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Old 05-30-2010, 09:54 PM   #1
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20A Line, 15A Receptacle


Hi everyone. First post here!

Long story, which I will try to make short.

Changing outlets to spruce up existing ones in my brother-in-law's newly purchased home. Some of the outlets are original and brown and grungy didn't go with the trim so they were changed. Typical stuff.

Ok, so one of them happened to be a 20A line for an in-wall AC. Unknown to me (and shame on me for not checking), my sister in law and wife bought a 15A outlet. I assumed it was 20A and it was rushed and DARK so I installed and and we flipped the switch at the box.

A few things:

1. The AC didn't work
2. There was a noticeable spark at the breaker switch
3. My wife said she heard a small click at the outlet level

Granted things can go wrong I'd assume when you have a lower rated outlet on a higher juice line, but I am not sure what, if any, damage we may have caused by this.

I am ASSUMING that re-attaching the existing old outlet (which worked but was old and brown), or installing a new one at the correct 20A rating should make things right again, but we were kinda spooked and capped and taped the ends and left the breaker off for now.

The questions to you DIYers with hopefully some experience in this realm are:

1. Did our 15A outlet screw-up cause that small spark to show at the
breaker; and
2. Can this have caused any damage to the line that is unseen in the walls
and put us at risk for fire, etc.

Thanks for any feedback you folks can give me.
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Old 05-30-2010, 10:00 PM   #2
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What is the rating on the AC ?
I'm assuming its 120v & not 240v ?
If you connected a 120v outlet to 240v that would be a problem

I'm assuming it is a standard plug on the AC
Was the old outlet a single outlet or a duplex ?
New outlet a single outlet or a duplex ?



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Old 05-30-2010, 10:28 PM   #3
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Hi Scuba Dave. Thanks for answering.

The rating on the AC...I'll have to get that info from my bro-in-law. The old but functional outlet was a 125V/20A. The 'accidental' replacement was 125V/15A.

The thing is, the old outlet worked just fine before we tried to swap it out.

The old and new outlets are a single like the one pictured here:


Last edited by swataz; 05-30-2010 at 10:35 PM.
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Old 05-30-2010, 10:43 PM   #4
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Sounds more like something was touching something it wasn't supposed to or a wire got pinched somewhere. A 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is perfectly safe and code compliant so long as they are wired correctly. Since the 15 amp receptacle is incapable of accepting a 20 amp plug, you shouldn't have to worry about overloading the outlet.

To answer your questions:
1) no
2) no

With the wires capped and taped, flip the circuit breaker on again. That should tell you if the problem was at the outlet or in the wiring.
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Old 05-30-2010, 10:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fpeftw View Post
Sounds more like something was touching something it wasn't supposed to or a wire got pinched somewhere. A 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is perfectly safe and code compliant so long as they are wired correctly. Since the 15 amp receptacle is incapable of accepting a 20 amp plug, you shouldn't have to worry about overloading the outlet.

To answer your questions:
1) no
2) no

With the wires capped and taped, flip the circuit breaker on again. That should tell you if the problem was at the outlet or in the wiring.
Is this right? It seems wrong to me, but it's 11:49 and F1 on DVR has been really exciting.
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Old 05-30-2010, 11:02 PM   #6
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Thanks for the responses folks.

I rewired the thing exactly how it was wired when I popped it off.

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps there was too much exposed wire when I re-attached the black and white.

I really can't think of what else could have gone wrong in light of fpeftw's comments about it being safe and code as well.

Scratching my head at the moment, but I will give it a shot and flip it on again tomorrow.

Thanks for the answers thus far! Pretty happenin' and responsive group in here...I like it!

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Old 05-30-2010, 11:06 PM   #7
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You need to give more details....both the old and new outlets cannot look like the one pictured if one is 20A and the other is 15A.

What does the nameplate of the AC show for volts/amps?
What does the original plus of the AC look like?
Was anything else on this circuit changed? It is possible your problem lies in another receptacle that you messed with.

Your picture shows a single 125V/ 20A receptacle.

If your plug has the one horizontal prong, then it requires a 20A receptacle.

If you replaced it with a single 125V/ 15A receptacle and you were able to plug in your AC (assuming it has the original cord from the mfg on it) then your AC only requires a 15A receptacle. In that case, it would not have been a problem unless it was miswired or another problem exists.

...wiring when rushed or in the dark is not a good idea
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Old 05-31-2010, 12:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by williswires View Post
You need to give more details....both the old and new outlets cannot look like the one pictured if one is 20A and the other is 15A.

What does the nameplate of the AC show for volts/amps?
What does the original plus of the AC look like?
Was anything else on this circuit changed? It is possible your problem lies in another receptacle that you messed with.

Your picture shows a single 125V/ 20A receptacle.

If your plug has the one horizontal prong, then it requires a 20A receptacle.

