long time listener, first time caller.

I've got a 65 year old home that was wired in a way that makes no sense. 10 recepts on one circuit, 2 recepts on another, weird stuff.

There is no 14 gauge wire in the entire house, all 12/2, yet all 120 is on 15 amp breakers. For the first 64 years was fine, but I recently put a little home office in the basement, which meant an extra desktop pc, tv, and mini fridge. Now when they are running and the dehumidifier plugged in at other end of the basement kicks on, it throws. Also, I did add 2 recepts in my little office area, as the original ones were over 25ft apart (which doesn't sound legal even in the 60s).

I believe since all wire is 12 gauge I can replace the 15 with a 20 with no problems, is that correct? I just want to make sure I'm not overlooking something.

Also, before it's said - I know I should just add a new one, but the panel box is completely full. I already have everything tied up nicely and don't really don't want to get into replacing the box or adding one or even figuring out the wiring nightmare running into it just for this very small issue. If this doesn't solve the problem I'll suck it up and invest some time and money, but this house is temporary so I'm trying to half ass what I can.

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    Can you post photos of the writing on the jacket of the cables? The situation you describe would be apropos if the wiring was 12/2 aluminum....which opens up a whole another can of worms – ThreePhaseEel Oct 16 '18 at 4:09
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    As far as receptacles far apart in the basement - that is VERY common. If the basement was originally unfinished, the builder would likely not have put in very many outlets. And then the homeowner or a handyman finishes it and doesn't know about and/or ignores code requirements for receptacle location. When I set up my home office (of sorts - never really finished except for the electrical) I had an electrician add the "missing" receptacles. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Oct 16 '18 at 4:17
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    Likewise, the "10 outlets / 2 outlets" is not particularly out there - if the 2 outlets were going to heavy loads, and the 10 were running 60W table lamps, etc... – Ecnerwal Oct 16 '18 at 15:48

That situation is beyond belief. To put a 15A breaker on one 12AWG circuit is one thing. To do it for all of them, doesn't make sense, nobody does that. Occam's Razor says the likeliest explanation is you have aluminum or copper-clad-aluminum wire. Look at the cable jacket markings and get back with us.

Putting 10 receptacles on 1 circuit and 2 on another makes perfect sense if it's appropriate for the loads. 10 might be bedrooms, 2 could be kitchen, bathroom or y'know, a home office. At the end of the day, you know what your loads are and feel free to rearrange.

The home office and dehumidifier on the same circuit... That is simply a case of someone overloading a circuit. Who did that... The cat? Upsizing breakers won't save you from overloading circuits if you're not conscious about what loads you are asking a circuit to bear. It's worth your time to identify which receptacles are on that circuit, total up the nameplate rating of their loads, and make sure the number is sane. And if necessary rearrange some circuits. Perhaps the dehumidifier receptacle can be moved to another circuit.

Panel being full is not a disaster, and it doesn't require the panel be replaced. It is not that hard to fit a subpanel right next to the main panel, and move circuits there, especially if that area of the basement is unimproved. My suggestion is take the lesson and get a huge subpanel, 42 spaces is not excessive.

Partly because you need full spaces for AFCI breakers, which are the quickest and easiest cure for aluminum wiring's various worries.


As long as you are positive that all conductors are #12 AWG copper, I am not aware of any NEC reason you cannot upgrade to a 20A breaker. I would be sure that there is no previous damage to the circuit itself.

From a contractor standpoint, we would always advise to install a new circuit which would remove us from any liability.

Good luck

PS We never liked the term "Half Ass". It does not indicate a "workman like manner".


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