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What Size Breaker Should I Use for a Washing Machine?

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

what size breaker should I use for a washing machine

Isn’t it a bummer and a risky plan to have a home without a fail-safe device for the laundry room? A washing machine is one of the heavy-pulling appliances in this area. So, if you’re planning to get a breaker for your washer, then you’re a certified responsible homeowner.

However, self-questions arise like “what size breaker should I use for a washing machine” when you have a new home or are just entirely clueless about how this appliance works. A 20A designated circuit breaker is the best path, but you should also consider other devices in the washroom.

Washing Machine Breaker Size

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1. What homeowners do wrong

The usual mistake is buying an appliance and thinking that their basic electrical safety can handle their device. Well, one too many household appliances pull electricity more than their circuit breaker can take.

You can find examples in the kitchen, where the refrigerator, dishwasher, and electric range are always on the run. Or other machines like a space heater and air conditioner in your bedroom. These appliances need to have their own circuit protected by a dedicated breaker.

In your problem case, a laundry room is somewhat similar to the kitchen since they’re commonplace for big appliances.

There are three things you need to worry about in this room. The washing machine, the dryer, and the light fixtures or outlets for small appliances (e.g., clothing iron)

2. The right size breaker for washer

First, let’s learn the proper size breaker used for a washer. A washing machine is a commonly used household appliance that pulls 10-amps or 2200 watts of e-power. To have your home protected, you will need a circuit breaker size of 20 Amps.

This sizing accords to the National Electrical Code (NEC) for you to have a 120-volt service in your laundry room protected by a 20A individual designated circuit breaker. (Note that a designated CB is different from a dedicated CB, we’ll tackle more of this info later.)

So, considering the maximum continuous load regulation (MCL), a 20-amp is plenty enough to handle a 10-amp washing machine. You wonder how?

Circuit breakers are designed to handle 80% continuous load, whereas 80% of a 20-amp is 16-amps, so you’ll still have space for a few more devices before it trips. It is always essential to consider MCL when finding the perfect breaker size for whatever appliance you have.

On the other hand, I’m reminding you that a 20A circuit breaker is not the standard for all washing machines. There are other washer models out there that require a 30A CB, so if you found the best brand with a high-tech mechanism and planning for an upgrade, you’ll probably need more than 20 amps.

Pro tip:

  • Always identify your appliance’s watts and amps usage before purchasing its circuit breaker.
  • Never get an extra-sized breaker for your washer, thinking that you can upgrade to it later on.
  • Suppose your breaker is too large for your appliance. In that case, it won’t detect any forthcoming issues, and it won’t be much of a protective device after all.

3. Laundry Room Circuit Management

Now that we cleared the confusion on your washing machine breaker size learn what you need to do to manage your circuits in the laundry room properly. You see, a designated 20-amp circuit breaker is not necessarily exclusive to your washer only.

As per the regulation of the electrical code, it is okay for a 20-amp CB to feed more than one outlet in your laundry circuitry. However, the lines connected to this breaker should only stay in the laundry room and not on any receptacle elsewhere.

So, suppose you are going to iron your clothes, blow dry your hair, or light some bulbs. In that case, it is okay as long as these small electrical devices don’t reach the load limit (80%) of your 20-amp circuit breaker, which is 16 amps.

Also, if there’s an existing sink in your laundry room, any outlets that are in a 6 feet range should be a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).

Anyhow, if you’ll experience some frequent breaker tripping, you might as well have a separate 15-amp CB for your smaller appliances. Don’t be complacent by running all your outlets in the laundry room simultaneously. A single 20A breaker is not enough to handle this situation.

Just because the NEC says you can put more than one outlet doesn’t mean you can overload them. Remember, your washing machine alone can take up half of the space in your CB. It would not be a good idea if you plug in other devices and consume the rest of the amps in your breaker.

On a side note, if you have a gas dryer, you can plug it in the same outlet as the washer. A 120-Volt service in your laundry room can sustain a gas dryer and a washing machine simultaneously. However, it is a different issue if your dryer is electric.

What if I Have an Electric Dryer

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An electric dryer demands more power than its gas counterpart. Combining your washer with this device in one circuit is a big no-no. The rule of thumb in a washer-dryer duo is that both devices can share the same circuit if they don’t surpass the combined rated wattage of 1000 watts.

That’s why this rule technically phases out an electric dryer because its heaters are rated 1500 watts or more (depending on the model of the dryer). With that said, this machine should have its own 240-Volt circuit protected by a 30-amp circuit breaker (commonly used for most e-dryers).

Meanwhile, other electrical dryer brands can run on a 220V circuit with a 20A CB. It is better to search for the appropriate size the manufacturer specified on the model you own and adjust the breaker size you will get using the MCL ruling.

The Appropriate Wiring Sizes

Since circuitry is all about matching sizes, let’s go back to the three primary circuits of our laundry room and know the appropriate wiring gauges for each.

For the washing machine circuit breaker, professionals install 12-3 wiring. This is the best gauge to handle a 20-amp breaker. The circuit consists of two insulated wires (hot and neutral) and a bare ground cable.

While for a dryer receptacle, you’ll need a larger size of 10-gauge, also consisting of three wires, hot, neutral, and ground.

Now, for light fixtures and the rest of your laundry outlets, if you plan to connect them along with the designated 20-amp breaker, then the wiring’s the same, a 12-3 gauge. However, it’s another story if you’ll separate them with a 15A service, in which you’ll need a 14-gauge wire.

Conclusion

Asking “what size breaker should I use for a washing machine” is a vital part of maintaining a safe space to do your laundry. Now you know that a 20-amp circuit breaker designated for a laundry room can feed the circuits of your washing machine, gas dryer, and the remaining appliances or light fixtures.

The only exception for this designated breaker is an electric dryer. Electric dryers have a high wattage that 20A breakers can’t support, so use a separate dedicated breaker instead.

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