How Many 15 amp Outlets on a 20 amp Circuit? Answered

Electrical circuits are an essential part of our everyday lives, providing power to various appliances and devices. In this article, we’ll delve into a common question that often arises when planning electrical installations: how many 15 amp outlets can you have on a 20 amp circuit? We’ll explore the technical aspects of circuits, the National Electrical Code (NEC) regulations, and provide practical insights to help you make informed decisions.

Electrical Circuits Basics

Before we tackle the specific question of 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, let’s start by learning the basics of electrical circuits.

  1. Voltage and Amperage: Electrical circuits operate on a specific voltage, typically 120 volts in residential settings. Amperage, measured in amperes (amps), is the current that flows through a circuit. In the United States, 15 amp and 20 amp circuits are standard for residential use.
  2. Circuit Breakers: Circuit breakers are safety devices designed to protect electrical circuits from overloading. A 15 amp circuit typically uses a 15 amp breaker, while a 20 amp circuit uses a 20 amp breaker. If the current exceeds the circuit’s rating, the breaker trips, cutting off power to the circuit.
  3. Outlets: Electrical outlets are where you connect your appliances and devices to the circuit. Common outlets include 15 amp receptacles (with two vertical slots) and 20 amp receptacles (with one vertical slot and one horizontal slot).

Now, let’s address the main question:

How Many 15 Amp Outlets on a 20 Amp Circuit?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, including the type of outlets, the wiring, and the National Electrical Code regulations.

1. NEC Regulations:

The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a set of standards and regulations that govern electrical installations in the United States. According to NEC, you can have multiple 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, but with certain conditions:

  • General Use Receptacles: NEC allows for a 20 amp circuit to supply general-use receptacles, which include 15 amp outlets. However, the total load on the circuit should not exceed 80% of its rating. In the case of a 20 amp circuit, this means the load should not exceed 16 amps. To calculate how many 15 amp outlets you can have on a 20 amp circuit, you’ll need to consider the amperage of the devices you intend to plug in. For example, if you plan to use devices that each draw 5 amps, you could theoretically have up to three of them on the circuit without exceeding the 80% limit.
  • Dedicated Circuits: Some appliances and equipment require dedicated circuits, such as ovens, refrigerators, and air conditioners. These circuits are separate from general-use circuits and typically have a higher amperage rating. For example, an oven might have a dedicated 40 amp circuit.

2. Wiring Considerations:

The wiring used for the circuit also plays a critical role in determining how many 15 amp outlets can be safely installed. If the wiring is undersized for the circuit, it can lead to overheating and potential fire hazards. To accommodate multiple 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, you should ensure that the wiring is sized appropriately. In most cases, a 12-gauge wire is recommended for a 20 amp circuit.

3. Load Calculation:

To determine the number of 15 amp outlets you can have on a 20 amp circuit, you should perform a load calculation. This involves adding up the amperage of all devices and appliances that will be connected to the circuit. Make sure the total load does not exceed 80% of the circuit’s capacity, which is 16 amps for a 20 amp circuit.

Practical Tips for Installing 15 Amp Outlets on a 20 Amp Circuit:

  1. Use Proper Outlets: When installing 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, make sure to use 15 amp receptacles to match the load capacity.
  2. Balance the Load: Distribute the connected devices evenly across the outlets to prevent overloading a single receptacle.
  3. Consider GFCI Protection: In areas where ground fault protection is required, use GFCI outlets or breakers to ensure safety.
  4. Label the Circuit: Properly label the circuit to indicate that it’s a 20 amp circuit supplying 15 amp outlets.


 While the National Electrical Code allows for 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit, it’s crucial to adhere to the code’s regulations, perform load calculations, and ensure that the wiring is appropriately sized. By following these guidelines, you can safely install multiple 15 amp outlets on a 20 amp circuit without overloading it and enjoy the convenience of powering various devices and appliances. Always consult with a qualified electrician if you have specific questions or concerns about your electrical installation to ensure a safe and compliant setup.