I had read that the best way to tell which outlet amperage to use is to go to the electric panel and look at the amperage on the circuit breaker attached to the outlet. I also read that most kitchens are set up to handle 20 amp loads.

I am rehabbing a house and a couple of the outlets were covered in grease and paint, so I decided to swap them out in the Kitchen. The circuit breaker they are connected to is 20 Amps--so given I was told that 20 Amps is what most kitchen appliances should be able to handle, and given that the circuit breaker was marked as 20 Amps, I put in a 20 Amp outlet.

But after I took out the old receptacle I noticed it was 15 Amps. I didn't check the gauge of the wire. I assumed that if a 20 AMP circuit breaker mapped to the circuit that the wiring would be appropriate. I did also notice that when I replace the receptacle, there were two neutral wires and two hot wires. So it appears that there is more than one outlet on the circuit. I am not sure if I should pull the 20 AMP outlet and put back a 15 AMP.

Any suggestions? If (and I am not sure how to tell) the wires to the outlet are 14 Gauge, can I leave it as it is with the 20 AMP breaker?

  • 1
    Related but extremely important question: Do you have GFCI protection for the receptacles? Jun 23, 2023 at 0:12
  • 2
    Most 15 amp outlets are good to use on 20 amp circuits, as long as they are not the only single receptacle on that circuit. A duplex (regular outlet) is allowed. The main thing is to check the gauge of the wires, you must have 12 gauge wires on 20 amps. The gauge of the wire should be marked on the cable covering.
    – crip659
    Jun 23, 2023 at 0:25
  • If the wiring was last updated after about 2003, it's likely that #12 wire will be contained in a yellow cable sleeve, while #14 wire will be in a white cable sleeve. The fact that you're "rehabbing", though, indicates the wiring was probably last touched long before the color coding came into effect. If you take the deadfront off the panel and look at the wires screwed into the breakers, you should be able to see the difference between the #14 wires on 15a breakers and the #12 wires on 20a breakers (side-by-side it's obvious) - just check to see that this circuit has the larger #12 wire.
    – FreeMan
    Jun 23, 2023 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


15A duplex receptacles are required to be rated to handle 20A passing through (total of plugged-in loads and downstream loads), so having 15A duplex receptacles on a 20A circuit is expressly permitted by the NEC and normal, especially in kitchens where the code-minimum two “countertop appliance” circuits must be 20A.

As long as your wire is #12, you’re fine as-is.

If your wire and breaker are both good for 20A you are allowed to switch to 20A receptacles, but given that actual 120V/20A appliances are pretty rare, it’s probably not worth the extra money.

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