15 amps or 20 amps

Page 1 of 2  
I had an electrican inspect an old house I bought and he said the wirings and everything are fine and great. But many of the outlets and switches are getting flaky and sometimes the switches don't work. We decided to replace all outlets and switches. He told me to be on the safe side I should get 20 amps switches and outlets.
I went to Home Depot and found the normal 15 amp switches are $0.89 a piece, the 20 amp switches are $5.89 a piece. Big difference. I counted that I need about 70 outlets and 45 switches so this adds up. Plus 3 way 20 amp switches are even more expensive!
I called him and he said if I have outlets I might plug in a saw or vaccum cleaner than I should get 20 amps if it's a desk lamp 15 amp is enough. So what is the basis for determining this if I have these switches:
For activating garage door openers. For plugging in a central vac system. For high hat lights (10 of them with one switch) For high hat lights (a single one) For outdoor dusk light For a series of 5 florescent tube lights For ceiling fan that has a light attachment For a hallway a set of two high hat light
Can I use some 15 amps and some 20 amps, would really like to avoid the expensive one if not really necessary.
Thanks,
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
20 amp outlets and switches don't make them better, just higher capacity. If you want better than residential grade devices, get something like spec grade. It is a code violation to install 20 amp receptacles on a 15 amp circuit. It is however legal to install 15 amp receptacles on 20 amp circuits

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just get the contractor packs. 10 for $4.89 or something like that.
--
Steve Barker

YOU should be the one
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As everyone said, the electrician is an idiot. It is actually wrong to put 20a outlets on 15a circuits; that is why they are different.
That said, I wouldn't use $0.89 devices. They are likely to wear out faster and be less dependable. Spend a couple bucks on it and do it right the first time. Unless of course you like doing it all again next year.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
There's likely to be a few sockets where things get plugged in once every five years. The lamp behind the sofa. The garage door opener socket, on the ceiling of the garage. Those don't need premium quality sockets.
Other things get plugged every day. Razor shaver, blender and toaster socket in the kitchen, etc. Those could use premium sockets.
And there are exceptions like me, who leaves his shaver plugged in all the time.
--

Christopher A. Young
You can\'t shout down a troll.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yes that is what I mean, recessed can lights.
Thanks,
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 16 Mar 2007 22:39:09 -0400, "MiamiCuse"

You're being robbed...... If you have a few outlets where the plugs seem loose and fall out, replace THOSE. If you have swithces that make the light flicker and pop internally when turned on, replace them. Leave the others until they are needed. You only need 20A ones on 20A circuits for large appliances, such as the kitchen.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@nomail.com wrote:

It might be possible that ALL old outlets and switches are due for replacement. that is the case in my house.
I'd use "spec grade" devices wherever I could. Yes, it will be several times more expensive than standard.
nate
--
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
http://members.cox.net/njnagel
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

How do you know they ALL need replacement?
If you are talking about visual appearance, they might need replacement for cosmetic reasons. If you are talking wear and tear, there is no way they all need replacement, because there are outlets in every home that never or seldom get used. Why replace what is not broke? If for some reason the outlets are all bad, possibly because they were installed 100 years ago, then the wiring also needs to be replaced. The only time I can see where it would be needed to replace ALL outlets is when a home is completely rewired, or when it's done for cosmetic reasons such as during a complete house remodel job. Otherwise, replace the ones that are used regularly, such as the kitchen counter, bathroom outlet where the shaver, hair dryer, etc are always plugged and unplugged, and maybe a few others where things are regularly plugged and unplugged such as the ones used for the vacuum cleaner, and those used for a workshop. Outlets dont wear out just because a lamp is plugged in a couple times a year when cleaning the house. Switches on the other hand take more abuse and wear out more than outlets. But there too, they wear at different rates. The bathroom, bedrooms, and kitchen lights are likely used often, but the switch for the seldom used walkin closet or attic are probably fine.
I think this electrician is just trying to generate work for himself. The OP would be better off having the kitchen and bathroom outlets changed ONLY, or to really save some money, change them himself, one room at a time, starting with the kitchen and bathroom. Personally I dont understand why anyone would do any of this. Change them one at a time when they get bad. In other words, dont fix what isn't broke. He should replace all those that are worn now, and deal with the others as needed in the future.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mar 17, 2:59 pm, snipped-for-privacy@nomail.com wrote:

I guess it's just how one looks at it. As an electrician, when someone calls me to inspect their wiring, in such cases as the OP, as soon as I see things that the OP described (it only takes 5 minutes to make this determination), I recommend replacing all the switches and receptacles simply because it going to _save_ him money. The only real way to provide a _thorough_ inspection is to pull all of the devices. If one is going to do that, one may as well replace them while he's at it. An experienced and knowledgable person can also find improper wiring, incorrect grounding, outlets that should have add-a-depths installed, overheated connections, check splices, etc. It's not out of the DIY realm, though.
Additionally, done correctly, along with a check of the main panel for correct wiring, system grounding, loose connections, and exercising the breakers, it should make for a trouble free system for at least 10 more years. Slap a one year warranty on the work, and what else do you want?
I have done this for many people, and I almost invariably always find at least one receptacle, if not 3 or 4 that most definitely needed to be replaced, all which could not have been detected without pulling the device. Remember that in residential electrical one bad device usually effects more than just that device. It only takes an experienced person a days work to complete the job on average size houses. Sure beats calling an electrician everytime there's a problem. Most electric contractors will charge you $50 or more just to knock on the door.
Electric systems should be exempted from "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." How many house fires do you see do to "faulty" wiring? I'm sorry that you feel that an electrician is trying to rip someone off by recommending changing all the devices and thoroughly inspect the wiring. It's an effective and inexpensive job that is much cheaper than re-wirng the house and upgrading the service, yet does provide some confidence in the wiring.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
MiamiCuse wrote:

