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I currently have a 110V20A GFCI outlet in my guest bathroom. It's the older type, with red and black buttons, and I'm planning to replace it with a new TR/WR GFCI receptacle as part of a general electrical maintenance and childproofing effort.

I cannot think of a single device that I have ever seen or owned that has a T-bladed plug for 20A draw, much less anything I would plug into a bathroom outlet. So, I currently see no reason to replace like-for-like, and as I have had some serious issues trying to plug things into 20A TR outlets (the shutter design is different in the ones I've seen, and requires not only that something be inserted on both sides, but that roughly equal pressure be applied to both sides) I'm leaning toward downgrading to 15A.

So, questions:

  1. Can anyone think of anything you'd commonly find in your bathroom, that would plug into a countertop outlet and need 20A draw?

  2. On the same note, are 15A GFCI outlets rated for 20A "pass-through", like normal 15A outlets are? "Pass-through" is particularly important for these, as they protect "downstream" devices, which could draw up to the full current rating of the entire circuit through the internal protection circuitry.

  3. Lastly, I will probably at some point replace similar outlets in the kitchen (120V20A GFCI non-TR/WR). Same basic question; is there anything anyone can think of that would normally be found on a kitchen counter and would require 120V20A? Or when I replace these, should I just go for 15A for simplicity?

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This Blender which is used in the "Will it Blend" commercials requires a dedicated 20amp circuit. I have a smaller model but it still pulls 10amps! Now most people don't have these, but there certainly are all sorts of mixers, blenders, bread makers, etc. that might require this type of amperage.

I believe that you are required by NEC (in new builds anyways) to have dedicated 20amp outlets in the kitchen. I think that it's not so much that a single device will pull 20amps, but two devices plugged into a single outlet might.

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The circuit for the two appliance branch circuits must be rated at 20A. The receptacles (outlets), because these circuits are multi-outlet branch circuits, do not necessarily have to be 20A as far as I can tell. Same in the bathroom; 20A is required for the wiring but that is because the circuit is multi-outlet; the receptacles themselves can be 15A. It's been covered before that it is acceptable to install a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit. –  KeithS Apr 19 '12 at 18:51
    
Your answer is good wrt kitchen appliances, so +1. Wrt bathrooms, I found hair dryers that draw 2000W (that's 16.67A) and so would technically require a 20A outlet, BUT the plug is parallel-blade (15A class). That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. –  KeithS Apr 19 '12 at 19:15
    
I thought kitchen outlets need to be dedicated? Will need to look at NEC when I get home... –  Steven Apr 19 '12 at 20:12
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While most of us are familiar with the standard 15 amp receptacle, it is also known as a NEMA 5-15R.

NEMA 5-15R

The next size up is a 20 amp receptacle or a NEMA 5-20R

NEMA 5-20R

When people look at the 20 amp and think 'T' shaped, they are just seeing the receptacle. This is what a 20 amp plug NEMA 5-20P looks like.

NEMA 5-20P

It's not really a 'T' but the neutral blade is turned sideways. This allows for both the 15 amp and 20 amp to be plugged into a 20 amp receptacle.

To answer your other questions;

  1. Local code would be the reason for the 20 amp, if required.
  2. Yes, pass through is the same on a 15 and 20 amp.
  3. If you do it yourself, you won't have to use the WR/TR unless it is called for in your area and would have to be upgraded to sell your home. If younger kids that have not gained their respect for voltage should be included in your thinking, then I would do the TR, if not both the WR/TR.
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I am familiar with the 20A plug and why the NEMA 5-20R is shaped the way it is; I simply call the plug "T-bladed" to differentiate it from the "parallel-bladed" NEMA 5-15P. Regarding #3, my state has adopted the 2011 NEC, so when replacing an outlet it must be with a TR by code. I wasn't sure if WR was also a requirement (I know they're required in outdoor areas), but as kitchens and bathrooms are "wet" areas it certainly can't hurt. And yes, the entire effort is for childproofing in anticipation of my now-one-month-old eventually toddling around. –  KeithS Apr 20 '12 at 14:29
    
The WR/TR is not yet required in my area as of yet. You would be surprised how many maintenance people that give me funny looks when they require 20 cordsets, expecting a 'T' shaped plug. Congratulations on the addition, I'll trade you my 25 year old son for yours;) Probably will be added in by 2014 if not already. As for your questions, I think my attention span is getting as sparse as my hair. Good luck on everything. –  lqlarry Apr 20 '12 at 18:43
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