I live in the state of Washington.

I want to add an outlet receptacle (not controlled by a switch) to a 15A lighting circuit in my garage. It should be just a short cable run of 2 feet from the light switch.

I had an electrician visit to price the work and he says that he is not allowed to add the receptacle if the existing circuit already has any receptacles on it. But I'm not sure why this is - I've done some googling on adding circuits and haven't seen this restriction mentioned anywhere else. Can someone clarify whether is is really a code restriction?

The garage does have some wall outlets on other circuits but also some (in the ceiling for the garage door openers) on the lighting circuit.

  • I take it there's hot and neutral in the switch box already? (i.e. at least one white wire that is not connected to the existing switch, presuming its a mechanical switch and not something "smart" that is?) Jan 7, 2023 at 18:03
  • The excuse seems odd, since you can have many outlets on one circuit(even lights). Problem only happens when you plug a kettle and toaster(or similar high use devices) in at the same time. Newer codes do require garage outlets to have GFCI protection, breaker or outlet.
    – crip659
    Jan 7, 2023 at 18:03
  • Not sure if garage must be on 20 amp circuits like kitchen/bath outlets need these days, Might be a reason.
    – crip659
    Jan 7, 2023 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


Current NEC requires that a garage have (among other things) one 120V/20A circuit dedicated entirely to garage receptacle(s). You can have as many other circuits, including receptacle circuits, as you'd like... but you have to have that one.

So your electrician is saying "I have to install a 20A circuit before I can install anything else". If the 20A circuit existed, then your addition would be fine.

However, the rationale for that is EV charging. NFPA (bless their pointy little heads) is trying to help by requiring a circuit would allow "Level 1 Plus" charging at 120V/"20A" (true rate 16A), giving 40-60 miles of charge in a worst-case 10-hour evening. However as EVs mature, we're realizing a 20A/240V circuit is a better fit.

So, if your garage already has a general-purpose 240V circuit that might be used for EVs (and any 240V circuit, even 15A, will suffice).... then I would make the case to the inspector/permit issuer that the reason for the rule is satisfied, and additional outlets should be able to be 15A.

Otherwise you probably need to install the 20A circuit. However, my advice is to bring this out to only one socket (located somewhere appropriate to EV charging and put all other outlets on the 15A circuit or other circuits. That way the 20A/120V circuit can be easily converted to 20A/240V for 20A/level 2 charging of EVs. (90-120 miles per 10 hours).

  • Thanks for these ideas. Armed with this knowledge, I think I failed to make it clear to the electrician that there is a separate 20A receptacle circuit in the garage, plus a 240V circuit for a charger. So I should certainly meet the criteria you've listed above. My only other hypothesis is that he might have been asking whether there are any outlets on the lighting circuit so that he could check them to see if they have GFCI protection.
    – LWixson
    Jan 8, 2023 at 5:52

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