I will soon be framing and wiring a portion of my basement in order to
finish it. I have extremely limited wiring skills, but I am doing a
lot of reading. I plan on installing the fixtures, switches, and
boxes myself, wiring them, and then have an electrician inspect before
he actually ties my work into the box.
The finished room will most likely be TV, stereo, lights, computer and
recepticles. However, I want the capability to perhaps run tools on
the circuits, as well as whatever future heavy duty electronic
equipment we have 10 years down the road.
Here's my questions:
1) I'm assuming that I can run 20 amp circuits, instead of 15 amp, as
long as I use 12/2 wire and a 20 amp breaker. Is this correct? Would
it make more sense to go with 20 rather that 15?
2) If I use 20 amp circuits, can I use 15 amp recepticals, or do I
have to use the funny lookin' 20 amp one's with the horzontal slot on
3) Stupid question #3 - are switches rated for amp loads, or is a 15
amp wall switch the same as a 20?
4) Any problem with using 20 amp circuits, and then end up with
plugging nothing more than small lamps into them?
Thanks for any advice for this novice!
Yes, if you want to go with 20 amp breakers, you must use 12 gauge wire.
Household outlets, except where required by code, are often 14 gauge wire on
15 amp breakers.
Going with the 12 gauge wire and 20 amp breakers is not a bad idea, the
cable is a bit more difficult to work with, but not that much more
Yes you can use 15 amp receptacles on 20 amp circuits, but you have to use
them on 15 amp circuits.
You cannot put a 20 amp rated receptacle on a 15 amp circuit, however.
A lot of people get confused on this one. If you think about it enough,
it starts to make sense.
I think they are rated, but unless you are really loading up your lights,
you should be able to use the standard ones.
No problem at all. Keep in mind that it's what is plugged in (the load)
that determines the power being consumed on a circuit. A small lamp will
only draw a small amount of power. It will draw the same amount of current
on a 15 amp circuit as it would on a 20 amp circuit.
Good luck on your project, and you questions were not at all stupid.
Check out the website homewiringandmore.com. This place provides excellent
advice on home wiring projects, and is moderated by a master electrician who
hosts a forum and provides advice on the NEC, all for no cost.
Using this site, and some knowledge I already had, I was able to install a
100 amp sub panel to my basement, run several outlet and lite circuits, and
wire up a hot tub off this sub panel, and it all met code. I passed my
rough in inspection with flying colors, all with the help of this website.
Please do check it out.
A big thanks to all who have responded/ are responding. As a side
note...I was getting really frustrated yesterday when reading how to
install simple switches for fixtures or recepticals. I could read the
simple diagrams OK, but conceptually, I couldn't understand how
It FINALLY started to sink in when I started thinking about the word
"circuit". If you think about a circuit as a circle, it starts to
make sense. My mind is picturing the electricity starting to run
through the "circle" via a black wire (or in some cases, a white wire
used for power, painted black). The power "black" wires are what is
attached to the 2 switch terminals, enabling you to put a break in
that power wire to turn off the juice in the circuit.
The circle is completed when the electricity returns to the box after
it has done it's job. This returning process is done through the
neutral "white" wire, which is continuous "via splices" throughout the
circuit. All along the way, the circle is "grounded" at "potential
trouble spots" (ie: fixtures and recepticals) in case something goes
Am I thinking about this correctly? I really like to have a
conceptual understanding of things like this before I try them...and
not just know how to hook up the wires. Thanks.
Mike, I agree with you that almost anyone can manage a simple replacement of
a switch/receptacle doing a wire for wire swap, but the poster here is
attempting a more complex wiring project. My original point was that many
new (read inexperienced) DIY'ers often think *any* electrical project is a
simple matter of connecting point A to B, usually just before their house
burns down. Although many municipalities allow homeowners to perform their
own electrical projects, a licensed electrician is always a safer choice, at
least as a consultant.
... other good advice snipped...
as a fellow home-owner and sometime electrician (uncertified),
i like what you're planning. when i was doing a fair amount of
electrical adds and changes, i got a copy of the Elecrical Code
for my area. I got the consumer copy that is usually available
from a home depot like shop. tells you box fill, how to plan
a circuit layout, how many lights & outlets can be on one circuit.
i would hesitate to run 20 amp circuits. to me, in a house,
they look "funny". i would be afraid that the inspector would
raise an eyebrow and check my work more closely. i really
doubt if future electronic devices will use more current.
and, think about it, what "tools" will you be running in a finished
basement that need 20 amps???
i'm not sure, but i thought the 20 amp receptacle was different
from the 15 amp. could be wrong.
what i did in one basement i finished was put a receptacle
right beside the breaker box. this receptacle was 15 amp
with it's own breaker. i could use it for any heavy
appliance without worry. the central vac got it's own breaker
too. if you might put a fridge down there eventually, run
it's own circuit also.
another thought... be sure to put all required receptacles
in (you should know what is required before you start). maybe
make a couple switched.
be careful with pigtails. if any wire is close to the surface,
be sure to protect it. run the wires nice and straight. take
some pictures before you cover everything up. draw a circuit
layout and keep it. when you get problems down the road, it'll
make troubleshooting much easier.
if you're making a stairwell usable that wasn't before,
perhaps it needs a 3-way light. maybe run speaker and cat5
and telephone wire at the same time. separate holes from
that's all i can think of...thehick
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