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rojo527 08-21-2013 12:41 PM

Connecting lights to 20A circuit
I started to install pendant lights over an island in my kitchen and install a switch at the island. I plan on connecting the pendants (and switch leg) to an existing 20A circuit and use 12/2 cable. An electrician told me that I need to use 14/2 cable for all lights and that a building inspector would not accept it otherwise, i.e., it would be against NEC code.

This restriction makes no sense. I know plenty of people that only have 20A or higher circuits throughout their entire house.

1) Is there an NEC code that restricts using 12/2 cable with lighting fixtures?
2) If so, what would be the reason for such a restriction?
3) What wrong with putting a switch on a kitchen island?


tommyxv 08-21-2013 01:26 PM

I'm interested in the responses for this as I ran a dedicated 20A circuit for half of my basement lights. I believe using 12/2 is just fine as long as all the devices are rated for it, but I am no expert so I'll wait to see what the qualified guys say. :)

Jim Port 08-21-2013 01:49 PM

That rule is not in the NEC. Perhaps a local amendment?

mpoulton 08-21-2013 02:16 PM

Is that guy actually a real electrician? There is no basis in the code for his statement.

rjniles 08-21-2013 02:38 PM

In the US lights and receptacles and any combination can be on a 20 amp circuit. The only restriction is that lights can not be connected to 20 amp small appliance receptacles in the kitchen. These are SABC (small appliance branch circuits).

Olsy 08-22-2013 08:28 PM

You can go larger in wire 12/2 instead of 14/2, but never the other way around...14/2 does not belong on a circuit with a 20 amp breaker, this is how fires start...the breaker protects the wire, 14 gauge wire is only good for 15 amps, NOT 20

kevinp22 08-22-2013 09:57 PM

Next logical step is to contact the local inspector and ask him/her. they are the ones that will ultimately pass/fail your work. I have a feeling the electrician may have misunderstood your questions.

if for some reason you must use 14 for these lights do not put them on a 20a circuit. you could probably tie into a nearby general purpose 15a circuit.

to answer your specific questions:
1. no it is not in the NEC
2. no idea
3. nothing wrong with having a switch on an island, but again ask your local inspector.

Jim Port 08-23-2013 09:54 AM

It would be a violation to tie the lights into one of the 20 amp small appliance circuits.

rojo527 08-23-2013 03:07 PM

I missed the NEC code about not tying lights to small-appliance circuits. [Ref: NEC2008 210.52(B)(2)]

Having said that, I'm not sure how to interpret the following NEC paragraph. 210.52(B)(3) Kitchen Receptacle Requirements. It says "Receptacles installed
in a kitchen to serve countertop surfaces shall be supplied by not fewer than two small-appliance branch circuits, either or both of which shall also be permitted to supply receptacle outlets in the same kitchen"

Earlier in the same section, NEC defines Cord Pendants as "A cord connector that is supplied by a permanently connected cord pendant shall be considered a
receptacle outlet." Does that mean that pendant lights can be connected to a small-appliance circuit because the lights are considered to be "receptacle outlets" and they are located in the same kitchen?

Jim Port 08-23-2013 03:23 PM

A light fixture would be an outlet, not a receptacle outlet. A receptacle outlet is where you would plug something into.

Lighting cannot be on the small appliance circuits.

Oso954 08-23-2013 03:31 PM


rojo527 08-23-2013 03:38 PM

Thanks, Jim. I was hoping I found a loophole in the NEC but I guess not. Maybe I can tap off a hallway light or receptacle without having to cut into the sheet-rock. There goes the weekend.

mpoulton 08-23-2013 04:02 PM

Are you sure the circuit you were planning to use is one of the required SABC's? Just because it's a 20A circuit that serves something in the kitchen doesn't mean it's necessarily one of the SABC's that you can't use for this.

Solarboy 08-23-2013 04:18 PM

The breaker is sized to fit the wire and devices. If everything is wired with #12, and all the outlets are rated at 20A, ok...but if one outlet or switch is rated at 15A, either the breaker or the device has to be changed.

Oso954 08-23-2013 04:33 PM

15 amp receptacles are rated 20 amp pass thru and are fine on a 20 amp circuit (in the US).

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