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Old 01-02-2009, 10:02 AM   #1
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


Hi. I am hoping for some consistent advice on the topic of reinstalling a GFI in my kitchen.

The other day a GFI in our kitchen tripped and then caught on fire (small thankfully) while the toaster, microwave, and coffee maker were all running on the circuit. The problem was isolated to the GFI according to the fire department and a local electrician (who wanted to charge $200 to change the GFI).

The GFI that burnt looks like a 15a polarized face; Can I replace this with a 20a face GFI? It may be hard to see in the picture, but along the left edge of the photo the burnt GFI is stamped with "20a," and at the bottom on the metal screw plate it is stamped "15a." So which one is correct?

using 20a vs. 15a GFI-img_0098.jpg

As far as I can tell, the wiring coming out of the box is 14/2. This circuit has this GFI and one additional outlet on it. House was built in 1999.

The "help" at the hardware store (local, not big-box) said either would be fine, but all I can find online indicates that only 15a is safe.

Thanks.
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:18 AM   #2
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


Cannot tell from the face markings, and no picture of the back or sides showing if there are any burnt places. As for the GFCI, yes they do go bad, and if sparks flew, means time to replace, and also have the electrician double check all outlets and switches. Those outlets without ACFI's, which where not needed back in 1999, may be a good choice at this time to keep possibilities of a next outlet fire from happening.
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:29 AM   #3
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


Thanks for the input. The other outlet on the circuit is fine. I don't have any pictures of the back of the GFI, but what I can tell you is that the "hot wire" screwed into the "line" melted right at the screw; it is to this area where the damage was isolated.

No other damage is found in this circuit.

So the main question is:
Can this circuit safely handle a 20a GFI or do I need a 15a?

Also, if this helps, the circuit breaker is a 20a breaker downstairs in the box.

Regards/
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:30 AM   #4
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


Its just saying that the receptacle is rated 15 amps with 20 amp "feed through" terminals to other receptacle(s). You can replace it with a 20 amp especially if you're running all those appliances at one time. If you can, I'd try to split that up like relocating one of the appliances. Your kitchen should be wired with #12.
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:55 AM   #5
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


The one and most important thing I would be concerned about is that you say you have 14/2 coming to the gfci which is on a 20amp breaker. you must change the breaker to a 15amp to match it to the wiring. as stated above, all kitchen countertop appliance outlets are suppose to be 20amp. supplied by 12 gauge wire.
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Old 01-02-2009, 11:16 AM   #6
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


I rechecked the wiring coming out of the box. I stand corrected to my prior statement; It looks like the wires going to the kitchen are 12. Thanks for having me recheck that. I feel more comfortable with the 20a GFI now.
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Old 01-02-2009, 05:04 PM   #7
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


Quote:
Originally Posted by 1gk123 View Post
I rechecked the wiring coming out of the box. I stand corrected to my prior statement; It looks like the wires going to the kitchen are 12. Thanks for having me recheck that. I feel more comfortable with the 20a GFI now.
A 20 amp gfci will be a waste of money, and offer no benefit for you.
A 15 amp rated gfci will still offer 20 amp feed through.
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Old 01-02-2009, 08:28 PM   #8
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


if I were a betting man, I would bet that a loose terminal screw was the root of your problem and that arcing caused the conductor to weld itself!
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:52 PM   #9
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


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if I were a betting man, I would bet that a loose terminal screw was the root of your problem and that arcing caused the conductor to weld itself!
I am a betting man and would bet you are are right on the money. I have seen this happen before. The wire gets inserted, then inadvertently it does not get tightened for some reason, or does not get tightened enough. Just replace the recept, make sure the wires are good and tight and forget about it.
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Old 01-03-2009, 09:58 PM   #10
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using 20a vs. 15a GFI


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A 20 amp gfci will be a waste of money, and offer no benefit for you.
A 15 amp rated gfci will still offer 20 amp feed through.
DO make sure that your 15 amp gfci can handle 20 amps. I have seen 15 amp gfci outlets that can only handle 15 amps.

On the outlet that you said you saw 15amp and 20 amp, this means it is built to handle 20 amps, but the plug layout is for 15 amp only.

Also, for clarification, the layout I am referring to is where you have a horizontal slot on the left prong. This configuration is for 20 amp devices, but is not required to be rated for 20 amps.

Last edited by kellenjb; 01-03-2009 at 10:03 PM.
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