Monday, March 30, 2009

Subject: 20 amp versus 15 amp plu

Question: Hi,

My mother has a manufactured home and was having some issues with her electrical outlets. With the intent of replacing the bad ones, I purchased a number of standard 15 amp plugs. The first outlet was an easy switch. Everything matched up perfectly, installed the new one and the plug functioned perfectly. The second one however was a bit more challenging and confusing. It was located in the kitchen, on the backsplash, behind the sink. When I pulled the old one out, I found the wire gage to be thicker - suppose 12? In addition, there two lines hooked into this 8 hole, rear entry, 15 amp plug. I disconnected the plug to find my standard 15 amp replacement plugs not to work. The wire gage was too thick to fit in the holes. So, I went to Home Depot to look for a similar plug as the old. I searched only to find a 20 amp plug that would work with this wire gage and with the right hole configuration. Actually, the holes themselves were slightly larger than that of the old plug so I was certain the wire would fit at least. The gentleman working the electrical dept. assured this would be fine despite the rating being 20 amp with th eobjective of replacing a 15 amp plug. I then returned home and installed the plug and it worked but my concern is the fact that it is 20 amp versus the 15 amp original and from what I recall, the plug breaker was also rated at 15 amp.

My mom uses this plug for a toaster and coffee maker.

Is there a potential issue with this change? I get concerned with the potential for a fire where if the plug did get hot, the breaker would not kick off because the plug is rated higher. In addition, having a 20 amp plug on a 15 amp line, does this present an issue?

My mom will not use this plug often and only for a short time at each use but don't want the set up to be unsafe.


Answer: Hi Steve,

You should not have any problem with the 20 amp plug in the kitchen. Kitchen outlets are by code suppose to be 20 amp circuits wired with 12 gauge wire. The original 15 amp outlet was technically not the correct outlet. This is a common situation. i see it all the time here in Philadelphia. Most contractors use 15 amp outlet in the kitchen on 20 amp circuits. There is not real problem since the outlet will only allow 15 amp plug to be inserted into them. A 20 amp plug has an extra "T" on one of it's prongs that keep it from being plugged into a 15 amp circuit. You will not find plug like this in residential appliances but you may find them in commercial applications. We just ran into this problem at Benna's coffee shop in the Passyunk Square section of Philadelphia just south of the Italian Market. The appliances in there could only work in 20 amp outlet but there were on 15 amp outlets installed. It was a quick fix.

1 comment:

  1. Since when cant you use 15 amp rated outlets on a 20 amp circuits in the USA? As long as it isnt a dedicated circuit you can use 15 amp rated outlets. With a dedicated circuit then you must use a 20 amp rated outlet. This is for the USA only. I beleive Canada requires 20amp rated on all outlets protected by a 20 amp breaker.