I have a 30 amp breaker in my main panel, with 12/3 wire ran about 100 ft. To my sub panel in my shed. I'm wondering if I can put a 20 amp breaker for my outlets and a 15 amp breaker for my light in my shed?

I'm running a air compressor about 150 psi for my airbrush and a small heater and my light in my shed at the same time. It's currently on a 15amp breaker in my sub panel.

Don't know much about electrical circuits.

  • 1
    Are you sure it's 12/3 cable? It should be at least 10 AWG (not adjusting for voltage drop), since 12 AWG copper conductors are not rated for 30 amperes.
    – Tester101
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 18:30
  • Agree with tester 12-3 is only rated for 20 amps, however if your sub panel total draw is less than 20 amps on each leg for a 220 setup it might work
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 23:48
  • I missed that part, double check the feed, it's dangerous if it's undersized. Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


Short answer: yes for the branch circuits, no for the feeder.

The capacity of the sub panel is a total of 30 amps of load NOT the sum of the breakers. As long as the total of all of your equipment doesn't exceed that then you are good.

Edit: Tester is right and I missed that you had 12/3 running to the shed. #12 wire cannot be protected at 30 amps. The maximum for #12 is 20 amps. If you want a 30 amp circuit to the shed it needs #10 wire.


I imagine you're asking because you're getting some trips when the compressor and heater kick in at the same time. You have 15 amp gear and 15 amp receptacles and you're thinking bump up to a 20 amp circuit for the receptacles to prevent those trips. That might work fine.

If it isn't too much trouble, you could put a receptacle for your compressor on one circuit and a receptacle for your heater on another circuit, on adjacent spaces so they're not on the same leg. Then run the lights and remaining receptacles on another circuit. Might not be necessary but balancing the loads out might make for less trips.

If you want to go even further you could split your lights and other receptacles on two separate circuits on different legs, so they are balanced out too.

edit: Tester101 and others mention that your feed is undersized if it's only 12 gauge, that needs to be checked and addressed. If you have to use a smaller main breaker on the subpanel, balancing out your loads may be more important, but there just might not be enough juice to do what you want to do.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.