How Many Outlets on a 20 Amp Circuit In a Garage? Let’s Find Out.

The circuit breaker in your home’s electrical panel is a crucial safety device designed to disconnect power in case of an electric overload. This measure can go a long way in preventing electrical cables from overheating due to an overload or power surges that could burn down your home.

Various circuit breakers have different ratings and will disconnect power when the current passing through it exceeds its rating. 

Many homeowners in the United States are familiar with the 20 amp circuit, the most common in the country. But how many outlets on a 20 amp circuit in a garage 

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How many outlets on a 20 amp circuit in a garage

While the National Electric Code (NEC) does not have a specific rule limiting the number of outlets you can install on your garage circuit, you must not overload your circuit based on its rating. 

The lack of a cap on the number of outlets per circuit is because outlets only draw electrical power once something is plugged in. Therefore, a 20-amp circuit can theoretically have a limitless number of outlets without overloading the breaker as long as they are not all plugged in simultaneously. 

Practically, though, installing too many outlets can easily lead to overloading the breaker due to the temptation to plug in something in each outlet. 

So, how many outlets on a 20-amp circuit?

The general rule is to have a maximum of 10 outlets on your 20-amp circuit. While at it, we recommend complying with the 80-percent rule of circuits and breaker loads that allow approximately 1.5 amps of maximum load per receptacle. 

In theory, you can put up to 13 devices to max out the power draw out of your circuit. Each outlet or receptacle is 1.5 amperes; multiply this by 13 devices, and you get a total power draw of 19.5 amps out of the 20 amp circuit. 

In reality, connecting up to 20-amps worth of devices will most likely fry your 20-amp circuit. This is because the electrical appliances you plug into an electrical outlet typically draw more power during startup. 

Therefore, you must factor in these expected power surges to safely use your circuit and breaker. Otherwise, the circuit will constantly trip if it is approximately 90 percent occupied.

This risk is why NEC recommends limiting your circuit and breaker load to 80 percent or less when allocating outlets.

The 80-percent rule allows unexpected power surges to occur without affecting your electrical system. The circuit will have the much-needed free space that the big appliances in your garage can safely consume. 

Based on this rule, you should have a maximum of ten outlets. Each outlet or receptacle draws 1.5 amperes, and 80 percent of a 20-amp circuit on a 120V system is 16-amps (1920 watts).

If you divide 16 amps by the 1.5-amp load of each receptacle, you get 10.67, corresponding to approximately ten devices. In other words, you should never put more than 16-amps worth of electrical appliances on your 20-amp circuit.

As long as you comply with this restriction, you can plug in a device in each outlet simultaneously without tripping your breaker. 

How to properly manage your outlets?

To properly manage your outlets, begin by complying with the 80-percent NEC regulation that requires that you limit the usage of a 20-amp circuit to 16-amps.

The 20-amp rating of a circuit does not mean the current flow of the circuit is 20 amperes. Instead, the rating indicates the amount of electrical energy that can safely pass through the rated circuit.

While you can put as many outlets or receptacles as you want on a 20-amp circuit, it helps to limit their number to the maximum amperage that they can safely draw from the circuit.

That said, here are some of the tried and true ways to properly manage your outlets.

A receptacle won’t draw current unless you plug something into it. But if you’re planning to max out the ten electrical outlets limit for every 20-amp circuit you have in the house, that’s where things can go wrong.

Installing too many outlets can lead to drawing too much power from the circuit by plugging in electrical appliances on many or all of the outlets. Doing so can lead to the overheating of electrical wires and a fire hazard. 

Limiting the number of outlets per circuit to the recommended maximum (ten outlets or receptacles on a 20-amp circuit) will help eliminate the possibility of overloading the circuit. 

Additionally, electrical appliances draw different amounts of power, so you want to ensure you allow room to accommodate the expected power surges from heavy-power-consuming devices and power tools used in the garage. 

  • Make a layout plan when installing the outlets

Set aside dedicated outlets for the heavy power consumers you will likely use in the garage. 

Consider dividing the outlets in your garage into two separate circuits and add lights for a balanced electrical load and avoid circuit breaker tripping.

You can set aside a single circuit for the lights, merging them because they draw a lot less power than any other electrical appliances you will likely plug into the outlets.

Everything else, including the garage door opener, should have dedicated outlets to spread the load. 

  • Limit the number of plugged devices at each time 

Always keep in mind what is plugged in at every moment. Once you have installed the required number of outlets per circuit, ensure you know which ones are in each circuit. 

After that, be aware of the circuit usage so you can limit how many outlets you use simultaneously. If you can use only one, two, or a few dedicated outlets on a circuit at a time, you should be fine. 

Additional tips for managing outlets properly 

Sometimes you may be unable to limit your power usage, ending up drawing more than the recommended wattage from a circuit. If this happens, here are some guidelines you can follow to mitigate your electrical load and avoid overloading the circuit.

