If your branch circuit coming from the panel is 12-2 w/grd and protected with a 20A breaker at the panel, what is the standard number of outlets used in most residential parallel circuits with GFCI protection upstream? More or less, I'm asking what is the preference of most inspectors, with the total load on each 20A circuit being the most important? Thanks in advance!

  • To keep this easy. you only want 80% of the load on the breaker.So a 20 amp breaker ,You want 16 amps of load..So each outlet has 180 va or one and a half amps . A 20 amp circuit can have 12 outlets 15 amp 9 this is for basic outlets.If you were doing a shop with table saw and chop saw and they could be used at the same time,You may want 2 separate circuits
    – user101687
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


You can put as many outlets on the circuit as you please, unless you have a local amendment telling you otherwise. Ask when you pull the permit; they can tell you.

As far as GFCI, every GFCI device can confer GFCI protection to the rest of the downline circuit. That only works if it's wired properly, if the last guy left you a wiring problem, it would refuse to reset. Also, the downline receptacles require a "GFCI Protected" sticker or you'll get written up for them not being GFCI.

Your call whether to use a GFCI+breaker ($40), GFCI/AFCI dual mode breaker ($8-10 additional cost compared to an AFCI-only breaker), or GFCI+receptacle ($17). ----

6 outlets as long as you don't exceed 20A*

Hold on. Suppose I run a circuit from a 20A breaker with 12/2, to 2 receptacles. I run another circuit off 20A breaker with 12/2, but daisy-chain to 33 receptacles. How many amps are on each circuit? 0 amps because nothing is plugged in. The amps come when I plug stuff in. Suppose I plug in a 12A heater and a 1A TV. How many now? 13 amps. It's like that.

Yeah, the number of receptacles on a circuit really doesn't matter, it's all about what you plug into it, and those amps simply add.

The problem occurs if you have too few circuits in a room for the load it serves.

  • 4 circuits 4 bedrooms. Instead of 1 circuit per bedroom, I have all 4 circuits each visit each bedroom; 2 receptacles in each bedroom + 1 in the hall, for 9. My home-office bedroom has a heater, coffeemaker, gaming PC and laser printer, each plugged into a different circuit. We good? We good.
  • 2 circuits serving 1 receptacle each in the kitchen. 1 is better than 9, right? Powering a toaster, coffeemaker and electric grill. We good? Nope. We ain't good. All three are 12A appliances, SNAP goes the breaker! This kitchen could use 3-4 countertop circuits, that is typical of kitchens.
  • Practise in the UK (and in Germany as far as I can tell), is to avoid multiple circuits visiting the same rooms. The risk is that someone in future might think they have powered the outlet off at the breaker, when actually it's a different circuit. Obviously if your room has 30A load, you'll need two 20A circuits to feed it, but if you can feed it from a single circuit, you do. Commented May 31, 2019 at 7:11
  • Lots of circuits going everywhere also results in higher volt drop and more cable cost. Commented May 31, 2019 at 9:41
  • Those are only inconvenient to the installer for an hour. Ample power is convenient to the users for a lifetime. Commented May 31, 2019 at 12:19

Perfectly fine. GFCI is needed in bathrooms kitchens laundry rooms and certain other areas, but not everywhere. However many areas now require AFCI which is best installed in or near the breaker panel.

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