Many homeowners make risky adjustments to the electrical system because they are unaware of the science involved in installing electrical circuits. Installing a 20-Amp breaker instead of a 15-Amp breaker could seem like a quick and cheap fix, especially if the breaker is often tripping, but is this a safe solution?
However, a smaller circuit breaker cannot simply replace a bigger one. If your wiring has the correct gauge, you can go from a 15-amp to a 20-amp circuit breaker. 14-gauge wire is used in a 15 amp circuit. It needs a 12-gauge cable to deliver 20 amps of power. In cases where the copper wire is 12 AWG, a 20A breaker may be utilized instead of the 15A one.
To fix various electrical difficulties, from adding a 15-amp outlet to stopping a 15-Amp breaker from tripping continually, homeowners who like to DIY problems in their homes may think about switching a 20-Amp breaker for a 15-Amp breaker. Can a dedicated circuit breaker be upgraded from a 15 to a 20? Let’s find the solution to this query and why it might not be a smart move.
- 1 Is It Possible To Upgrade To A 20-Amp Breaker From A 15-Amp Breaker?
- 2 The Steps To Convert A 15-Amp Breaker To A 20-Amp Are Listed Below.
- 2.1 Switch Off The Mains Supply
- 2.2 Uncover your Breaker Panel
- 2.3 Make Sure The Wire Gauge Is Correct
- 2.4 Disassemble the breaker you Want to Replace
- 2.5 Fit The New Circuit Breaker
- 2.6 Close Up
- 2.7 Turn On Both The Main Breaker And The Replacement Breaker
- 3 Why Do We Need to Replace or Upgrade Our Circuit Breaker?
- 4 Can You Upgrade a Circuit Breaker?
- 5 What Is The Cost Of Replacing The Circuit Breaker?
- 6 Conclusion
Is It Possible To Upgrade To A 20-Amp Breaker From A 15-Amp Breaker?
It’s not difficult to upgrade a 15-amp breaker to a 20-amp one, but this should only be done if the AWG wire is of a sufficient gauge, such as a 12-gauge or 10-gauge wire, which is capable of safely carrying that level of current.
You only need the replacement breaker, a few essential tools, and a few minutes to complete the task. If the branch circuit is 14-gauge, you’ll need to run a new 12-gauge wire to install a 20-Amp breaker and outlet.
- If you need to replace your circuit breaker, consider these tools.
- Flathead screwdriver
- 20 amps circuit breaker for replacement
- Insulated or rubber gloves
- A multimeter or non-contact voltage tester
- 12 AWG copper wire, which is the recommended size for a 20-amp circuit breaker
For a circuit breaker rated at 20 amps, the suggested wire size is 12, but most circuit breakers rated at 15 amps have a wire size recommendation of 14. If you wish to change or upgrade to 20 amp breakers, you need to inspect the thickness of your wire to determine whether or not it can support the additional 20-amp breaker. But if you got 14 wires only, you will need to upgrade it before doing anything else.
The Steps To Convert A 15-Amp Breaker To A 20-Amp Are Listed Below.
Switch Off The Mains Supply
Working in conditions where the circuit breaker panel has no current that flows through it is always the safest option. Before opening the panel, you should turn off the main supply switch.
Uncover your Breaker Panel
After putting on your rubber gloves and marking the circuit breaker that has to be replaced, unscrewing the cover of your panel is the next step. You can take it off by using your screwdriver, but before you take off the last screw, ensure that you have a firm grip on the cover panel. Because of this, it won’t be able to collapse to the ground and sustain any damage.
Make Sure The Wire Gauge Is Correct
Check the wire gauge of the circuit whose breaker you wish to replace before beginning the replacement process. It is impossible to install a circuit breaker with a capacity of 20 amps in a circuit that uses wire with a gauge of 14, also referred to as 14 AWG.
If you wish to proceed with the replacement, you will be required to install a 12-gauge wire in the branch circuit wiring in place of the existing wiring. If you install a circuit breaker with a capacity of 20 amps on a wire with a gauge of 14, you will violate the NEC and put your home in grave danger.
If you are wondering how to differentiate between the two wire gauges, the 14-gauge wire has a thickness of 0.06 inches, while the 12-gauge wire has a thickness of 0.08 inches. On the outside sheathing of the wires, the gauges are clearly labeled for easy identification.
Your brand new 20-amp breaker should be able to manage the circuit load if you verify that you have the appropriate wire size.
Disassemble the breaker you Want to Replace
For further protection, switch off the main breaker in your home and turn on your flashlight. Remove the screw from the circuit breaker you want to upgrade, and slowly extract the wire. To take apart the panel board, you must push it to the side of the circuit breaker.
A line voltage travels from the meter to your home’s main breaker. Before working on your system, check the hot wires and make sure the line is not active.
Fit The New Circuit Breaker
After clipping or screwing the new circuit breaker into position, connect the wires to it before turning the power back on. When you are finished attaching the wires, turn on the switch that supplies electricity from the mains and turn on the new breaker.