  • Turn off some appliances connected to the circuit you are currently using so that fewer things draw electrical power concurrently. For example, unplug the automatic garage door opener when working with power tools inside the garage. 
  • Transfer plug-in devices that you cannot turn off to a different circuit with unused wattage. Your circuit calculations should reveal which circuits are working harder than others, so you can redistribute the usage and lessen the load on overused circuits. 
  • Replace any replaceable halogen or incandescent light bulbs in your garage with energy-efficient options, preferably LED or fluorescent bulbs. This measure will significantly reduce your home’s lighting loads. 
  • If all the above measures are insufficient, install new circuits for the high-demand electrical appliances, such as the big power tools you operate in the garage workshop. A new 20-amp circuit will introduce a few additional outlets to power your devices safely.

What type of outlet is best for my circuit?

The best outlet for your circuit is one that follows the national and local electrical codes. It should also be of a compatible design that works with the plug your electrical appliances have. So, keep your devices in mind when choosing the outlets for your circuit. 

The outlet must also be rated for your circuit. For instance, a 15 amp outlet will likely resemble a 20 amp option for most people. But they are not identical, and you must start by noting the difference to avoid purchasing a 15-amp outlet for your 20-amp garage circuit.

Ideally, a 20 amp outlet should have one side with a T-shaped hole as the standout feature designed for 20-amp plugs. 

This feature sets it apart from 15-amp outlets, which have two plug holes as a standard. 

The 15-amp receptacle will be suitable for low-power or standard household accessories and electrical appliances like chargers and lamps. On the other hand, you will require a 20-amp outlet for your garage door opener and other heavy-duty appliances, including the power tools you may run in the garage workshop.

Remember that both 15-amp and 20-amp outlets can connect to your 20-amp circuit, but they will use wires of different thicknesses. 

A 20-amp circuit uses 12-gauge wires, while a 15-amp circuit uses a thinner 14-gauge wire. You can easily avoid incompatibility issues when you keep these details in mind when deciding your options.

Caveat: While a 20-amp circuit can work with a 15-amp outlet, a 15-amp circuit will not work with a 20-amp outlet. 

Should I upgrade my 15-amp circuit to a 20-amp?

If you currently have a 15-amp circuit in your garage, you should consider upgrading to a 20 amp because you will have problems running heavy-duty electrical appliances on the 15-amp circuit. 

So, while the decision to upgrade your circuit is optional, your usage may dictate your options. In any case, the standard power usage in the garage today requires a 20-amp circuit, so upgrading from a 15-amp circuit is a good idea. 

Ensure you have a professional electrician complete the upgrade for you to guarantee safety. Performing such an exercise yourself can put your garage and home in danger. 

Do you need a dedicated circuit in a garage?

Yes, you need dedicated circuits in your garage and any part of your home where you frequently run power tools. A dedicated circuit and outlet can help heavy-duty equipment function smoothly. 

Dedicated circuits and outlets can also provide the garage and your home with a safer way to consume high loads of electricity. 

How high does a plug have to be in a garage?

As a rule, receptacle outlets in the garage need to be in every vehicle bay. When installing these receptacles, ensure each of them sits at a maximum height of 5 feet from the floor.

You can install a receptacle outlet at a distance not exceeding five feet above the floor, but not more, according to building codes. 

Do garage outlets need to be AFCI?

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection is optional in garages. While the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires this protection for 20 and 15-amp circuits in all new residential areas, the bathrooms, outdoor areas, and garages are exempt from this requirement.

The video below describes the Receptacles or Outlets required for a 20amp Circuit Breaker. Watch and stand more guided.

Frequently Asked Questions-FAQs 

Q1. How many outlets can you run off a 20-amp circuit?

You can run as many outlets as you want off a 20 amp circuit, but ten receptacle outlets are generally recommended. With each outlet drawing a maximum of 1.5 amperes of electrical power, ten receptacles will draw approximately 16 amps required by NEC.

Running a maximum of ten outlets off a 20-amp circuit, therefore, allows you to remain compliant with the 80 percent or 16-amp rule.

Q2. How many amp outlets do I need for my garage?

Garages typically run off at least one 20-ampere circuit of a 120-volt system. This circuit requires corresponding 20-ampere outlets to support the high power needs of the electrical appliances in the garage. 

You will generally require 20-amp outlets whether your garage is attached or detached from your house. 

Q3. Can I put 12 outlets on a 20-amp circuit?

Theoretically, you can put as many outlets on a 20-amp circuit as you want. But this is not recommended as it will increase the risk of overloading your circuit, causing the breaker to trip frequently. So it is recommended to put at most ten outlets on a 20 amp circuit.

Q4. How many outlets can you have in a garage?

The number of outlets you can have in a garage depends on how many vehicle bays you have in the garage. The basic rule is to have one garage receptacle outlet installed in each vehicle bay, no more than 5.5 feet above the garage floor. 

How many outlets on a 20 amp circuit in a garage: final thoughts 

The simple answer to the question of how many outlets to have on a 20 amp circuit is ten receptacle outlets. This helps you comply with the 80-percent circuit and breaker load rule, which allows a power load of at most 1.5 amperes per outlet.

Complying with this requirement is the surest way to avoid overloading your circuit and risking overheating your electrical wires, potentially causing a fire outbreak in your home. 

Additionally, the circuit, outlets, and wire sizes must be compatible to avoid electrical hazards. We hope this comprehensive write-up helps answer your question.