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Old 07-03-2010, 03:10 PM   #1
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mixed gauge wire on 15 amp circuit


During a recent ceiling fan installation, I noticed that the electrician whom I hired to install a subpanel moved a 15 amp circuit onto a 20 amp breaker (I noticed since it's the circuit I had to turn off to install the fan. I know it used to be on a 15 amp breaker because I had carefully mapped all the circuits a few years previously). I am guessing that the electrician did this because the first leg of that circuit coming out of the breaker box to an outlet on a stairwell is 12 gauge wire, and as far as I can tell from routing about in the attic and inspecting the outlets the remainder of the wires on the circuit are 14 gauge. Certainly all the receptacles are 15 amps. I know for sure that I need to get the circuit back onto a 15 amp breaker, but what I am not certain about is whether I need to get that first leg of 12 gauge wire replaced with 14 gauge as well. The first outlet has a 12 gauge wire coming in and a 14 gauge going out.

Also, I am wondering whether I should have that electrician come back and make the switch and if it is reasonable to expect that he shouldn't charge me for that (meaning, was it a reasonable or an unreasonable mistake on his part)? Thanks for any advice.

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Old 07-03-2010, 03:29 PM   #2
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mixed gauge wire on 15 amp circuit


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Old 07-03-2010, 03:39 PM   #3
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mixed gauge wire on 15 amp circuit


You do not have to replace the #12 wire with #14. The rule is you cannot use anything smaller than #12 on a 20 amp breaker and #14 on a 15 amp breaker. You can use as large wire as you want.

In fact, larger wire is often used to overcome what is called voltage drop or voltage loss due to a long distance the circuit is run. Wire is resistive and the longer it is, the more resistance it will have. That causes voltage loss as the resistance adds. Larger wire has a lower resistance so often times, a larger wire is used to prevent those voltage losses.

and if it is a simple swap, yes, I would expect the electrician to do it for free. What he did actually makes your house not meet "code". If there is no way to simply swap it to another 15 amp circuit and you would need another breaker or subpanel, then he could rightfully charge you for that additional work.
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:07 PM   #4
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mixed gauge wire on 15 amp circuit


Thank you for the concise and helpful post. From all I have read it seemed logical to be able to use a larger wire, but truly there is a lot of conflicting information on the internet about the question of mixing them. It seems that the reasoning of those against it tends to be more related to the danger of having someone later on misinterpret the capacity of the circuit and make the mistake that my electrician did. Perhaps they have a point.

Anyway, based on your input I will stop fretting about that leg of wire :-).
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:20 PM   #5
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mixed gauge wire on 15 amp circuit


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It seems that the reasoning of those against it tends to be more related to the danger of having someone later on misinterpret the capacity of the circuit and make the mistake that my electrician did. Perhaps they have a point.
they do have a point as it can easily happen, just as it did with you.
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