Note: the price difference is not 15 vs 20, the price difference there is far less. but rather you are not looking at the same grade switch and outlet. Chances are the reason you now have flaky switches and outlets is the originals are cheap contractor grade like the $0.89 ones you are seeing. I would never bother buying one of those. Considering the difference I would go for the better quality. Follow code about the 15 vs 20 issue.
You don't need to replace them all at the same time. I would not. I would tend to replace any that I had problems with and then any critical ones and then as time and money moved me the rest of them.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

If you want, you can get heavy duty 15 amp receptacles. I'd use those in any location where you may frequently plug and unplug things, as opposed to say a location behind the couch that you may only plug a lamp cord in and leave it. You can also use them everywhere, as they aren't anywhere near as expensive as the prices you are seeing for 20 amp.
Also, as others have pointed out, if you elect to go with 20 amp outlets, which I would not, unless you have a load that requires it, the wire and breaker must be rated for 20amps. It is a code violation to put a 20 amp outlet on a 15 amp breaker or with wire that is less than 12 gauge. If it's an old house, it is likely the wiring is not 12.
First thing I would do is find another electrician.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

In addition to what everyone else said, I suggest that you consider installing Decora style switches and receptacles as an upgrade. They have a nice modern look to them. Sometimes you can buy these devices on sale at Home Depot, but check at an electrical supply for box quantities (Ten to a box). They may give you a great price like that.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Walmart sells these and I recommend them. Never had one that wasn't perfect.
On Fri, 16 Mar 2007 22:39:09 -0400, "MiamiCuse"

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
how many household 20 amp things are there?
honestly cant ever remember seeing one.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks for all the replies it was very helpful. I think may be I will attempt to do it myself. Part of the reasons I agreed to change them all is that some are toggles, some are old buttons, some are ivory, some black and some whites, some rounded outlets and some rectangulars. Even the phone outlets there are some with two screws on and some with a "rotating cover"...some of the switches I have to flip up and down twice or three times to get the light to come on etc...
The electrician did say my circuits (I have two main panels in the garage) are all 20 amp circuits and he opened select outlets and switch boxes and my wirings are all 12 gauge.
So the consensus is I only need 15amps but may be I am better of getting spec grade or pro grade ones except for those rarely used behind the couch plugs, correct?
Again thanks for all the comments.
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Correct

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yeah all 12 gauge go with all the same outlets. Although I seriouslyu doubt your need for 20 amp with the extra bar on plug. what consumer product uses 20 amp?
its a big job, read up in advance like wiring simplified. are all your outlets grounded?
you should do ONE outlet at a time, then if wires come and go in box check every outlet and lamp on that circuit eveywhere in building assume troubles will come up they always do.
Like wires too short to be polarized properly.
so if something quits working you know where the problem occured
if you have a knowledgable friend better to get some initial help
test EVERY OUTLETS as you finish it for proper polarity and good grounding
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I suspect you are asking the wrong question, the question is not so much the amp rating on the switches and outlets but rather the grade of the switches and outlets.
If you look there should be several grades listed something like spec, industrial and pro. the cheapies are usually less than a buck, the pro are something around 2 bucks each and the industrial are the $6+ plugs.
The low grade is usually selected by track home builders because most people buying houses don't care about plugs.
The mid grade is fine for most service probably outlast you, and the industrial is big overkill unless you have a shop and are doing heavy work or you have some special needs.
Try a different store if the borg doesn't have the mid grade.
--
Roger Shoaf
If you are not part of the solution, you are not dissolved in the solvent.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

OK I want to apologize to everyone because of the incomplete information I gave initially. I drove to the new house and checked the panels and most of the circuits are 20A. There are two main panels, one on the left and one on the right. There are only two 15A switches and the rest are all 20A, the AC are on 50A, washing machine and utility room on 30A, kitchen on 30A and there are 4 big 200A on each panel. See the picture below:
Left side panel:
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w67/143house/garage/P1000715.jpg
Right side panel:
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w67/143house/garage/P1000716.jpg
Both panels together:
http://i173.photobucket.com/albums/w67/143house/garage/P1000717.jpg
All wirings are in rigid metal conduits and 12 gauge. There is a romex cable from the left side going up to the attic - I have to figure out what that is and why it was added.
However, I think the recommendations will still be the same despite the circuits being 20A, I just need some better quality 15A switches and outlets is what I am hearing.
Thanks!
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Site Timeline

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.