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Thread: Breaker Wattage Limits

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    DIY Junior Member my3angels's Avatar
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    Default Breaker Wattage Limits

    The home I bought 4 years ago has been added onto, but it seems they connected to existing breakers instead of running new conduit and another breaker. If I use more than one appliance in the kitchen, the 15 watt that's installed will kick off. A friend of mine told me just to install a higher wattage breaker (like a 30 watt) but I was under the impression the breaker wattage is set to prevent possible overload and fire. How do I determine what the limit should be for each breaker?

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    In the Trades SacCity's Avatar
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    The "Amperage" of the breaker is sized to protect the wire in the wall.
    For the most part it is working well as there are a lot fewer home fires than there used to be...
    So the Amperage rating on the kitchen circuits will be determined by wire size. As a generall rule most house , hold wire is 12 gage, which is good for 20 Amps.
    On lighting there may be 14 gage wire, and on appliance circuits cloths dryer is generally a 30 amp braker for 10 gage wire. The smaller the wire the higher the gage number or conversly the smaller the wire gage the larger and more amps (power) that it can carry.
    Michael
    Michael
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    http://SacCityPlumbing.com

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    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    my3angels, PLEASE DO NOT listen to this friend when he gives you home improvement advice. ESPECIALLY electrical!
    This guy is going to get someone hurt or killed. You can tell him I said so!

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    For today's codes, you need a couple of 20A circuits in the kitchen for outlets, and many appliances state they should be on their own circuit, rather than being shared. So, depending on what's in the kitchen, you may want lots of circuits (say frig, stove, dish washer, vent hood, microwave, etc.). True, you can share some things, but if the manufacturer wants its own circuit, you should probably go that way. An older house may not have a big enough panel for today's power requirements.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SacCity View Post
    So the Amperage rating on the kitchen circuits will be determined by wire size. As a generall rule most house , hold wire is 12 gage, which is good for 20 Amps.
    On lighting there may be 14 gage wire, and on appliance circuits cloths dryer is generally a 30 amp braker for 10 gage wire.
    Well, not so fast. A fair mix of 12 & 14 is average. The only way to know is to check it, by reading the sheath or physically looking at/measuring the conductors.
    Also, there will be/should be NO #10 gauge wire on general lighting and receptacle circuits. These circuit are limited to 15 or 20, so using #10 in a typical home is unnecessary, even wasteful.

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    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by my3angels View Post
    the home i bought 4 years ago has been added onto, but it seems they connected to existing breakers instead of running new conduit and another breaker. If i use more than one appliance in the kitchen, the 15 watt that's installed will kick off. A friend of mine told me just to install a higher wattage breaker (like a 30 watt) but i was under the impression the breaker wattage is set to prevent possible overload and fire. How do i determine what the limit should be for each breaker?
    do not attemept this you have to hire an electrician!!!!!!!!!
    Last edited by jwelectric; 07-27-2011 at 04:29 AM.

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    DIY Junior Member my3angels's Avatar
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    I was worried about the same thing. He seemed irritated when I wouldn't use the 30 he picked up, but I figured better to be safe with my children, then to hurt his feelings.

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    DIY Junior Member my3angels's Avatar
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    I'm a single mother with three children, so I was looking for a safe quick fix until I could afford an electrician. There are many other problems with the house that weren't found in the original inspection, and this seemed too important for that 'temporary quick fix' he'd suggested.

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    DIY Junior Member my3angels's Avatar
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    I spoke with an electrician after I'd found this problem and he said these older homes wiring weren't built for microwaves so the breaker will continue to kick until the house is rewired. I believe the breaker for the entire kitchen, the central heat/air, one of the bedrooms, and the laundry area are all connected to one 15 watt breaker.

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    DIY Junior Member my3angels's Avatar
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    So the 15 amp breaker should not be increased until confirmation of the wire gage is made? That makes perfect sense, and one of the reasons I wouldn't allow it to be installed was I thought it was designed that way. Thank you for the information.

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    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by my3angels View Post
    So the 15 amp breaker should not be increased until confirmation of the wire gage is made? That makes perfect sense, and one of the reasons I wouldn't allow it to be installed was I thought it was designed that way. Thank you for the information.
    Good Morning.

    That is correct.

    It is better to be safe than sorry.


    Have a Great Day.


    DonL


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    Last edited by DonL; 07-27-2011 at 03:31 AM.
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    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by my3angels View Post
    I spoke with an electrician after I'd found this problem and he said these older homes wiring weren't built for microwaves so the breaker will continue to kick until the house is rewired.
    You don't need your house rewired. You just need a few new circuits run.

  13. #13
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The wire size will determine the maximum breaker you can use, but you CANNOT depend on the wire size at the breaker, because if they have a 15 amp breaker, even with #12 wire from it, they might have reduced the wire size farther away knowing that it would be connected to a 15 amp breaker.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Senior Member BobL43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    Good Morning.

    That is correct.

    It is better to be safe than sorry.


    Have a Great Day.


    DonL


    P.S. P = I * E
    Watt? PF "message was too short, so I typed words within quotes!"
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Watts are a measure of power usage, amps are a measure of current flow. They're related, but not the same thing. Circuit breakers for homes are rated in the number of amps they can supply through the wiring safely - the bigger the wire, the more amps it can supply and the bigger circuit breaker you can install to protect that wiring. 15W will light a compact florescent light bulb (well, at least some of them), but wouldn't power much of anything else. Power(watts) = Current(amps) * voltage(think of this as the pressure). So, a typical 15A circuit with 120vac can safely provide a max of 1800W of power. You don't normally want to be running the circuit at max.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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