How Can I Tell if My Outlets Are 15 Amps or 20? Answered!

Many people get confused when differentiating between 15 and 20 amps outlets. To easily guess which is which, you will need to be experienced in these tasks; however, there is a solution to every problem. You can determine if it’s a 15 or 20 amps outlet by looking for sure signs on the outlets.

How Can I Tell if My Outlets Are 15 Amps or 20?

You will need to look for the slots on the outlet; if the outlet has two slots, one with a U-shaped ground and the other is vertical. Then, the outlet is a 15 amps outlet; the first slot is used for the hot wire connection and the other for the neutral wire connection.

Meanwhile, if it has a vertical slot and the other slot has a T shape, it’s a 20 amps outlet. The vertical slot is used for the hot wire; meanwhile, the T-shaped slot is used for the neutral wire and a ground connection. The shapes of the slots are the easiest way to determine if you have a 15 or 20-amp outlet; if you have an experienced eye, you can tell which at first sight.

What’s the Difference Between 15-Amps and 20-Amps Outlets?

15-Amps Outlet

In any regular household, you will find devices that use low power; the 15-amp outlet is the most common receptacle to connect these devices. The 15-amp outlet can power many devices like television, lamps, and other electronics; however, the limit of this type of outlet is 12 amps. 

This outlet will be installed in rooms where low-power devices are used, like bedrooms and living rooms. An advantage of a 15-ampere outlet is that its circuit only needs a 14 AWG wire installed. In addition, 15-ampere outlets have two designs; the first comes with three slots or holes.

The three slots design is used for hot, neutral, and ground connections. The second design comes with two slots, the first slot for the hot wire connection, meanwhile the second slot for a neutral wire connection. 

The Pros and Cons of 15-Ampere Outlet

Pros Cons
You can find it in nearly every hardware store. The most apparent 15-ampere outlet con is that it can’t support high-power devices since its limit is 12 amperes.
It’s compatible with most household devices. It can not be used in heavy rooms like the kitchen and laundry rooms; the NEC states that a 20-ampere outlet should always be used in heavy rooms.
It costs less than the 20-ampere type.
Its circuit only requires a 14 AWG wire.

20-Ampere Outlet

This outlet is designed especially for high-power devices like washing machines, refrigerators, and other devices. The 20-ampere outlet looks almost the same as the 15-ampere outlet; however, there is a slight difference that you can differentiate them by it.

The second slot in the 20-ampere outlet has the shape of a “T” letterThe high-power appliances can be directly connected to a 20-ampere outlet as they can supply the necessary power and amperes. You can find this outlet in heavy rooms like laundry rooms and kitchens. Another place where you find a 20-ampere outlet used is outdoors, and it is connected to GFCI for safety.

The Pros and Cons of 20-Ampere Outlet

Pros Cons
It can safely supply high-power appliances. It costs more than the 15-ampere outlet.
It can be used for industrial use. Its circuit costs more as it needs a 12 or 10 AWG wire and a 20-ampere circuit breaker.
Sometimes it comes with GFCI for protection.

The 15-ampere and 20-ampere outlets mainly differ in the ampere ratings. They also differ in other points like the design, circuit breaker, and the type of appliances they can supply (Low-powered or High-powered). For example:

Design

The prongs design in the two outlets is different; the 15-ampere outlet has two slots, one with a U-shaped ground and the other is vertical. The first slot is used for the hot wire connection, and the other for the neutral wire connection. The 20-ampere has two slots, one T-shaped and the other vertical; the vertical slot is used for the hot wire; meanwhile, the T-shaped slot is used for the neutral wire and a ground connection.

Circuit Breaker

The 20-ampere outlet will need a 20-ampere circuit breaker to be installed for safety; meanwhile, the 15-ampere outlet doesn’t need a circuit breaker. The 15-ampere out is used to operate low-powered appliances; therefore, a circuit breaker is unnecessary. In the 20-ampere circuit, it’s recommended that you install a GFCI or a circuit breaker.

Usage

If you have a faulty 15-ampere outlet, you can replace it with a 20-ampere outlet without harm. However, it’s not the same case if you have a faulty 20-ampere; you can not replace it with a 15-ampere. The 15-ampere outlet has a max limit of 12 amperes, so it will not operate the same devices as the 20-amperes outlet.

Source

Which is Better, a 15-Amperes Outlet or a 20-Amperes Outlet?

To determine which outlet is better and suitable for you, you will need to know the ratings of your devices and their power usage. The 15-ampere outlet is used for low-powered appliances like television and lamps; therefore, you can see this type of outlet in your living room or bedroom.

The 15-ampere outlet costs less than the 20-ampere outlet; in addition, the circuit of the 15-amp outlet costs less because it only needs a 14 AWG wire. The 20-ampere outlet is used for high-power appliances like refrigerators, blenders, microwaves, and washing machines.

You can find the 20-ampere outlet in your kitchen and laundry room; this type of outlet costs more than the 15-ampere one. In addition, the circuit of the 20-ampere outlet costs more than the 15-amp outlet circuit because it uses either 12 or 10 AWG wires in addition to a circuit breaker. 

After knowing the ratings and the difference between the two types, you can determine which is best for your household. But remember that if you use many appliances, you should go for the 20-amperes outlet as it comes with a circuit breaker.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is a 20-Amp Outlet Required?

You need to install the 20-amp outlet in heavy rooms with high-powered appliances like laundry rooms and kitchens. For example, in the laundry room, the outlet is used for washing machines; meanwhile, in the kitchen, it can be used for appliances like blenders, microwaves, and other appliances. 

Another place where you find a 20-ampere outlet used is outdoors, and it is connected to GFCI for safety. For example, you can find 20-amp outlets in bars and swimming pools as it’s suitable for industrial use. 

Can You Replace a 15-Amp Outlet With a 20-Ampere Outlet?

If you want to replace a 15-ampere outlet with a 20-ampere outlet, you can do it without harm because the 20-amp outlet is used for high-powered appliances. However, it’s not the same if you want to replace a 20-ampere outlet with a 15-ampere because the 15-amp is used for low-powered appliances.

The 15-ampere outlet has a max limit of 12 amperes, so it will not operate the same devices as the 20-amperes outlet. If you try to replace a 20-ampere outlet with a 15-ampere outlet, this can lead to an overload on the outlet and may start a fire hazard. 

Conclusion

To summarize, you can tell the type of your outlet by looking for the difference in their design. For example, the 15-ampere outlet has two slots, one with a U-shaped ground and the other vertical. The first slot is used for the hot wire connection, and the other for the neutral wire connection.

The 20-ampere has two slots, one T-shaped and the other vertical; the vertical slot is used for the hot wire; meanwhile, the T-shaped slot is used for the neutral wire and a ground connection. To determine which outlet is best for you, you must consider your household demands first. 

The 15-ampere outlet can power many devices like television, lamps, and other electronics; however, the limit of this type of outlet is 12 amps. Meanwhile, the 20-ampere outlet is designed especially for high-power devices like washing machines, refrigerators, and other devices.

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