If you’ve ever grown frustrated by a lack of outlets in your Charlotte, NC, home, you may have wondered what you could do to remedy that. There are two different ways that an electrician might go about installing more outlets in your home. If you have the space in your main electrical box for additional circuit breakers, they could run a whole new circuit to add outlets where you want them. If you don’t have room or running a new circuit would be overkill for what you need, they might instead add outlets to an existing circuit. But how many outlets can you have on a single circuit? Here’s some information to help you understand your options.
110V or 220V?
In American homes, there are two voltages that you will find. High-voltage circuits run major, high-demand appliances like ovens, clothes dryers and furnaces. These circuits typically only run one item by itself and cannot support items that run on 110 volts without an adapter. The vast majority of electrical items in an American home run on 110 volts. Because of this, 110V circuits will be the type of circuit discussed in this blog.
All Circuits Aren’t Equal
The first thing you need to know to determine how many outlets a given circuit can support is how many amps its circuit breaker can handle. This will also tell you how much current the circuit’s wiring can safely handle. In the average home, you’ll find two different amperages for circuits that support most outlets.
The first and most common amperage for a circuit that supports outlets is 15 amps. This is what you’d typically find for circuits that power outlets in living spaces throughout your home. That’s enough capacity to support an array of ordinary electrical devices like lamps, televisions, and other low-wattage devices.
The second common amperage you’ll find in the average home’s outlet circuits is 20 amps. This is typically the amperage you’ll find on circuits that power outlets in your kitchen, your home’s bathrooms, and other areas that might have higher-wattage devices plugged in. The extra power makes it possible, for example, to plug in a refrigerator with enough amperage left over to power a toaster, a microwave, or other power-hungry small devices.
You may also find 20-amp circuits powering the outlets and lighting of two rooms. Or, you might find a 20-amp circuit handling all of the outlets in three rooms, with a separate 15-amp circuit powering the three rooms’ lights.
Maximum Number of Outlets by Amperage
It may surprise you to know that the National Electrical Code doesn’t specify how many outlets you can connect to a circuit, regardless of its size. Instead, it merely specifies that you can only have outlets equivalent to 80% of the capacity of the circuit. The reason for that is simple. It’s that you have to take what you plan to plug into the outlets into account, too. The idea is to populate your circuits with less than the theoretical maximum number of outlets it can support, so you won’t trip your breakers all the time.
Since it’s impossible to foresee every possible use of a circuit, electricians generally assume that each outlet will serve a maximum of 1.5 amps at any given time. Using that as a guideline, you could have up to 8 outlets attached to a single 15-amp circuit. That assumes, of course, that there’s nothing else attached to the circuit besides the outlets. For a 20-amp circuit, that number rises to 10 outlets. Electricians will also add hardwired items on the circuit, like light fixtures, to your total of outlets when doing this calculation.
It is worth noting that those are the maximum outlet counts based on average expected usage. In reality, you can add as many outlets to a circuit as you wish, just as long as you never used more than eight of them at the same time or if you only used low-wattage devices on the circuit’s outlets simultaneously.
How to Estimate Your Power Needs
If you have circuits in your home that already have the maximum recommended number of outlets attached to them, it may be possible to add more, anyway. Doing so, however, would require you to estimate your power needs for the outlets in question.
To do that, you would need to add up the wattage of all of the devices you plan to plug into the circuit’s outlets. You can find this information on each device, either on an affixed label or printed on its power plug. Once you have that information, you can plug it into a formula to convert your total to a value in amps.
To do it, just divide your total wattage by 120. Using that formula, you’d want to be sure that you’re not using devices that draw more than 1,440 watts at once on a 15-amp circuit. On a 20-amp circuit, you could operate devices totaling up to 1,920 watts simultaneously. Both figures would keep you within the recommended 80% capacity of each circuit.
Using that information, you could decide that some of the circuits in your home could support some additional outlets. However, if you added those outlets, you would have to keep in mind the circuit’s limitations going forward. And if your power needs change in the future, you might be stuck with a circuit breaker that trips constantly, rendering those extra outlets useless.
Adding New Circuits Is Preferable
In most cases, it is unlikely that you’ll find circuits in your home that have significantly fewer outlets than they could safely handle. At most, you might be able to add one or two outlets to your home’s circuits without causing problems for yourself. In most cases, it’s a smarter long-term option to add new circuits to your main electrical panel to support the new outlets you want.
To do this, one of our electricians will evaluate your existing main electrical panel to see if it has the capacity and space for the additional circuit or circuits you need. In some cases, your home might need a new electrical panel or even a service upgrade from your grid provider. If so, our electricians can handle the whole process for you. And afterward, you’ll end up with a more future-proofed home with an electrical system that’s ready to meet your current and future power demands without difficulty.
Your Trusted Electrical Services Company
Since 1972, Acosta Heating, Cooling & Electrical has served homes and businesses throughout the Charlotte area. Our highly-trained and experienced electricians can handle all kinds of electrical projects, both large and small. They’re equally adept at replacing a light switch as they are at rewiring an entire home or building. Plus, we also offer a complete range of HVAC services, including installations, maintenance, and repairs. And we stand behind all of our work, which is the reason we’re Better Business Bureau accredited and have an A+ rating. Plus, we offer financing options on approved credit to help you better afford the products and services you need.
If you need to add some new outlets to your Charlotte home or business, call the experts at Acosta Heating, Cooling & Electrical today.