Replacing 1 15 amp Receptacle With 1 20 Receptacle

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Hi There,
I'm confused on if I can replace an 15 amp receptacle with a 20 amp receptacle. I want to be able to hook up a espresso machine in my kitchen and the machine requires a 20amp circuit.
The particular circuit I want to change out has a 20 amp breaker coming from the box using a 14 gauge wire to, 1 15 amp GFI receptacle & 2 15 amp receptacles in the kitchen.
Will I be able to switch out 1 of the 15 amp receptacles with a 20 amp receptacle without causing a problem?
Thanks, Dave
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Are you sure it is #14? Kitchens have required #12 for a while now.
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Yes, it is #14/2.
I do have a refrigerator that has a 20 amp receptacle in the kitchen with 12 gauge wire, but that's it. In my house, all the 12 gauge wire has a yellow sheath & all the 14 gauge has a bone white sheath.
This is a brand new house (5 months old).
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Don't trust the color of the sheath. Color coding of the sheath is a recent feature. Older cable may have been used and it was all white or ivory for virtually all gauges. Read the gauge number printed on the side of the cable sheath to confirm the actual wire size used.

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ZZ wrote:

The color coding of nonmetallic cable jackets is a relatively recent development. The cable is labeled every two feet along it's entire length to show it's gage and construction. Check the cable's labeling to determine the actual gage of the conductors. If it really is size fourteen American wire gage then you need to change the breaker to fifteen amperes or run new cable. Since were talking about a kitchen counter receptacle circuit it should be twelve gage wire.
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Tom Horne

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Tom Horne, Electrician wrote:

The problem is that the cable is not generally observable, just the wire at the box (maybe at the panel). The simplest solution to wire size is to get a piece of known 14 gage and a piece of known 12 gage and the difference in size will be readily apparent even to a newbie.
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ZZ wrote:

If it really is 14 you don't try to put 20 amps on it. It is illegal and unsafe. If you need 20 amps you will need a new wire.
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If still in doubt after all these replies, you need a qualified electrical inspector to check it out. If you do in fact have 14ga wire on the countertop outlets then the house WAS NOT built to electrical code. You will have to demand the builder fix it. I suspect after all the replies, that you probably have white (bone) colored 12 ga wire. I can't imagine anyone purposely wiring a house wrong. But on the other hand, it IS on a 15A breaker. That is definitely wrong, wrong wrong for kitchen outlets.
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Steve Barker



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It's on a 20 amp breaker, which lends itself to your theory that the OP is mistaken about the wire size

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Your house was mis-wired! There should never be a 14ga wire on a 20A breaker AND the kitchen outlets are required to be 20A.
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Steve Barker



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A 14 ga circuit should be on a 15 amp breaker, not a 20. Putting a 20 amp outlet on that same circuit is making the problem worse.
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Larry Wasserman - Baltimore, Maryland - snipped-for-privacy@charm.net
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Even if the 20 amp breaker has 3 15 amp receptacles on the one circuit?
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misfunctioning item drawing more current than it should) What will happen?
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ZZ wrote:

receptacles are on the circuit. Breaker size has nothing to do with the plug in appliances. The breaker size is based on the wire it has to protect.
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Yes, even if it does. If the circuit has been run with 14 ga wire, by code it should NOT have a 20 amp breaker. There are several good DIY books that will explain the rationale for this. If you have a library nearby they will likely have one or more of them available.
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Larry Wasserman - Baltimore, Maryland - snipped-for-privacy@charm.net
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Thank you ALL for the valuable help!
I will contact my builder tomorrow regarding the wire. Once that has been taken care of I will replace my 15 amp receptacles with 20 amp ones
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Let us know when you get this resolved. I am interested in what recourse you have when you find a building error.
I am guessing that this will be a costly mistake. The wire from the panel to the kitchen would need to be changed and all the wire between the receptacles. For them to change all the wire to 12 would mean pulling it all out. Which means that if you bought 20 amp replacement receptacles they would cost nothing to change. It all has to be disconnected and reconnected.
If you do get the builder to replace the wiring, I would consider trying to get an extra 20 amp circuit in the kitchen from the panel. With all the fancy gadgets you can buy for the kitchen two are barely adequate.
The microwave should be on one 20 amp circuit and the refrigerator should be on the other one. Having a 3 would add to your appliance comfort level.
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ZZ wrote:

I have installed quite a few 20-amp receptacles in my house as replacements for 15-amp receptacles over the years. In fact, whenever I happen to replace a 15-amp receptacle, I usually use a 20-amp receptacle. Not because I'm actually going to draw 20-amps out of that socket, but simply because they are higher-quality outlets. It usually only takes a few minutes to swap them out.
I doubt if your expresso machine actually draws 20 amps. It probably draws less than 10 amps. A nice little gadget to have around the house is the "Kill A Watt" meter. It will tell you how much current any device with a plug is drawing. They are relatively inexpensive. Here's an example website http://www.fadfusion.com/selection.php?product_item_number0183200136&gclid=CIa68dHK-4cCFQjqYAodamF2Gw
It sounds like your house has been wired incorrectly. It makes me wonder if you might have the basis for a lawsuit.
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What you are doing is wrong, and you can get good quality 15 amp outlets. The cheap ones are residential grade. His espresso machine must draw more than 10 amps or it would have a 15 amp plug on it. There are actually certain codes to this stuff, it isn't just decided willy -nilly

http://www.fadfusion.com/selection.php?product_item_number0183200136&gclid=CIa68dHK-4cCFQjqYAodamF2Gw
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The problem with the wiring in the OPs circuit is not with the outlets, it is with having a 20 amp breaker on a 14 ga circuit. I wouldn't be worried about having a 20 amp _outlet_ on the 14 ga wire, provided the breaker was the correct size. In fact, I think there is a code section that even acknowledges this for the sake of allowing the 20 amp outlets to be used with 15 amp/14 ga wiring. Even if the outlet is rated for 20 amps, as long as the wiring is protected at the proper current, i.e. 15 amp breaker on a 14 gauge circuit, afety won't be compromised, since the breaker will still trip at 15 amps.
What makes the situation unsafe for the OP is that should he install the 20 amp outlet, he then has the capability of connecting a 20 amp device to a circuit with a 20 amp breaker, but the wiring in the cirucit is only rated for 15 amps.
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Larry Wasserman - Baltimore, Maryland - snipped-for-privacy@charm.net
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