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I've been asking a few questions on under-cabinet lightning. A project I am trying to figure out how I want to get done. Country - USA.

I am thinking of getting the Phillips - Hue RBG LED Strips with the remote control/phone control. I am trying to keep all wires hidden and have this plug in an upper cabinet that goes to my microwave.

It is a 20amp circuit and only has my microwave plugged in (pic below). Is there any reason I can't put a splitter on it and plug in the LED Light Strips? Is there a certain type of 20amp splitter I would need to get?

I am hoping this makes my project easier, but haven't been able to find info if the strips will work on a 20amp circuit and if it is safe to use a splitter with a Microwave like this.

Thanks!

20amp Circuit - Microwave

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  • Plug in splitters are never “safe” in my opinion see harpers answer that or any other brand for those that did not catch the humor. A new duplex mud ring also.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 29 at 22:10
  • New duplex mud ring, that's humorous too. Jun 29 at 22:16
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You should check (download) the installation instructions to confirm that the Microwave doesn't specify a dedicated circuit. The instructions are part of the Listing (UL/ETL/CSA) and must be followed to comply with code.

If not explicitly specified that it needs to be dedicated it still might to need to be to comply with the NEC, 210.23 limits amperage on multioutlet 20A circuits to 16A. So if your microwave uses more than that you would be creating a violation. It looks like the mic plug is a nema 5-15 (standard 15A plug), so if the instructions don't require a dedicated circuit the it will draw no more than 12A so complying with that section of code may not be an issue.

So if you don't find a specific reason to use a dedicated receptacle your cleanest and easiest solution is to replace the single outlet with a duplex, either 20A or even a standard everyday 15A duplex would satisfy code.

Also it might be worth consider if a dedicated receptacle was installed to avoid requirements for GFCI protection. If a cord from the counter can reach it or if within 6' from the edge of the sink (or even if not still really a good idea) then you should use a 20A GFCI duplex.

15A plugs are legal to plug into 20A circuits, that's why most 20A receptacles have a t-slot to accommodate both 15A and 20A (nema5-15 and 5-20) plugs.

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  • Codes are subject to local jurisdictions adoption and interpretation. Jun 29 at 21:41
  • Thanks! I found the installation instructions: Product rating is 120 volts AC, 60 Hertz, 14.5 amps and 1.70 kilowatts. This product must be connected to a supply circuit of the proper voltage and frequency. Wire size must conform to the requirements of the NEC or the prevailing local code for this kilowatt rating.
    – mikeyv
    Jun 30 at 0:35
  • The power supply cord and plug should be brought to a separate 15 to 20 ampere branch circuit single grounded outlet. The outlet box should be located in the cabinet above the oven. The outlet box and supply circuit should be installed by a qualified electrician and conform to the NEC or the prevailing local code.
    – mikeyv
    Jun 30 at 0:35
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    Oh, missed that the microwave was over the stove, probably "fastened in place"? That brings in NEC 210.23(A)(2), "The total rating of utilization equipment fastened in place, other than luminaires, shall not exceed 50% of the branch-circuit ampere rating where lighting units, cord-and-plug-connected utilization equipment not fastened in place, or both, are also supplied." Written to keep you from adding something like a 12A coffee maker to a 14.5A microwave. Trying to write the code to safely allow 5A or less lights even though safe would balloon codebook from 900 to 9000 pages Jun 30 at 4:50
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There's a company called Hubbell that makes an integral 2-socket splitter that would work in that location. You might have to do some hunting to find it, but it looks like this.

enter image description here

(T shaped neutral slot optional, since there are 2 sockets. Your microwave does not need it.)

Maybe you'll get lucky and the first place you stop will happen to have one in stock.

You'll need a different cover plate also - that's almost as hard to find! ;)

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My hunch is that the original electrician put in a single receptacle because due to location behind the microwave oven they figured nobody would ever want to plug in anything else, so effectively made it a dedicated circuit. That makes sense even if the microwave oven only requires a 15A circuit because (a) it allows for future upgrades (Need more power captain! The popcorn isn't popping fast enough!) and (b) it isn't generally a good idea to be moving a microwave oven to plug/unplug other stuff. Of course, for lighting the "move the microwave oven" part doesn't matter because it is a semi-permanent installation.

Once the electrician is putting in a single receptacle instead of a duplex receptacle, a 20A receptacle makes sense. It is perfectly usable for 15A plugs and it is the only acceptable configuration if there are no other receptacles on this circuit (which may or may not be the case here, we don't know). Since kitchen circuits are normally 20A, it therefore makes sense for the electrician to use a 20A single receptacle even if there are other receptacles on the circuit because that way he only has to stock one item instead of two on the truck.

On the other hand, the setup of a sideways single gang cover on top of a square box is ugly. Functional. Safe. But ugly. I know my electrician would never do that (he's a perfectionist), but I'll admit that hidden inside a cabinet or behind the microwave oven, it really doesn't matter.

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    I think the plastic cover on exposed 4" box is always ugly since the covers are taller than 4". I would prefer a 902C crushed corner steel cover. Jun 29 at 22:30
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The reason there is only one outlet there is because the microwave is high-wattage (probably uses more than a 15A circuit can provide) and that receptacle is (by code) designed for a single purpose.

LEDs use very little power so your idea is probably not technically unsafe... but placing a splitter on a single-outlet receptacle defeats the purpose of having that single-outlet receptacle (and may actually violate code, though I am not as good at NEC as some others here) and so would putting a normal 2-outlet receptacle there so you can use one side for microwave and the other for your lights.

In other words, this was specifically designed to only plug in a microwave and nothing else, so altering that configuration is a bad idea and you should find another way to supply power to your lights. Existing lighting circuits are usually a good way to do this.

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