Here's a puzzler......
I put a permanent wall fan in my barn at the eaves. This is a small
motor fan, probably 1/10 to 1/4hp.at most. It's just there to vent
out the heat in the summer and/or manure odor. It makes the barn
better for animals. There is a control on the fan to turn it on at a
specified temperature (such as over 75deg). The outlet in the
adjoining feed room was the closest outlet, and is on a 20A breaker.
I needed to get this fan running this last summer when the outdoor
temp went above 90 deg. and I had a sick horse in there. I was out of
#12 romex, so I ran some #14 that I had. To speed up the job even
more, (and knowing it would have to be replaced), I did not hard wire
to the outlet, I just put a grounded plug on the end of the romex and
plugged it in to the outlet. As in all farm operations, nothing ever
gets done before some other job or chore comes along, so I have left
it the way it was. In some sense, I almost wonder if I should just
leave it, and I can unplug it during the cooler weather since it's not
My question is whether using #14 wires is up to code, when it's not
hard wired? For example, many lamps, radios, and other small
appliances have #18 or #16 cords, and they are plugged into 15 or 20 A
circuits. I'm just curious. One of these days I might find the time
to wire this properly and will have to add a switch so I can turn it
off when I want. But for now, it works and is safe at least according
to common sense, if not the code.
On Oct 1, 6:47?am, firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Miller) wrote:
the fire hazard is the same,,,,,,,,,,, bard fires are nasty..
really all extension cords and plugs should be fused for safety at the
maximum current capacity of the wire and device. I am amazed that
hasnt been made a law
if you like your current setup why not add a dedicated fuse or breaker
just for this item?
On Oct 1, 8:10?am, email@example.com (Doug Miller) wrote:
any time anyone plugs a device into a circuit capable of carrying
enough current to cause overheating thats a fire hazard.
ultimately whats the difference between a 14 gauge wire on a 20 amp
breaker and a 16 gauge wire on a 15 amp breaker?
guess what no difference, both can overheat and start a fire, fact is
the 16 gauge extension cord is more likely to be a source. given their
And where exactly did you get the idea that the OP's fan is going to draw that
You realize, don't you, that all over your house you have appliances with
18-ga power cords plugged into outlets on 15A and 20A circuits?
What's the difference?
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
On Oct 1, 8:55?am, firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Miller) wrote:
thats my point, every home is filled with fire hazards,,,,,,,,
About 10 years ago I nearly lost our home to a fire after a cieling
lamp shorted and sparked to its base showeing the bed with sparks in
the middle of the nite, I had gotten up to go to the bathroom. All
those fixtures went to the trash.
while the code rules that no conductor should be smaller than its
breaker those rules end at the receptable.........
I see nice but err dump folks plug too much stuff in extension cords
constantly. shouldnt extension cordes be fused to their max carrying
whats more likely to cause a fire?
a 14 gauge romex carrying 20 amps
or a 16 gauge extension cord beat up by use carrying 15 amps laying on
On Mon, 01 Oct 2007 13:18:05 GMT, email@example.com (Doug Miller)
I'm just reading all the replies to my question. Thanks for all the
I wanted to mention that those of us who know and understand
electricity are much better off than the average homeowner or
apartment dweller who only knows enough to plug something into an
outlet and how to flip a light switch. The scarey thing are people
who dont know enough, and use a #16 or #18 extension cord for
something like a refrigerator. That's where the real fire hazzards
exist. It's too bad they even sell those small cords, but then what
would we use for table lamps, xmas decorations, etc.....
Maybe our elementary and high schools should spend more time teaching
EVERYONE about household things such as electrical uses, rather than
some of the useless junk they teach. Heck, it's 35 years since I left
H.S. but I still wonder why I had to take calculus..... Bettering
"homeowners" education would save lives.
I DO NOT consider my #14 romex plug-in to be a fire hazzard, or I
would not have done it. My animals are my best friends, so I surely
wont risk their lives. I just wanted to know the code regulations.
Actually, that small motor fan could be safely plugged into a #16 or
#18 extension cord, but I would not use that in a barn.
I would however check that the fan motor itself has some thermal
protection so that it fails in a safe way should the blades get jammed
or the bearings seize up etc..., or you may want to wire in a smaller
3 Amp fuse just for that purpose...
Mybe that's why the Brits have (had) a pair of small sized replaceable
cartridge fuses built into the plugs on the end of every appliance's
cord, sized to suit the load?
Or at least they did the last time I looked, maybe 20 years ago. Do they
still use that system?
IIRC they ran quite heavy conductors from the power source to groups of
chained outlets and relied on the fuses built into the plugs to keep
things safe. I think they called that a "ring main" system?
Sometimes hard to imagine we speak the same language (more or less).
The UK does have "ring" circuits with both ends connected to the same
breaker. The rating is 32A (230V) and plugs do have fuses in them (at
32A, a good idea). The wire is not rated for 32A but each outlet is
supplied from 2 directions.
I agree that UL and the NEC would not be happy with putting a plug on
Romex and calling it a power cord.
Last time I visited there, every plug seemed to have one (not two)
fuses. It's single phase, with one side grounded (neutral), so only one
side needs to be fused. The fuse or circuit breaker in the panel
protects the wire in the wall and the outlet, while the fuse in the plug
protects the appliance and its cord. It allows nice thin cords on
appliances that don't draw a lot of current, while plenty of power is
available for appliances that need it. (The largest normal plug fuse is
13 A, which can deliver 3 kW).
In addition, modern outlets seem to have built-in shutters that block
access to the hot and neutral openings until the (longer) ground pin is
inserted. It all makes North American cords and plugs and outlets look
like cheap junk.
The "ring main" system apparently runs the wires for a circuit in a
ring: from the panel, around the outlets on one floor (typically) in
sequence, and back to the panel - where the other end of the wires are
connected to the same breaker or fuse. So there are two current paths
from the panel to any outlet, going around the ring CW and CCW. This
design was apparently used to reduce copper requirements (compared to a
bunch of home run circuits of lower capacity).
Each ring circuit is normally fused for 30 A, so you can have a couple
of 13 A loads operating simultaneously on the same circuit with some
capacity left over.
Doug Miller wrote:
According to the index of the online version, 240.5 and 590.6.
I suspect that section 400 (flexible cords) would apply as well (since
extension cords are not fixed in place), which would lead me to conclude
that that romex is not suitable for use as an extension cord.
You will end up back at 110.3(B), listing. The U/L has not evaluated
the plug for a solid conductor. You also bump up against 334.15 that
addresses how you must install NM and 334.30 which talks about
securing in place.
On the other hand if this is "temporary" wiring (less than 90 days)
Article 547 you can get away with almost anything with NM.
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.