How ? If the water heater is not an overload in and of itself, how would an
unused outlet create one?
Not that I'm aware of. However, I think you said the water heater draws 13
amps. A water heater of 120 gallons or less is considered a "continuous load"
by the Code, which means that the circuit supplying it is limited to 80% of
its rated capacity, or 12 amps for a 15A circuit -- which means that a 13A
water heater requires a 20A circuit.
From the 2002 NEC:
210.23(A)(2) "Utilization Equipment Fastened in Place." The total
rating of utilization equipment fastened in place, other than
luminaires (lighting fixtures), shall not exceed 50 percent of the
branch-circuit ampere rating where lighting units, cord-and-plug-
connected utilization equipment not fastened in place, or both, are
So if you have a 13 amp water heater on a 20 amp branch circuit, this
section prohibits you from having a general-purpose receptacle on that
Just add a new circuit for your water heater.
Your reluctance to make a simple hole for a new circuit is puzzling.
Punches for this purpose can be had at Lowes, HD, and the other box
stores at little cost. Tradesmen do this often and don't break into a
rash about it. It is quick, neat, precise, and your friends would all
be impressed. And of then there's all the time saved.
It wouldn't be "like" a 3-way switch, you can use a 3-way switch for
this application. feed goes to the black terminal and the two
traveler terminals can go to your two loads. I'd probably go for a
20A switch just for insurance, it only costs a couple bucks extra.
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