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I thought major appliances like refrigerators in newer houses were supposed to be on dedicated circuits.

I just replaced a melted outlet in my kitchen. It was a 15 amp outlet, wired as a pass-through using the screw terminals. The outlet says "For 15A branch circuits only". (The breaker on this circuit is 20A)

The same circuit powers the fridge, 2 outlets in the kitchen (one of which powers a toaster), a couple of outlets in the laundry room, and outlet on the floor in the kitchen. I haven't traced the wiring for certain but I'm pretty sure the fridge and toaster outlets pass through the outlet that melted.

I replaced the outlet and re-wired it using pig-tails rather than pass-through, but if the outlet says "For 15A branch circuits only" that sure sounds to me like it's not rated to be anywhere on a 20A circuit.

So my questions are 2:

Should a house built in 2000 in Fairfax county, Virginia have a large refrigerator on a shared circuit? (It was built to order by a supposedly well-regarded builder.)

Is there any way it's ok to have an outlet that says "For 15A branch circuits only" wired into a 20A circuit? Somebody on another thread here said something like "All 15A outlets are rated for 20A pass-through" but an outlet that is explicitly labeled as only for 15A circuits sure seems like it doesn't belong on a 20A circuit.

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    What make/part number is the damaged receptacle, or is it some unlabeled piece of builder-grade (or worse) junk? – ThreePhaseEel Sep 29 '16 at 2:22
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    It's a Leviton outlet. It does have a UL stamp. Hard to tell the model or part number. I see what looks like NOM 057 stamped onto it. It also has what looks like 0121G2, but it's faint and hard to read. – Duncan C Sep 29 '16 at 2:27
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In the US, under the NEC, a residential kitchen fridge is not required to be on a dedicated circuit. It is certainly a good idea and best practice, but not a requirement. A fridge can be on one of the minimum two required "small appliance branch circuits".

A 15A duplex receptacle is rated for 20A feed-thru. What you are reading about "15A only" is regarding the push-in wire connections in the back of the receptacle. They are limited to #14 solid wire and a 15A circuit. Check out the wording in the image in this related answer: Can a 20 amp circuit have a 14 gauge pigtail directly to one receptacle?

A "well-regarded" builder would never put a fridge on with the counter receptacles. Not unless this is a code-minimum tract home.

As for kitchen receptacles being shared with receptacles in a laundry area, this has not been allowed by code for many years. Well before 2000.

  • I haven't seen a fridge whose peak draw is more than a couple hundred watts (2 amps or so). Why would you want it on a dedicated line? – Carl Witthoft Sep 29 '16 at 15:15
  • The wording on the back of the receptacle is pretty vague. It isn't at all clear if the "For 15A branch circuit only" regards the push-in connection or the entire receptacle. The block of text that contains that phrase does start out with "Push in #14 CU Solid wire" and then the 15A restriction is on the next line. – Duncan C Sep 29 '16 at 16:22
  • @CarlWitthoft, its a convenience thing. You don't want to have to worry about tripping a breaker if a high draw appliance is being used. Besides, most full size fridges are 5-7a, with high-end models sometimes will over 10a. – Speedy Petey Sep 29 '16 at 16:53
  • @DuncanC, IMO it is quite clear. It starts right off with "push-in connections....." – Speedy Petey Sep 29 '16 at 17:02
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    @CarlWitthoft the AC motor in the fridge can spike well over its "normal" amperage when starting. If you were out of the house for a day or two, would you want to come home to a tripped breaker and melted ice cream? Best to put a fridge on a dedicated 20A circuit to minimize the risk. – user4302 Sep 30 '16 at 2:09

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