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Breaker Question - 20 Amp Breaker, 14 wire

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I recently purchased a house, and it is clear that the previous owner had not always done things correctly. My present concern is that there seems to be 14 gauge wire running off a 20 AMP breaker. I believe this is a code violation, and more importantly a fire risk. I would rather not open up the walls to replace the wire. Assuming the circuit would be OK on a 15, can I just have the breaker replaced? Is that an adequate solution?

Thanks,

Concerned

By

Best Answer

This answer has been rated the best for this question.

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel [9]02/02/2005

Yes, that is a code violation and a fire risk.
And it invalidates the insurance.

To fix the problem,
1) get a breaker from the same brand and series but with a 15 Amp rating
2) turn the 20 Amp breaker off and pull it out.
3) swap the wire, that goes to it, over to the 15 Amp breaker
4) Make sure the 15 Amp breaker is turned OFF
5) insert the 15 Amp breaker
6) make sure the 15 Amp breaker is inserted fully and looks level with the other breakers
7) turn the 15 Amp breaker on and test the appliances or outlets that are fed from it.

If you forget point 4), there will be scary sounding arcing and sparking that could startle you into falling off your ladder or chair.

Have FUN!
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Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By Gil M. (Guest Post)02/11/2009

Do not ever hookup or put things that you have to think twice about. If you know for positive, then hook it up! Everything electrical has a code! If you want it done right, and no! You can not put 20amp breakers where 15amp breakers go! For some that do not no 20amp breaker is rated for #12 wire only, and a 15amp breaker is rated #14 wire.tip:(home depot) has books on electrical and codes and you can look it up for free!

By Scott (Guest Post)01/21/2009

I'm glad I found this forum and I'm also glad I have an electrician coming this afternoon to check things out. If you don't know what you're doing, get someone who does.

By nick (Guest Post)01/10/2009

The National electric code book for 2008 says that for 20 amp branch circuits there must be 12 gage wire but the receptacle rating can be of 15 or 20 amp rating, in a residential situation only. In a business or school situation, most branch circuits are 20 amps and the NEC says they must be 20 amp receptacles installed. The most common way to tell if a receptacle is rated for 20 amps is the wider blade neutral slot will have a sideways slot off to the side of it. These plugins are rarely seen in residential situations.

By John (Guest Post)06/27/2008

I have 1 1/2 HP pool pump wired for 115, No. 10 gage wired to a 15 amp breaker used for a 24/7 waterfall. Manufacturer recommends 30 amp breaker. The pump can be wired for 230 using a 15 amp breaker if the wire is upgraded to 14 gage. Two questions: Is there a cost benefit in KW usage to upgrade to 230 and if there is no KW benefit could the 15 amp breaker just be upgraded to 30 amp breaker to end the breaker tripping?

By Helmut [8]07/30/2005

"Eliav GovAri (Guest Post) 2005-07-30
Hi , my breakers are all of 10 amps, I need to hook up an amplifier with a recommended current supply of 20 amp, can I simply replace the rooms breaker into a 20 amps or do I need to replace the whole wiring system in this room ?
Thanks "


Eliav, if you use bigger breakers than what the wires are rated for, then you are invalidating your insurance. They will not pay, only laugh, if you have a fire.
You most definitely need 20 Amp rated wiring FIRST, and a 20 Amp breaker after the wiring has been installed or upgraded.

If you put a 20 Amp breaker onto 15 Amp wiring, then you might as well replace the breaker with solid wire.

There is no cheap alternative. You have to upgrade the wiring, either after the fire, or instead of a fire.
Have FUN
DearWebby
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By Eliav GovAri (Guest Post)07/30/2005

Hi , my breakers are all of 10 amps, I need to hook up an amplifier with a recommended current supply of 20 amp, can I simply replace the rooms breaker into a 20 amps or do I need to replace the whole wiring system in this room ?

Thanks

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel [9]02/17/2005

Yes, that definitely would be cause for major concern.

A 20 Amp breaker does not adequately protect a 15 Amp outlet.
The breaker is supposed to pop instead of, or before the house burns down.

Even in the very unlikely event that you have 20 Amp wiring, the appliances plugged into the 15 Amp outlet need to be protected with 15 Amp breakers.

Your fire insurance would not have to pay in case of a fire, since your house is not up to code. It would be a good idea to get an electrical inspector or experienced electrician to check out your house and tell you what needs to be done to bring it up to code.

Have FUN!
DearWebby
http://www.webby.com/humor/

By Brian (Guest Post)02/16/2005

I have a similar question. In a recently purchased home, I have realized that all my 15 amp outlets and light switches etc. and pretty much everything else for that matter, seems to running off of 20 amp breakers. I don't know how to tell what size the wires are. Are the 20 amp breakers cause for concern?

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