I have a 20 amp breaker feeding my detached garage. It comes in on 12/2 to a receptacle that’s for the garage door opener then splits off to 14/2 on 2 light fixtures. Should I change those to 12/2 for those light fixtures because I wanted to add another receptacle?

  • 1
    Can you provide a proposed circuit diagram of how everything will be connected? IIRC, a garage needs to be GFCI protected, and it's often inconvenient to have lights on a GFCI-protected circuit (when not required), so you may want to consider the layout for this.
    – Hari
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:04
  • You should, because the 14 gauge wire is illegal as it is anyway.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


The electrical code rewires that ALL of the wiring on a circuit has to be of a size compatible with the rating of the circuit breaker. For a 20A breaker all of the circuit wiring has to 12AWG or heavier gauge.

The problem with the lighting circuit branches at 14AWG is that such wiring is not rated for 20A. If a fault or short circuit should occur in the lighting section of the circuit that wiring can overheat and could even cause a fire.

The fix for this problem can take one of two forms:

  1. Replace all of the 14AWG branch circuit wiring with 12AWG wiring.
  2. Consider equipping the wiring entry point at your detached garage with an entry point distribution box that can support multiple breakers. Feed the incoming power line in through a 20A breaker. Then add load breakers as needed to the box to feed down stream circuits. Use a 20A breaker for the existing 12AWG wiring that goes to the garage door outlet. Reroute the 14AWG lighting circuit wiring to the distribution box and connect it to a 15A load breaker. Finally add another 20A load breaker and 12AWG wiring that routes to the electrical box(es) where you want to add the additional outlets.

Note that if you choose to go the route of item #2 the existing 14AWG wiring for the lights may not be long enough to reach to the distribution box. If you have to add wire make sure to connect the added wire to the existing wiring inside an approved electrical box that remains accessible.

  • Thanks for the info I just ended up getting 100ft of 12awg and re-running everything that was a fun job to start at 630 but I finished by 9 everything should be legit now.
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 3:45
  • Another quick question with option 2. Are saying I could put a sub-panel in using the 12awg that comes in then branch off or do I need to re-run a different gauge line to the main
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 3:47
  • You could feed a small distribution panel (sub panel) with 12AWG wire as long as the breaker in the sourcing panel is 20A rated. If you wanted to feed a higher amperage to the distribution panel then the wire size and breaker in the source panel would need to be upsized accordingly.
    – Michael Karas
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 16:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.