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  • 14 gauge pigtails

    I am unable to find an answer to this question in the NEC. In my home I have outlets wired with 12 gauge NM cable, and fed by a 20 amp breaker. So in the outlet boxes I have 12 gauge feed coming in connected to 12 gauge which leads to the next box, with a pigtail leading to the receptacle. The problem is that the pigtail in the junction box leading to the receptacle is 14 gauge. Is this permitted? Or was it permitted in 1985 when the house was built?

    Thanks,

    IButler

  • #2
    Re: 14 gauge pigtails

    It's not permitted now or in 1985. You must use #12 for the pigtails when you have a 20 amp breaker on the circuit. Some folks think this is okay. That's why the pigtails are there. It's not code compliant, but I see no safety issue.
    Licensed Electrician

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: 14 gauge pigtails

      As John said

      Cactus Man

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: 14 gauge pigtails

        Would it be permitted, IF the circuit breaker that feeds the circuit was 15 amp?

        Also, if the circuit is presently 20 amp doesn't if also have to have 20 amp rated receptacles, in addition to changing out the 14 gauge pigtails?

        Thanks,

        CWS

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: 14 gauge pigtails

          Originally posted by CWSmith View Post
          Would it be permitted, IF the circuit breaker that feeds the circuit was 15 amp?

          Also, if the circuit is presently 20 amp doesn't if also have to have 20 amp rated receptacles, in addition to changing out the 14 gauge pigtails?

          Thanks,

          CWS
          It would be permitted on a 15 amp breaker, but what a waste of wire.
          15 amp receptacles are allowed on a 20 amp breaker, as long as you have more than one.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: 14 gauge pigtails

            Also, a duplex outlet counts as two receptacles; so a regular 15-amp outlet with two plugs is allowed on the 20-amp circuit.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: 14 gauge pigtails

              Huh, I have seen this MANY times and seen it done by lic. electricians none the less. Interesting...

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                Originally posted by Alphacowboy View Post
                Huh, I have seen this MANY times and seen it done by lic. electricians none the less. Interesting...
                Not all electricians are created equal. Using #14 pigtails makes "trimming out" much easier. That's why some will do it. It should have never passed initial inspection.
                Licensed Electrician

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                  John,

                  I appreciate your professionalism here. I'm not an electrician, but have done quite a bit of my own electrical work, including updating my own service a number of years ago, when I got stood-up, by the pro that I hired.

                  I usually just run 12 ga, as I figure there's little price difference, and if I decide to upgrade the circuit at a later date, it's easier to just swap out the breaker. I was however, considering using a 14 ga "pigtail" from the floor mounted junction box to the two outlet boxes in the newly built window seat. (Only about 3 ft of wire to each).... but now, I can see that I should stay with the 12 ga. and understand the logic behind the rule. (But the flexibility of the 14 ga, makes me understand why others might go that route.)

                  The NEC has gotten terribly expensive (I have an older version) and it's difficult to catch everything. Problem I have up here in my area is that the electricians are just so busy it's very hard to find one who is reliable or return your phone calls, much less show up!

                  So, even though I'm not the original poster, the question was timely and I greatly appreciate your knowledgeable assistance.

                  Thanks,

                  CWS
                  Last edited by CWSmith; 04-21-2010, 05:37 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                    Originally posted by CWSmith View Post

                    I usually just run 12 ga, as I figure there's little price difference, and if I decide to upgrade the circuit at a later date, it's easier to just swap out the breaker.
                    This is a very common, albeit silly, mentality.

                    The reason I say it is silly is because for no reason you are wasting a potential 5 amps with of circuit capacity by installing a 15A breaker on a circuit wired with all #12.

                    Unless the circuit is REALLY long there is absolutely no reason to under size the breaker.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                      Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                      This is a very common, albeit silly, mentality.

                      The reason I say it is silly is because for no reason you are wasting a potential 5 amps with of circuit capacity by installing a 15A breaker on a circuit wired with all #12.

                      Unless the circuit is REALLY long there is absolutely no reason to under size the breaker.
                      I understand your point, but it's really NOT silly if you're a homeowner. If you're buying a new breaker, that's one thing... but as a homeowner you're as likely as not to have 15A breakers around already. Even if buying new, a 15A arc fault or GFI breaker is several bucks cheaper than 20A.

