A few facts: This house is in unincorporated Lake county Indiana This house is all electric. Was built in 1993. Has all 20amp breakers. Has all 15amp outlets (the cheaper type). The problem: Electronic devices seem to fail far sooner then they should. Had two infants on apnea monitors that had a hard drive to record memory of breathing rates, etc...neither would record any memory..the company gave us two more, same problem. They had never experienced this kind of problem. Turning on hair dryer causes lights in the bathroom to dim. The blower motor on the furnace keeps burning out. Right now it is working on a lower amp fan that doesn't really keep up.

What could this be? I'm thinking of replacing all the outlets with 20amps. Am I wasting my time? Any help would be appreciated.

  • 2
    Had a problem with burnt out electronics in an apartment once, turned out to be a dropped neutral at the service. Test the voltage at a few different outlets, and watch for both high and low voltages.
    – Tester101
    Mar 24 '15 at 14:56

I would be a waste of time/money to replace outlets. It is very common to use 15amp outlets on 20amp wiring as the backplate of the outlet is usually rated for 20amp. And the problems you are describing is more than an outlet issue.

For digital devices not working, you either have two issues: could be very dirty power (a lot of electrical static/noise on the line) or the voltage is too low (instead of 115, you are sitting under 100). A simple volt meter can test for the latter. If the voltage is too low, call out a electrician to check the voltage at the meter.

  • Low voltage and/or an open neutral would be consistent with the symptoms described, yes. Mar 24 '15 at 22:20

You can't replace 15A outlets with 20A outlets, even if the breakers are 20A, without first ensuring that the entire cable run is of appropriate gauge (and material) for 20A use. Otherwise you risk setting fire to your home.

I would check the voltages at the outlets using a CAT-II rated multimeter. You could alternatively use something like a Kill-a-watt plug-in meter.

I would also investigate how to get the supply quality assessed over time for surges, spikes etc.

Some better-quality UPSs allow you to log voltage over time, and perhaps events like spikes or surges, on a connected PC.

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