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15 Amp vs 20 Amp Outlet: Is There a Difference?

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

15 amp vs 20 amp outlet

An average American household uses different outlet ratings for specific appliances. However, for a typical 120 volts outlet, we primarily use a 15 or 20-amp rating.

Both have many differences that need to be considered when plugging appliances, especially high-powered ones. Knowing these differences may help you prevent the occurrence of electrical problems.

Reading this entire article will give you all the relevant information about the 15 amp vs 20 amp outlet. It includes their disparities, pros and cons, and more.

20a Vs 15a Outlet

1. What is 15a Outlet?

20a-outlet

A 15 amp outlet is the most common type of receptacle for low-powered devices in a regular household. It can power up devices such as TV, lamps, and other appliances with loads not exceeding 12 amps.

Typically, this outlet type is installed in living rooms and bedrooms, places with low-power gadgets. Furthermore, installing a circuit for a 15-amp outlet only requires a minimum gauge wire of 14 AWG.

A 15 amp receptacle mostly has three holes, which are one hot, one neutral, and one ground wire. However, there are also some 15 amp outlets with only two prongs, which means they have no ground wires.

Pros

  • Easy to find at your nearest hardware store
  • Compatible with most household appliances
  • Less expensive compared to the price of a 20 amp outlet
  • A circuit for a 15 amp receptacle only requires a 14 AWG wire

Cons

  • The obvious con of a 15 amp receptacle is that it can only support low-power appliances and not high-power ones
  • Since the NEC requires a 20 amp receptacle in a kitchen and laundry area, using a 15 amp in that area might be against the code

2. What is 20a Outlet?

20a-vs-15a-outlet

A 20 amp outlet is specially made for high-powered appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and more.

The design of this receptacle is almost the same as a 15 amp outlet. However, you will notice there’s a slot that resembles the letter T, which differentiates it from the latter.

We can use appliances with a 20 amp plug connecting directly to the receptacle. In most cases, you’ll see 20 amp outlets used for the kitchen and laundry area. But they are also often used as an outdoor power source with ground fault safety features.

Pros

  • Suitable for high-powered appliances
  • Rated for industrial use
  • Can come with GFCI protection

Cons

  • Comes at a higher price than a 15 amp receptacle
  • Also more expensive in terms of application since it requires a 12 or 10 AWG wire and 20 amp circuit breaker

Differences Between 15 and 20 Amp Outlets

20-amp-plug

Aside from their current ratings, a 20 amp vs 15 amp receptacle also has many differences:

  • Design

15 and 20 amp outlets mainly differ in the structure of the prongs. On a 15 amp outlet, its prong forms a letter U, while a 20 amp outlet has a vertical letter T.

  • Usage

A 15 amp receptacle can replace a 20 amp outlet on a 20 amp circuit. In contrast, 20 amp receptacles can only be installed on a 20 amp circuit and not a 15A one.

  • Circuit breaker

In your outlet installation, consider a 15 vs 20 amp breaker. For a 15A circuit, a 15A breaker can work, but a 20A circuit will need a protective device with a higher rating (20 amps).

Moreover, when your circuit is in a humid or wet environment, use a GFCI outlet or breaker. For other areas that have a higher chance of arc faults, consider an AFCI outlet or breaker.

FAQs

20-amp-vs-15-amp

Where are 20 amp outlets required?

A 20 amp outlet is mainly required in the kitchen area. It is because most high-powered devices such as microwaves, blenders, and more are in that area.

In addition, this outlet is also rated for industrial use. For this reason, sometimes you can find an electrical outlet 20 amp in some establishments like swimming pools, bars, etc.

Is it OK to replace a 15 amp outlet with a 20 amp?

It’s possible to switch to a 20 amp outlet from a 15 amp receptacle if your device needs more power. However, using a 20 amp outlet to replace a 15 amp receptacle in a 15 amp circuit is not allowed.

The 15 amp circuit may not be able to supply the load needed by a 20 amp outlet.

How to Tell if Outlet is 15 or 20 Amps?

It is very easy to recognize which outlet is a 15 amp and which outlet is a 20 amp. Just look for the holes in the receptacle and see if there’s a T-shape or a U-shape.

What happens if you put a 15 amp outlet on a 20 amp circuit?

Nothing will happen when you install a 15 amp receptacle on 20 amp circuit. In fact, this setup is allowed by the NEC standards.

Conclusion

Every single outlet in our house needs to be used and installed properly to prevent any electrical problems.

Moreover, knowing the difference between a 15 amp vs 20 amp outlet will give us knowledge of which areas in the house they should be used.

We hope this article has been helpful in this regard. However, if you are looking for other information that’s not mentioned above, you can look at some forums such as Reddit.

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