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15 Amp vs. 20 Amp Electrical Outlets: Benefits and Differences

15 Amp vs. 20 Amp Electrical Outlets: Benefits and Differences

In the United States, almost all electrical systems use 120-volt electric circuits. However, they differ when it comes to amps, as both 15 amp and 20 amp outlets can be found. This variation in outlets comes from a difference in the demand for both outlets and means that they are used in different situations. To help you improve the electrical system in your home, we have created an outline of the differences between 15 amp vs 20 amp outlets and the benefits of each.

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How to Tell Them Apart

15 amp and 20 amp electrical outlets look incredibly similar. However, there are a few differences that indicate which one you have. 15 amp outlets are by far the most common. These are the outlets you typically see in America. They consist of two vertical slots and a grounding hole directly above or below.

20 amp outlets are very similar. They have all of the same holes in all of the same locations. However, a 20 amp outlet has a small horizontal slot that extends from the side of one of the vertical slots. So, a 20 amp electrical outlet looks exactly the same except for one additional notch. This difference in design prevents a 20 amp device from being plugged into a 15 amp outlet. You can still plug a 15 amp device into a 20 amp outlet, but the inverse is not possible.

To determine the type of outlet, you can refer to your electrical panel. Outlets with 15 amp circuits will have 14-gauge wires, while 20 amp circuits will have either 12- or 10-gauge wires. The next time you inspect your electrical panel or undergo an electrical panel replacement, you can use this information to identify the circuits.

2-Prong vs. 3-Prong Electrical Outlets: Benefits and Differences


While these two outlets may look similar, they are designed for different purposes. Specifically, they are designed to handle devices with different power requirements.

15 amp outlets are designed with universal appeal in mind. They are cost-efficient, widely available, and suitable for powering the vast majority of everyday products. On a regular basis, most people will almost exclusively use 15 amp outlets.

However, there are situations where 20 amp outlets are necessary. This is because 20 amp outlets are designed to handle devices that need more power. This usually means powerful kitchen equipment like refrigerators or electric stoves. These types of equipment would be unable to run off the power provided by a 15 amp outlet.

If you are constructing a new home, renovating your current one, or seeking electrical services to make upgrades, it’s crucial to consider the electrical outlet requirements. Ensure that your kitchen has sufficient 20 amp outlets placed near the devices that require them. The same is true for any other rooms that contain such devices.

You should be aware of what devices you plan to put in your home and the power requirements behind these devices. Next, you can plan an electrical outlet installation project to match these device locations.

Read More: How to Wire a Power Outlet For an Electric Stove

Can You Run a 15 Amp Outlet on a 20 Amp Circuit?

The answer is yes if you’re wondering if you can run a 15 amp outlet on a 20 amp circuit. In fact, this is a pretty ideal situation.

This is because you don’t want to overload the circuit. So, to avoid doing this, you should avoid loading a circuit with anything more significant than 80% of its ampacity. 80% of 20 is 16, which obviously means that a 15 amp outlet would fall below this ampacity.

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Electrical Installation and Replacement Services

Trying to figure out whether to place a 15 amp vs. 20 amp outlet in your home? Our team of technicians is available to help. Our emergency electricians in Philadelphia, PA offer exceptional electrical outlet installation services for homes. We offer reliable installation and upgrading of electrical outlets, as well as repair of broken or damaged outlets that could cause issues.

Our technicians offer other types of electrical services including light fixture installation, ceiling fan replacement, electrical panel upgrades, and whole-home generator installation. Our comprehensive services are equipped to handle any electrical task you require. Do not hesitate to give us a call at (484) 206-8594 to receive assistance installing a new electrical outlet or with other electrical issues in your house.