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15 Amp Outlet on 20 Amp Circuit: Is It Safe?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

15 amp outlet on 20 amp circuit

A 20-amp circuit should be able to handle 20 amps, although it’s not a good idea to use this setup. But is it possible to install a 15 amp outlet on 20 amp circuit?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) allows the use of a 15-amp receptacle on a 20-amp circuit. 15 amps are well within the limit this electrical line can handle.

But why is this setup possible? Also, are there any risks involved? This post intends to answer those inquiries.

Why Can You Use 15 Amp Outlets on 20 Amp Circuit?


Using a 15 amp receptacle on 20 amp circuit is possible because of the NEC 80% rule.

The NEC code indicates that a circuit breaker should only use 80% of its maximum continuous current rating. Take note that the 20% allowable usage of the 20-amp circuit is 16 amps, which means using a 15-amp outlet should be safe.

However, it’s not advisable to plug an electronic device into the 15A outlet on 20A circuit, particularly if the product draws more than 16 amps. Doing so can increase the risk of a fire.

What Happens if You Use It? Are There Any Risks?


Although we can use a 15 amp outlet on 20 amp breaker, it doesn’t mean that all hazards disappear. Some risks still exist that may increase the potential for accidents happening.

For instance, remember that you can insert a 15-amp plug into a suitable outlet connected to a 20-amp circuit. But you can’t connect a 20-amp plug to a 15-amp outlet, or an overload can occur.

In a similar vein, avoid using a 20 amp receptacle on 20 amp circuit.

You can reduce the risk of an overload or a fire by using the proper gauge wire for the setup.

Additionally, be aware of the type of receptacle used for the circuit. It’s because many 20-amp outlets are duplexes. That means that you may use two 15-amp or 20-amp devices in that one receptacle, although it still ultimately depends on the total current draw.

If you’re about to use a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit, and you’re having doubts about using DIY techniques for the installation, call a certified and reliable electrician to handle the job.

You’ll find Reddit users engaged in discussions about this question too. Join the discourse by following this link:

Is it normal to run a single 15amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit? I’m in MA and have read that it might be against code?
byu/1d0wn5up inelectrical

What’s the Difference Between 15A and 20A Outlet?


A 15-amp outlet can power devices up to 1,800 watts. Some examples include computers, lamps, and mobile phone chargers.

On the other hand, a 20-amp outlet should be able to supply up to 2,400 watts. This wattage promotes the safe operation of high-power appliances like refrigerators, blenders, and dryers.

Also, you may plug a 15 amp appliance into a 20 amp outlet. But you risk ruining the appliance or the circuit if the device draws 20 amps and you connect it to a 15-amp receptacle.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Many Outlets On A 20 Amp Circuit?

Theoretically, you can use up to ten outlets on one 20-amp circuit. But the number can change depending on the appliance or electronic device you’re using.

For example, a laptop typically draws 2 amps while in active mode. So, it’s wise to only use up to seven or eight outlets for a single 20-amp circuit breaker.

However, if you’re using a large appliance with a 15 amp plug on 20 amp circuit, such as a large microwave oven, you should only use one receptacle for this setup.

How Do I Know If I Need A 15- Or 20-Amp GFCI Outlet?

Check and inspect the wire on the electrical service panel attached to the receptacle. Use a 15 amp GFCI outlet if the circuit uses a 14 AWG wire. Install a 20-amp GFCI receptacle if you see a 12 AWG wire.

How Much Does It Cost To Upgrade 15 Amp To 20 Amp Breaker?

Changing a 15-amp breaker to a 20-amp model costs about $100 to $200 if you call a professional.

But it’s also possible to reduce the overhead by using DIY methods. If so, you may only need to prepare to spend about $5 to $20 for the new circuit breaker.

Can I Use A 15-Amp GFCI Receptacle On A 20-Amp Circuit?

Wondering can a 15 amp outlet be used on a 20 amp circuit, particularly if it’s a GFCI receptacle? The short answer is yes. As long as the power demand doesn’t go over 15 amps, using this outlet on a 20-amp circuit breaker should be safe.


Remember, you can use a 15 amp outlet on 20 amp circuit. But you still have to be wary about the risks involved.

Make sure that you know the amp draws of the appliances that you’re plugging into the receptacle. That way, you won’t overload the circuit.

Another option is to upgrade your circuit breaker to a higher-tiered model to reduce the risks of trips, overloads, and even fires. But prepare to spend some money if you’re going to let a professional handle this task for you.

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