If you replaced it with a single 125V/ 15A receptacle and you were able to plug in your AC (assuming it has the original cord from the mfg on it) then your AC only requires a 15A receptacle. In that case, it would not have been a problem unless it was miswired or another problem exists.

...wiring when rushed or in the dark is not a good idea
Willis-

The old receptacle was the same kind as the one shown, only older and brown. The plug has two vertical and one ground as a normal plug would.

The original receptacle we attempted to replace was stamped with a 20A/125V. The AC is brand new and also worked just fine before our attempts. It has a GFI apparatus attached to the plug.

Also, while not disagreeing with you about the 15A plug, the one that I attempted to replace the old one with the other day was rated 15A but looked very similar to what I posted earlier - it may possibly be this one from HD:



I have replaced scores of outlets including those dedicated to ACs, including ones with the one horizontal prong in my home without incident. Yes, you are right about the dark and rushed wiring job. Not too bright.

Were I the one who bought the outlet I would have replaced with a like unit...but that is another story altogether!

At the breaker side, there was a 20A switch associated with the bedroom AC (the culprit here) so I am going to assume there is something else afoot here.

I am at a slight disadvantage as this is not my home and I don't have access to the parts and a chance to post photos from the home itself.

Thank you for your feedback though.

Last edited by swataz; 05-31-2010 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 05-31-2010, 02:14 AM   #9
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I know you mention window shaker { window A/C unit } but once a while if you have correct receptale but not verify the voltage at the recepetale I know the older unit I am NOT suprised that was wired for 240 volts and did not move the white conductor from fuse or breaker to proper neutal bussbar.

If it was wired correct it should not make any spark at all make sure you check the ground conductor not touching the hot conductors also look inside the junction box for any sharp edges or something can nick the insualationg materals that can cause a short.

Merci,Marc
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Old 05-31-2010, 08:06 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leah Frances View Post
Is this right? It seems wrong to me, but it's 11:49 and F1 on DVR has been really exciting.
It's almost right. 210.21B1 If you have an individual 20 amp circuit like for items like a dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, A/C unit, etc you need to use a receptacle of the same rating. If there are more than one devices on the same circuit though, like in a bathroom, kitchen, then you can use 15 amp receptacles.

The receptacles have no way of sensing how large the breaker is and therefore you won't trip the breaker just by putting in the wrong receptacle.

As Marc has reiterated, it's more likely that wires were touching one another in the box.
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Old 05-31-2010, 08:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fpeftw View Post
Sounds more like something was touching something it wasn't supposed to or a wire got pinched somewhere. A 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is perfectly safe and code compliant so long as they are wired correctly. Since the 15 amp receptacle is incapable of accepting a 20 amp plug, you shouldn't have to worry about overloading the outlet.

To answer your questions:
1) no
2) no

With the wires capped and taped, flip the circuit breaker on again. That should tell you if the problem was at the outlet or in the wiring.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leah Frances View Post
Is this right? It seems wrong to me, but it's 11:49 and F1 on DVR has been really exciting.
You are correct Leah
A simplex 15a outlet can't be installed on a 20a circuit under NEC code
A 15a DUPLEX can

You also run into AC size VS entire circuit & if a dedicated circuit with a simplex outlet isrequired
Another problem is what start up powerr does an AC use when it initially starts?
All of my window units are 12k BTU or larger & on a 12g 20a circuit
I have plugged them into existing 12g 20 circuits with a 15a duplex without a problem



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Old 05-31-2010, 08:13 AM   #12
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It is very possible that the wires touching scenario is the culprit. The ground wire itself was almost completely unsheathed inside the box, It was bare, actually. And there was probably more exposed wire than I would normally want inside, even with electrical tape wrapping everything around teh receptacle. Chances are something was touching SOMETHING in there, hence the issues. I will find out for sure later on and report back my findings!

Thanks to the feedback on this thread, I am at least less worried that I am responsible for destroying my brother-in-law's fuse box and receptacle before he is in his new house a month!!

Thanks everyone!
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Old 05-31-2010, 08:32 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
You are correct Leah
A simplex 15a outlet can't be installed on a 20a circuit under NEC code
A 15a DUPLEX can
Not quite. If the circuit for an individual load, then you must use a simplex receptacle. If you rewrite the use of that circuit in the panel box, then you can use a duplex receptacle.

To clarify, you can use 15 amp simplex receptacles on a 20 amp circuit.

Last edited by fpeftw; 05-31-2010 at 09:35 AM. Reason: highlighted plural
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Old 05-31-2010, 09:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fpeftw View Post
.

To clarify, you can use 15 amp simplex receptacles on a 20 amp circuit.

Article 210.21(B)(1) states

A single receptacle installed on an individual branch circuit shall have a rating not less than that of the branch circuit.
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Old 05-31-2010, 09:33 AM   #15
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Correct if it were one receptacle but more than one receptacle = not an individual branch circuit. See article and table 210.21B3
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