Check the voltage across all circuit breakers using the multimeter to determine that the voltage across the new breaker is equivalent to the voltage across the other breakers. This will indicate whether or not the correct voltage is allowed to pass through your new circuit breaker.
Turn off the primary power source once more, and then replace the cover plate on the circuit breaker box. It is better to carry out this step when the power is off to prevent accidentally touching a live wire with your screwdriver if it escapes your grasp.
Turn On Both The Main Breaker And The Replacement Breaker
Conduct a thorough inspection of your home’s wiring and circuit breakers; then, activate the breakers and use a multimeter or voltage meter to test each of the home’s voltages. In this manner, you will be able to determine whether or not your circuit breaker is exhibiting any abnormal behavior. After you are finished, place the cover back on the panel where the circuit breakers are located, and you will have successfully changed your circuit breaker.
Following the completion of all these processes, you will need to make it a habit to perform routine checks on your breaker panel to ensure you do not run into any issues.
Why Do We Need to Replace or Upgrade Our Circuit Breaker?
Because of the frequent problems with the system, we need to replace the circuit breaker frequently. All that is required of you if one of your breakers trips is reset, and you should be good to go. On the other hand, if your circuit breaker trips many times in a row, this could result from a malfunctioning circuit breaker or an overloaded electrical system.
In addition, if you want to run appliances and electrical equipment in your home with a higher capacity or use them, you will need to replace your circuit breaker. If you intend to add more devices in the future, you must also consider this.
Because they turn off the power as soon as they sense there is a problem, circuit breakers are an essential component in preventing overloaded and overheated circuits. If your system is operating without any issues, the circuit breaker needs no reset excessively.
Can You Upgrade a Circuit Breaker?
You can replace an older circuit breaker with a newer circuit breaker design as long as the new breaker is able to fit in the mountings of the breaker box and the new breaker is rated for the same amount of amperage as the original breaker. In other words, you must ensure that the new breaker is compatible with the mountings of the breaker box.
If the wire in the circuit is of the suitable gauge, you should be able to replace your old breaker with one that has a higher amperage rating. However, this only applies if the wiring is of the appropriate gauge. In order to use a circuit breaker capable of handling 20 amps, you will need to use wire with a gauge of 12.
What Is The Cost Of Replacing The Circuit Breaker?
To replace a circuit breaker switch can cost between $209 and $249, with most consumers spending an average of $229 for the service. This pricing is for purchasing a single standard circuit breaker and the supplies and labor necessary to install it. An experienced electrician will need between one and two hours to complete the installation
To successfully repair your circuit breaker, you must examine your wire gauge. You have to make sure that you use the appropriate wire size for the circuit breaker that you have to work with. In that case, your circuit breaker might not trip, despite the wire being overheated.
When it comes to utilizing electricity in the home, following the standards outlined in the NEC is the only way to guarantee that proper precautions are taken. It is strongly advised that you avoid making any changes to your home’s electrical system that contravene any of these regulations because they are meant to ensure the security of the electrical systems there. Therefore, if the branch circuit contains a 12-gauge wire compatible with installing a 20-amp circuit breaker, you should only replace a 15-Amp breaker with a 20-Amp breaker. Otherwise, you should stick with the 15-Amp breaker.
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You should never just upgrade from a 15-amp breaker to a 20-amp one just because the current one is tripping. Otherwise, you may burn your house down via electrical fire. To help you understand why this is so dangerous, you need to know what the circuit breaker is for.Can you put a 20 amp breaker in a 15 amp slot? ›
If an electrical plug is designated for a 20-amp outlet, it will not fit into a standard 15-amp receptacle. 15-amp circuits usually use 14-gauge wire, while 20-amp circuits generally use 12-gauge wire or 10-gauge wire.Can I change a circuit breaker myself? ›
Should I Replace a Circuit Breaker Myself? Replacing an old circuit breaker is a job best handled by a licensed electrician and must only be done with the electricity disconnected. Doing so may require a permit and electrical codes must be strictly observed to guarantee the safety of your home and family.What happens if you put a 20 amp switch on a 15 amp circuit? ›
There is no problem with using a 20A switch on a 15A circuit, as the breaker will trip and protect the switch from over-current.Are most homes 15 amp or 20 amp? ›
Most homes in the U.S. are wired with a combination of 15-amp and 20-amp, 120-volt circuits. Because 15-amp receptacles can be used with 20-amp circuits, most of the outlets you see in American homes are the standard 15-amp variety, with two slots and a U-shaped grounding hole.How many rooms can be on a 15 amp breaker? ›
Technically, you can have as many outlets on a 15 amp circuit breaker as you want. However, a good rule of thumb is 1 outlet per 1.5 amps, up to 80% of the capacity of the circuit breaker. Therefore, we would suggest a maximum of 8 outlets for a 15 amp circuit.Do all kitchen outlets need to be 20 amp? ›
Why: In the kitchen, 20 amp outlets are required (vs. 15 amp) for higher power requirements due to appliances like toaster ovens, blenders, coffee makers, and mixers. The reason why two circuits are required is that this spreads out the coverage area.