This may have been answered before but I have a question about receptacles. Excluding the load, the wiring, and the panel breaker - what is the difference between a 15amp AFCI/GFCI receptacle and a 20amp AFCI/GFCI receptacle? Are they actually exactly the same except for the face plate? Or are the internal electronics different for the different current ratings?

  • What exactly do you mean by AFCI/GFCI outlet? This is not a standard term and could many many different things. Is there a specific part number? Jan 27 at 17:01
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    At the very least they have different NRTL listings, implying different tests. The plugs are different. Likely the guts are different as well. The price is different.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 27 at 17:08
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    AIUI, a 15A receptacle is rated to be on a 20A breaker, so it can safely handle 20A flowing through it. However, the plug configuration is different, so you cannot actually plug a 20A load into it. It will, however, survive a heater or motor that briefly draws over 15A, either as a start up load or a malfunction.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 27 at 17:33
  • edited for clarification
    – nedjinski
    Jan 27 at 17:36
  • "outlet" -> "receptacle" really didn't clarify much for me... :shrug:
    – FreeMan
    Jan 27 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


They are exactly the same except the face plate.

The shape of the socket holes is to comply with NEC 210.23 and reject 20A cords (horizontal neutral) from 15A circuits. Per 210.23 a 15A socket is allowed on a 20A circuit, becuase no harm is done by that. Canada might see it differently.

Because 20A sockets are so rare, manufacturers are reluctant to offer appliances with that plug, even though it would mean faster kettles :)

GFCIs don't care how much current goes through them. They are not breakers.

  • Is it allowed to connect loads to a 15 A circuit totalling 15.0 A? Should "1800 W" kettles with a 15 A plug be plugged into a 15 A circuit? Woudl this over time damage the breaker, make it unreliable or shorten its service life? Jan 28 at 19:39
  • @Jim See NEC 210.21-23. Generally no, but UL has been seen to allow it for transient loads like microwaves and hair dryers. A space heater would be Right Out. Jan 31 at 19:15

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