                      On the other hand, as a homeowner, it would be "silly" to keep a roll of 14g romex around when 12g will cover most everything. So I think a lot of us just keep the 12g around as a cost-effective and time-saving convenience.

                      It's not really a waste of ampacity. If the extra ampacity isn't needed, it isn't needed. You gain nothing by having unneeded ampacity. What would be "silly" is to go out (time and gasoline) and buy 20A breakers (more $$ if AF or GFI) that are not really needed. May as well use up what's on-hand and spend the time/money to get another breaker only if/when it's needed. Which will likely be "never".

                      Just my view of it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                        CWS. Thanks for the kind words. CSW & Andy. If it makes you feel any better I have all #12 wire in my house.
                        Speedy does this all day every day for a living (I am retired) and he could never survive if he did what we are doing. That is why he and all sensible contractors only use #12 where required.
                        But, if you are using 15 amp breakers he does have a valid point.
                        Licensed Electrician

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                          I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I want to address a couple of these.

                          Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                          I understand your point, but it's really NOT silly if you're a homeowner. If you're buying a new breaker, that's one thing... but as a homeowner you're as likely as not to have 15A breakers around already.
                          Why would this be? Why would a home owner have either one more than the other? Even so, you are buying everything else or at least some of it, buy the right breaker for the job.
                          Besides, what DIYer in this day is likely to have a "spare" AFCI Breaker around. They are very new, so if you have one laying around chances are you got it by mistake or for free.
                          This is all even assuming an AFCI is needed.


                          Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                          Even if buying new, a 15A arc fault or GFI breaker is several bucks cheaper than 20A.
                          Really? I've never noticed that. They are usually the same price. Even so, for a couple of dollars use the right breaker for the job.



                          Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                          On the other hand, as a homeowner, it would be "silly" to keep a roll of 14g romex around when 12g will cover most everything. So I think a lot of us just keep the 12g around as a cost-effective and time-saving convenience.
                          A valid point. Why even bother having 15A breakers around then?



                          Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                          It's not really a waste of ampacity. If the extra ampacity isn't needed, it isn't needed. You gain nothing by having unneeded ampacity.
                          I completely disagree. The "extra" ampacity is never unneeded. How much of any circuit in the house do you actually need, until you need it? So WHY unnecessarily limit yourself?


                          Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                          What would be "silly" is to go out (time and gasoline) and buy 20A breakers (more $$ if AF or GFI) that are not really needed.
                          Of course I am not saying that someone should go drive 75 miles in a snow storm just to get a 20A breaker. I am also not thinking of what someone may or may not have on hand. I am saying that you are likely to be buying supplies anyway, so get the breaker to match the wire.

                          Using the "upgrade later" logic there is a chance you'd be buying it anyway, right?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I want to address a couple of these.
                            I don't take it as argumentative.

                            But in your original post you used the word "silly" and that sounds a little condescending. I don't think you appreciate that the situation for a homeowner is somewhat different than it is for an electrician. Because you don't understand, appreciate, agree or all three doesn't make something "silly".

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Why would this be? Why would a home owner have either one more than the other?
                            I actually have some 15s in the garage right now. Here's how I got them:

                            (1) I replaced a breaker with a GFCI breaker. What do I do with the perfectly good, regular 15A breaker? Toss it? No. It'll get used sooner or later.

                            (2) I put a main lug sub panel in my garage. Found the panel I need on eBay, new in the box, left over from a job. It was being auctioned by a contractor. The auction included a bunch of brand new breakers. Guess what, a few of them were 15's. No 20's. "SILLY" ebay!

                            But in any case, the point is not HOW a homeowner gets parts that he might have. Point is, if he has them, why not use them when the work? Wouldn't it be - ahem - "SILLY" not to use perfectly good parts that will do the job and are just sitting there taking up space?

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Even so, you are buying everything else or at least some of it, buy the right breaker for the job.
                            Nope. I very often have all the wiring stuff I need. I do a lot of stuff around here, so it saves me time and money to have the stuff handy. A trip to HD chews up at least an hour.

