How Many Receptacles Can Be On A 20 Amp Circuit?

How Many Receptacles Can Be On A 20 Amp Circuit

When it comes to electricity and appliances, you need to know how many receptacles you can have on one circuit. While 15 amp circuits are most common in residential homes, some still have 20 amp circuits. So, how many receptacles can you have on a 20 amp circuit?

As a rule of thumb, for a 20-amp circuit there should be 10 receptacles. NEC recommends that you count each outlet at 1.5 amps. If each outlet is 1.5 amps, you can have 10 of them on a 20-amp circuit. Although there are some general guidelines, you can follow that allows you to have more than 10.

After reading this guide, you will have a better idea of how many outlets can be on a 20 amp circuit. This article will provide the information you need to be able to judge the appropriate amount for your preferences.

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What is an Electrical Receptacle?

Before we dive too deeply into the question at hand, it’s important that you understand what exactly a “receptacle” is. In recent years, the definition established by electrical code language has changed. While a receptacle is always an electrical outlet, an outlet isn’t just a receptacle.

For example, ceiling fans and other hard-wired connections are hooked up to outlets. An outlet is described as “A point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment.” A receptacle, on the other hand, has always been defined as something that a plug is connected to. However, new products on the market have necessitated a revision to particular code definitions.

Now, according to the National Electric Code, a receptacle is…

“a contact device installed at the outlet for the connection of an attachment plug, or for the direct connection of electrical utilization equipment designed to mate with the corresponding contact device. A single receptacle is a single contact device with no other contact device on the same yoke. A multiple receptacle is two or more contact devices on the same yoke.” (CMP-18)

How Many Receptacles You Can Have on a 20 Amp Circuit?

The reason why there is no one-size-fits-all answer to “how many receptacles you can have on a 20 amp circuit” has to due with the number of outlets varying, depending on how many people are in your home. In a four-bedroom house, one 20-amp arc-fault circuit interrupter will have 25 outlets, and eight ceiling light fixtures. Although, that doesn’t mean each outlet and light will be drawing power at the same time.

Now, if you have every single light on and all 25 outlets running, then you’re going to have issues. However, all of this can run on a 20-amp circuit because it’s not all used at one time. With that said, you can even have 50 outlets on one circuit! It just depends on what load you are running and when.

Just because there are 50 outlets doesn’t mean each outlet is utilized. If the load on the circuit isn’t drawing more than 15 amps, you’re golden. Only you know how your house is set up; therefore, you need to ensure you aren’t overloading your breaker.

The possibilities are endless. Although, there are a few things you need to be aware of so that you don’t run into trouble. While this looks like overload, it’s not. The rule of counting each receptacle as 1.5 amps leave an additional 20% of the rating in case of a surge.

You always want to make sure you have that breathing room. In the case of a surge, your circuit should have the room to handle it.

Permissible Breaker Load

Permissible breaker load goes back to why there is no direct answer on how many receptacles you can have on a 20-amp circuit. To reiterate: According to the National Electrical Code, there is no limit to the number of outlets you can have on a 20-amp circuit. So, it’s ultimately up to you and your judgment on how many you should place onto your circuit.

One way you can prevent the overload is by watching the amount of current each appliance draws. Take care to ensure you only run devices that pull less current than what your breaker can handle.

In turn, this keeps your circuit breaker from holding more than 80% of what it’s able to power. If you’re not running your circuit at max capacity, you will not go over your breaker load.

Make a Point Not to Overload Your Breaker

Your receptacles should have less than 26 amps at any given time when running. On a conventional 120-volt circuit, you want a maximum of 1,920 watts for your power draw.

Your circuit will not trip unless the power draw goes over 2,400 watts. However, it’s the best practice to ensure you never go over 1,920 in total running appliances at any given time. To ensure this, you need to know which devices you plan to put on each outlet.

A good rule of thumb is to limit the use of devices with high wattage ratings. Of course, do not run both at the same time. If you look into energy-saving appliances, these typically draw less power. It may be a good idea to begin purchasing energy-conserving appliances, so you don’t overload your circuit.

Distribute Power Consumption

Something else you can do to ensure you don’t overload is to distribute the power consumption among the breakers. A great way to do this is to join lights and outlets on a single circuit.

The lights usually draw less power than the other appliances you will need to run. However, this is not always that case. You need to check to see what your lights run before making that decision.

If you create different circuits for your outlets, you can better balance the amount of energy. This helps to make it so your breaker will not trip, providing a smoothly ran household. The ability to separate the load will help, so you don’t have to separate the lighting circuits.

Although, if you put lighting and outlets on the same circuit, it is code that you have it controlled by a breaker. The system is especially enforced in a single-family home.

Now, there are certain appliances that you should keep on a separate circuit. The dishwasher, for example, draws a lot of power. This should be on an independent circuit with no other lights.

Related Questions

Does a 20 Amp Circuit Require 20 Amp Receptacles?

If there are multiple outlets on a 20 amp circuit, the receptacles can be either 15 or 20 amp (aside from the exceptions). This is to allow you to have multiple devices plugged in, drawing less than 15 amps each, but the total draw on the circuit may be higher than 15 amps.

With multiple receptacles on a 20 amp circuit, your receptacles can be 15 or 20 amp. You can then have multiple devices plugged in that each draws less than 15 amps.

Although, the total draw can be greater than 15 amps.

How Far Can You Run 12 Gauge Wire on a 20 Amp Circuit?

For a 12 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit, the total length would be about 60 to 70 feet long. At this length, you can have around five outlets and one light on the circuit.

Also, it would be a light load circuit. That means you couldn’t run any heaters, air conditioners, or any other medium/large appliances.

Do I need a GFCI Breaker and Outlet?

There are several GFCI options on the market today. However, the two most common ones are a GFCI breaker, and then the outlet.

You do not need both a GFCI breaker and outlet on the same circuit. A GFCI breaker will protect that entire circuit that it’s on. So to have an outlet on the same circuit is a waste of money. The switch will protect all appliances connected to it, whether that’s lights, outlets, and more.

Can I mix receptacles and light fixtures on the same circuit?

Asking this question often presents a mix of answers from both contractors and inspectors alike. While it may be physically possible to mix lighting and outlets, it is not code compliant.

For example, the NEC code prohibits the combination of lighting and outlets on a kitchen small appliance outlet circuit (the outlets over counters). You should always comply with electrical code and, when in doubt, seek the advice of a certified electrician.

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Don’t Over-Do it When it Comes to Your 20 Amp Circuit.

While there is no limit to how many receptacles you can have, you should still be mindful of the amount you include. It’s always the better idea to err on the side of caution.

The best piece of advice you can take away is to consider each outlet to be 1.5 amps. That way, there is no possible way you will overload your circuit.

Counting each receptacle as 1.5 amps will allow around ten receptacles per circuit. That way, you will have the excess in the case of a power surge. You also won’t have to continually pay attention to what you are and are not running.

Heather Robbins

Heather is a passionate writer who loves anything DIY. Growing up, she learned everything from home repairs to design, and wants to share her tips with you. When she's not writing, she's usually hiking or searching for her next DIY project.

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