I'm trying to wire my kitchen up to code, which means (based on the outlet spacing rules) I need 6 counter-top outlets. How many branch circuits do I need?

When the NEC talks about the 2 "appliance" branch circuits required to be installed on kitchen counters, it says in 210.52(B)(1), the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits required by 210.11(C)(1) shall serve all wall and floor receptacle outlets covered by 210.52(A) and then immediately follows that with:


No Other Outlets. The two or more small-appliance branch circuits specified in 210.52(B)(1) shall have no other outlets.

Exception No. 1: A receptacle installed solely for the electrical supply to and support of an electrical clock in any of the rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1).

Exception No. 2: Receptacles installed to provide power for supplemental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges, ovens, or counter-mounted cooking units.

I can see two possible ways of understanding "other outlets" in context, and I don't know which is correct:

  • It could mean, "Outlets besides the receptacles 210.52(B)(1) described aren't allowed on the appliance branch circuits," in which case I could do however many receptacles can be on a circuit normally.
  • But it could also mean, "the appliance branch circuits must have exactly one outlet each," in which case all 6 outlets would need to connect directly to 6 individual breakers in the panel.

Which is it?

  • 2
    "outlet" means any connection to any appliance, even a hardwired one. We refer to receptacles as Outlets so often that we forget they're only one kind. May 21, 2017 at 16:56
  • It means that you have to have at least two 20 ampere branch circuits, to supply all the receptacles mentioned in 210.52(A). Though you can have more circuits, if you think you need them. 210.52(B)(2) says that those two or more circuits can only supply the receptacles/devices mentioned in 210.52(A), and cannot supply any other receptacles, lights, or other devices (aside from those listed in the exceptions). For example, you can't use the small-appliance circuit to supply receptacles in your living room.
    – Tester101
    May 21, 2017 at 19:31
  • Maybe I'm looking at the wrong code version, but Table 210.24 shows the minimum conductor size for circuits of various ratings. It's telling you to use 14 AWG conductors for 15 ampere circuits, not that you can have 14 receptacles on a 15 ampere circuit.
    – Tester101
    May 21, 2017 at 19:41
  • @Tester101 I misread that table entirely (didn't see that "Taps" was indented to be under conductor ampacaties so i figured it was a count). I'll fix the question.
    – Dan
    May 21, 2017 at 20:27

3 Answers 3


210.52(B)(2) is saying you should install 2 small appliance loads specifically for small appliances and are only allowed kitchens, dining rooms, and other specified locations. Usually they are circuits installed around the countertops of a kitchen. So you may not use them for general purpose receptacles in other rooms. They should not be used for disposals, dishwashers, etc.

Remember you can install more than two small appliance circuits if you see the need.

In your second comment you are misreading Table 210.24. It refers to circuits with a single receptacle. You can only connect no more than 10 receptacles on a 20A circuit or 8 receptacles on a 15A circuit. And all of that is for general power receptacles.

Remember you are installing small appliance receptacles. That means you may be connecting up an 1100W coffee maker and then say a 860W countertop Microwave and running them at the same time. Then you decide to pop on the toaster. If these are all on the same circuit, you be trying to get back to your panel to try and find the breaker you just tripped. And you haven't even had your first cup of coffee. Generally I would never put more than 4 duplex receptacles on a small appliance circuit.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Can you cite the code section that limits a circuit to only 10 (8) receptacles? Remember, this is a dwelling.
    – Tester101
    May 21, 2017 at 19:36
  • I use a lot of kitchen appliances, and in my last house I had each appliance receptacle on its own breaker for that reason. Unfortunately I don't have enough space in the panel to do it that way this time, and will probably do 2 duplex receptacles per appliance circuit, now that I know having more than one is allowed.
    – Dan
    May 21, 2017 at 20:37
  • Yeah, like @Testet101 said, the 10 outlet rule is only for non-residential
    – Kris
    May 21, 2017 at 23:30
  • Ok there is no 10 outlet rule per NEC. Where it starts is in NEC 210.19 (A) which states that you shall not exceed 805 May 22, 2017 at 13:29
  • 1
    I don't know what happened to my comment but here we go again. NEC 210.19 (A) states you shall not exceed 80% of the conductor load on noncontinuous loads. 210.20 (B) states that you shall not exceed 80% of the overcurrent protection. 220.14 (I) states to use 180VA for each general purpose duplex receptacle. That gives you 1920VA for 20A circuits or 10 duplexes and 1440VA for 15A circuits or 8 duplexes without exception. Meaning dwelling units also. May 22, 2017 at 20:34

Again, for comm application only. Resi general branch circuits are calculated at 3 VA per square foot. Go figure..Recepts on a general branch circuit in a resi dwelling are not defined by 180 VA/ outlet and therefore that code secton is not applicable here. It is allowed for recepts (again resi application) to be combined with lighting on the same circuit, and now it would take some science to nail this down. Generally, as a rule of thumb - 15 to 18 outlets, whether plugs or switches is acceptable on a 15A GENERAL BRANCH CIRCUIT. Never ever did I have an overload problem in my 20+ years of experience.


Ok.. My own limited knowledge from codes and studies are the following: USA Codes so far, within my knowledge, have no national code on number of outlets per circuit breaker in the kitchen but require a minimum of 2 small equipment circuits, however there are many different local and state codes that do have requirements. Canadian code is a minimum of two circuits, and no more than 2 outlet points per circuit. An outlet point being a Duplex outlet or a single outlet. Jamaican code is no more than 3 outlet points per circuit. Separate dedicated outlets required for refrigerator, freezer, stove, microwave, garbage disposal, dishwasher, washer. UK code is to use dedicated rings, one for kitchen plus one for other areas, up to 100 meters floor space, but suggests 2 rings for kitchen based on international suggestions. Not required but suggested is feeding refrigerator from either a radial or a fused spur. Again, only what I have been getting from my various studies and experiences in several jurisdiction, but only a journeyman electrician, not a master.

  • The number of outlets is not specified but the spacing is. Within 2 feet from a sink and no space more than 2 feet from an outlet or 4' apart. The area behind sinks and stoves is not counted. A small section of counter 12" or more requires an outlet. So the number depends on the amount of counter space available.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 18, 2019 at 14:58

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