                            Even if I have to go out for something, I still prefer to use up my "garage inventory" whenever possible. I don't know how old you are, but I've been a homeowner for 30 years. If you don't use up your supplies, you drown in them.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Besides, what DIYer in this day is likely to have a "spare" AFCI Breaker around. They are very new, so if you have one laying around chances are you got it by mistake or for free.
                            I didn't say one was likely to have an AFCI around. I said that a 20A arc fault cost more money than a 15A.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Really? I've never noticed that. They are usually the same price.
                            Regular breakers are the same price. GFIs and AFCIs at HD and OSH here are both higher.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Even so, for a couple of dollars use the right breaker for the job.
                            This is where I find your logic falls apart.

                            Many times the 15A is exactly the right breaker for the job. The #12 wire is the overkill, used for convenience - because I only keep one wire size in "stock". Yes the breaker is undersized. So what? If the load is okay for a 15A breaker, you gain nothing with a larger breaker.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            A valid point. Why even bother having 15A breakers around then?
                            Already discussed. Need any 15A THQL's? I have several.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            I completely disagree. The "extra" ampacity is never unneeded. How much of any circuit in the house do you actually need, until you need it? So WHY unnecessarily limit yourself?
                            You're kidding, right? Of course it can be unneeded. If I'm wiring half a dozen 23W can lights in a room that doesn't have any overhead lighting, when am I likely to need 20A for that? It's not needed and is unlikely to EVER be needed. Why would I spend even one thin dime to buy a breaker when a perfectly serviceable, code-legal one that covers the application is sitting RIGHT THERE IN THE GARAGE waiting to go to work?

                            By your logic I ought to run out for some #6 and a 60A breaker, what the heck, extra ampacity is always needed. One never knows when one might need to put an arc welder in the hallway.

                            Seriously, I am NOT limiting myself at all! The #12 wire is in place. In case I ever want to grab some current off that circuit for some other application, all I need to do is snap in a 20A breaker and I'm good to go. No biug deal. Why exactly is this a limitation? And what if I never upgrade? Then all I've done is waste time and money.

                            For someone hiring a pro, it's different. You may as well get the 20A from the start. In this case the 15A WOULD be silly - the owner would have to pay for another call to add the 20A later. But it's a different circumstance completely when it's your house and you do it on your own time with parts you already have.

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Of course I am not saying that someone should go drive 75 miles in a snow storm just to get a 20A breaker. I am also not thinking of what someone may or may not have on hand. I am saying that you are likely to be buying supplies anyway, so get the breaker to match the wire.
                            But that's the whole point!! For a homeowner, rather than an electrician, it is ALL about what's on hand. And if it is on hand, for whatever reason, then it is *SILLY* to go buy something else.

                            I agree, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to BUY a new 15A regular breaker for a #12 wired branch.

                            You and I both know that if a pro electrician was putting in a branch and he went out to the van and -damn - only had a 15A breaker in there, he would use it (load permitting).

                            Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                            Using the "upgrade later" logic there is a chance you'd be buying it anyway, right?
                            Of course! But most of the time, the 15A will stay there forever and never be thought of again.

                            Look, the situation is different for a homeowner. As long as it works and doesn't violate code, you use what you have. I agree with you, I wouldn't go out and BUY a 15A regular breaker for a circuit wired with 12g. But if I have one sitting there already, I would be a damn fool not to use it.

                            If you don't agree, that's your prerogative. But the "silly" argument can cut both ways.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: 14 gauge pigtails

                              Originally posted by Speedy Petey View Post
                              Unless the circuit is REALLY long there is absolutely no reason to under size the breaker.
                              Speedy,

                              Are you sure there is "absolutely no reason"? I'm not in a position to argue the technicalities of this at the moment, but is seems that somewhere in the past I've read that you don't want to oversize the breaker for certain types of appliances, tools, etc. One example that comes to mind is my saw has universal motor on it and an overdraw would fry the motor, or so I've read. I'd just as soon have the circuit breaker trip if it overloads. There may be other instances where over-sizing a circuit breaker may also pose such a problem.

                              However, using 12 gauge wire instead of 14 gauge simply adds a safety factor/extra capacity to the wire; and, I reason that if somewhere down the road, if one needs to change the room to other purposes requiring more amperage, it's certainly easier to change the breaker, than it is to have to run new wire. So, it may be "silly" from your point of view, but your reasoning of upgrading to a 20 amp breaker for every circuit in the house, seems questionable to me. Of course, you are the electrician while I am NOT... but your statement leaves me wondering. I'll have to look into this further.

                              Respectfully,

                              CWS

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