gadgets directly from the USB cable.

Smart outlets can be operated via your smartphone. You can turn them on and off from your device, regardless of where you are. But you will require a smart home hub as it uses z-wave communication.

Consult the Professionals If Making Amperage Adjustments

A 20-amp circuit should have at most 10 1.5 amp outlets, adhering to the 80% of the NEC. If you need assistance raising the amperage capacity in your home, call a professional. 

Having a professional can increase the tell-tale signs you need to upgrade your circuit amps. You’ll also have the best outlets at home with a licensed electrician.

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Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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