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I have a few experiences wiring outlets and lighting but still am a novice.

We have a 1941 2BR house in the US. A duplex outlet had chipped plastic on one of the outlets where the ground prong inserts. I wanted to replace this outlet, but discovered some old wiring that is not to code today. I am looking for an improvement on the situation, knowing in 2-3 years we will do a complete remodel in the kitchen with a professional.

The outlet to be replaced is currently in parallel with a hard wired garbage disposal and a 9.6 Amp dishwasher plugged into an outlet tucked behind it. All this wiring is 14 guage NM, except one stretch from the junction to the outlet is 12. This 14 gauge wiring also includes the connection from the panel to the junction, as well as the hardwired garbage disposal.

The circuit is on a 20AMP tandem breaker and shares the other switch with the outlet serving the washing machine. The washing machine wiring is not labeled, but could very well be 14 guage as well. Also, I realized we have an old refrigerator on the washing machine outlet as well. The panel is 100amp.

Before realizing the wire issues, I planned to put a 20amp CGFI outlet in parallel with the disposal, then feed the dishwasher outlet off the CGFI outlet. While the outlet is not on the countertop (it's on the side of a lower cabinet), I thought it'd be good to get the dishwasher outlet protected. However, is there even enough room for an outlet, dishwasher and disposal on one circuit? Should I just remove that cabinet outlet?

Also with the 14 guage wiring, I am not sure what to do. Use a 15amp cabinet outlet until the remodel in a few years? Re-wire from the panel to the kitchen w 12-2? Rewire all wiring in that circuit to 12-2? Rewire washing machine too? Separate the tandem breaker?

Thanks in advance

Edit: Is this panel overloaded? I'm counting 130 on left and 165 on right. Shouldn't it be below 200 total?

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Edit2: The washer was wired with 12 gauge, so I moved the 14 gauge wire to the new 15amp breaker.

The number of spots open waa actually only the bottom 4 on the left. The top two were where the main power came in.

For newbies like me, the Cuttler-Hammer boxes were bought by Eaton, so I bought a breaker by Eaton labeled CH for under $9.

The dryer wiring is definitely bigger than the 30amp wiring, which is definitely bigger than the 12gauge. It looks stranded, but I didn't look too closely. As for the dryer needing lower amp breaker, that is to be determined.

Dryer 40amp

  • How hard would it be to pull 12/2 back to the panel from the junction? – ThreePhaseEel Feb 18 at 17:20
  • Not that hard. It's a straight shot. – Valerie Feb 18 at 17:31
  • Another thing to look at is the two wires on that double-stuff breaker. Since they are going to the same destination, I wonder if they are a multi-wire branch circuit (shared neutral) -- if so, one wire will be red and one black. For them to both be on the same double-stuff, that would be bad. It would mean they are on the same pole and that means the neutral would be carrying the sum of both currents rather than the difference, which would overload it. – Harper Feb 20 at 21:54
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I'd add a new 12AWG homerun from the panel to the junction box

What I'd do here is put a new 12/2 homerun in from the existing 20A breaker on the circuit to the junction box where the 14 and 12AWG wires are split, then connect the wires in the junction box by size as well as color (12AWG black to 12AWG black, 12AWG white to 12AWG white, 14AWG black to 14AWG black, and 14AWG white to 14AWG white), save for the grounds which all connect together.

At that point, you can take the existing 14/2 homerun off the existing 20A breaker in the panel and land it on a new 15A breaker fitted in one of the open slots on the bottom left -- Eaton CH breakers are widely carried by big-box stores and supply houses across North America. (If you need to splice some extra 14AWG onto the end of the homerun to make it reach, go ahead and do so with a wirenut -- splicing in a panel is safe and Code-compliant, even though some ignorami misinterpret the Code that covers this to say otherwise.)

You can then fit a 20A GFCI to the 12AWG (20A) circuit to protect the dishwasher and receptacle.

  • Am I following correctly, that that would put the disposal on a 15amp alone? – Valerie Feb 18 at 21:21
  • @Valerie -- yep – ThreePhaseEel Feb 18 at 22:07
  • I completed this partially, by changing my outlet and breaker to a 15amp. If it starts tripping before I get the remodel, I'll implement your plan and run 12 gauge to the outlet and dishwasher. Good news is the washing machine was wired with 12 guage, so it was just the one cable I had to worry about. Thanks! – Valerie Feb 23 at 1:13
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Panel capacity is not based just on the ratings of the breakers plugged into it, meaning that you don't simply add up the numbers on the handles. There is what's called a "diversity / demand factor" that is applied based on knowing that not everything it going to be running at full capacity all of the time. It's not an easy subject for the average DIYer, but it's highly unlikely that adding one more 20A branch is going to be a problem here. Think about it, you are not actually adding LOAD, you are spreading the same load out among more circuits.

But as mentioned, 14ga wire cannot have a 20A breaker protecting it.

  • Thanks for confirming my suspicion about straight up adding breakers. I am looking to just rearrange and possibly downgrade, so the spreading of load makes sense – Valerie Feb 18 at 19:36
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On the breaker panel being oversubscribed, that's not actually a problem; they're supposed to be oversubscribed because not every load will be on at the same time.

As far as balancing the sides, actually sides work quite differently than you'd expect. This answer illustrates it. You have to count alternating rows, and count a 2-pole breaker as being in each row. That one in the upper right is not a 2-pole, but the linked answer discusses what it is. Both its breakers count as in the same row.

That is an excellent industrial grade panel, and I would keep it especially since you seem to have some spare space. The only problem I note is a 40A breaker allegedly for a dryer. Unless your dryer is very unusual, it should be a 30A breaker. In particular, dryer wires are usually 10 AWG, and 40A would overload them.

  • Thanks! I'll take a look at the dryer breaker and wire more closely. – Valerie Feb 19 at 15:28
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The kitchen will need 2 20 amp circuits to comply with current code the dishwasher and disposal can not be on these circuits so that means another circuit if not 2 there. Current code also requires the laundry to have a 20 amp circuit, so if you want to get a jump on the remodel these are some updates you could do now. With any 14 gauge wire in the circuit you need that circuit protected by a 15 amp breaker but with the loads listed 15 amp will probably start tripping so you may want to start on a few of the circuits now to make your home safer.

  • Adding the circuits would be beneficial for the future remodel. However, I am uncertain about the panel capacity for adding breakers. Is there a max of breakers I can add to my panel? (I added a couple photos) – Valerie Feb 18 at 17:47
  • You are not adding new loads just moving outlets that exsist to a proper sized circuit so adding won't be a problem. It looks like you have 4 open spaces on the bottom left and 1 in the upper right, more than enough to make a couple of changes. if properly sizing that 20 amp to 15amp because of the #14 wire causes the 15 amp to trip some of those loads can be moved. You have a good panel and those breakers are inexpensive. – Ed Beal Feb 18 at 18:43
  • I went ahead and down graded the circuit to a 15A breaker. If it starts tripping, then at least I will have argument sake to do some early upgrades. – Valerie Feb 23 at 1:10
  • It would be nice to get an up vote or accepted answer check if this helped. – Ed Beal Feb 23 at 22:06
  • I don't have enough reputation to show my upvote. Edit: I added upvote day 1. – Valerie Feb 23 at 23:22

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