You can use 14/2 wire for outlets as long as the outlets are on a 15-amp circuit. If the outlets are on a 20-amp circuit, 14/2 wire is not sufficient. You will have to step up to 12/2 wire for all outlets on 20-amp circuits. Using 14-gauge wire (such as 14/2) to wire outlets on a 20-amp circuit can result in overheating and a dangerous electrical fire. Before wiring an outlet, make sure to check your breaker box to find the amperage of the circuit you are working on.
Table of Contents
What is 14/2 Wire?
14/2 is a jacketed cable that contains three 14-gauge electrical wires. The first is a black “hot” wire. The second is a white “hot” wire. The third is a green or bare copper ground wire. 14/2 is sold in spools and is a very common gauge of wire for residential use.
What is 14-Gauge Wire Used For?
14/2 electrical wire can be used for outlets and lights that are on 15-amp circuits. Most commonly, it is used to power light fixtures that require low amperage.
- 14-gauge wire, such as 14/2, is mostly used for wiring light fixtures on 15-amp circuits.
- You can use 14-gauge wire for outlets on 15-amp circuits.
- If your outlet is on a 20-amp circuit, 14-gauge wire is not sufficient. You must step up to at least 12-gauge wire.
Although 14-gauge wire can be used for outlets, it’s more common to find 12-gauge wire in use for this purpose. This is because 12-gauge wire is the minimum size for outlets on a 20-amp circuit. 14-gauge wire can’t handle this amperage. So, it can only be used for low-amperage outlets.
What is the Maximum Amperage 14/2 Wire Can Handle?
14/2 wire can safely be used on circuits with an amperage up to 15 amps. It is dangerous and illegal to use 14/2 wire on a 20-amp circuit. Choosing the correct wire gauge based on your circuit amperage is essential to safe wiring.
- 15 amps is the maximum amperage 14/2 wire can safely conduct.
- Never use 14/2 wire for an outlet on a circuit conducting more than 15 amps.
- Check your breaker box to determine the amperage of the breaker that controls the circuit you are working on.
In order to determine the amperage of the circuit you’re working on, locate and open your breaker box. Find the breaker that controls power to the outlet. The amperage should be stamped on the handle of the breaker. A “15” indicates a 15-amp breaker. “20” indicates a 20-amp breaker. You will likely see higher numbers for circuits used to power large appliances.
Can You Run 14-Gauge Wire On a 20-Amp Circuit?
Never run 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit. 14-gauge wire is not rated to conduct that much electricity. Forcing 14-gauge wire to conduct 20 amps of power will cause the wire to overheat. In a best-case scenario, the breaker will flip to prevent dangerous overheating, but this will kill power to the circuit.
- It is dangerous to run 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit.
- Using 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit will result in overheating wires, which will flip the breaker or cause an electrical fire.
- Step up to at least 12-gauge wire for all 20-amp circuits.
In a worst-case scenario, 14-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit will overheat so much that it causes an electrical fire. Instead, review the uses of 12-gauge and 14-gauge wire for outlets. It’s imperative to use at least 12/2 wire on 20-amp circuits to prevent dangerous overheating and avert a fire.
How Many Outlets Can You Put On a 14/2 Wire?
A 15-amp circuit wired with 14/2 copper wire can power up to eight receptacles. “Receptacle” is the term for places where you can plug in an appliance. Most outlets have two receptacles, while some have four. If you are using standard two-receptacle outlets, you can wire four of them to a single 15-amp circuit using 14-gauge electrical wire.
- 14/2 wire on a 15-amp circuit can power 8 receptacles.
- Since most outlets have 2 receptacles, you can typically wire 4 outlets to a single 15-amp circuit using 14/2 wire.
- If you want to put additional outlets on the circuit, step up to a 20-amp outlet with 12/2 wire.
It’s important to note that a 20-amp circuit with 12-gauge wire can power 10 receptacles safely—this equals an extra outlet. If you want to put an extra outlet on a circuit, consider upgrading to a 20-amp circuit with heavier wiring.
Can 14/2 Wire Be Used For Lights?
Wiring light fixtures is one of the best uses of 14/2 wire. As long as the light is on a 15-amp circuit, you can use 14/2 wire to provide power to it. Just make sure the light itself requires no more than 15 amps. In many homes, 14/2 is the wire used for built-in lights.
- 14/2 wire can be safely used for lights wired to 15-amp circuits.
- Make sure the light you install does not require more than 15 amps of power.
- If your light needs more than 15 amps, you’ll need to wire it to a more powerful circuit with wire heavier than 14/2.
- 14/2 is seldom used for outlets because it cannot power certain appliances and tools.
Because some appliances (such as window AC units, shop vacuums, and power tools) require 20 amps of power, most home builders wire all outlets to 20-amp circuits with 12-gauge wire. 15-amp circuits simply can’t power these larger appliances. Just remember to use outlets and wire rated for 20 amps if you decide to replace your circuit breaker and step up to a higher amperage.
Can You Wire Outlets With 14/2 Romex?
You can use 14/2 Romex cable anywhere you can safely use standard 14/2 cable. This means that 14/2 Romex is capable of powering outlets that are on a 15-amp circuit. If you are wiring outlets on a circuit with amperage above 15 amps, you’ll need to use a heavier Romex cable to comply with electrical code.
- You can use Romex 14/2 anywhere it is safe to use standard 14/2 wire.
- Romex 14/2 can be used to wire outlets on a 15-amp circuit.
- Never use Romex 14/2 wire to wire outlets on a circuit with amperage higher than 15.
Remember, Romex cable is simply 14-gauge wire in a nonmetallic cable sheath. This sheath makes it easier for you to pull the cable through conduits, but it does not change the conducting ability of the wire itself. Romex 14/2 and standard 14/2 can be used interchangeably.
What Size Wire Should Be Used to Run an Outlet Circuit?
What size wire you use for your outlet depends primarily on the amperage of the circuit. Here are the rules for 14/2 wire:
- 14/2 wire can be used to wire outlets on circuits conducting 15 amps or lower.
- 14/2 wire cannot be used to wire outlets on 20-amp circuits.
- 12/2 wire can be used on both 15-amp and 20-amp circuits.
If you’re unsure of what wire to use for your job, consult a licensed electrician. It’s essential to use a heavy enough wire for your outlet to prevent a possible electrical fire.