Learning, Outlet,

Can You Use 12/2 Wire for Outlets?

If you’re wondering whether you can use 12/2 gauge wire for outlets, the answer is that you usually can.

12/2 wire is fine to use with either a 15-amp or 20-amp circuit. It can be used safely for general and light loads and more powerful appliances. However, 14/2 wire would be cheaper and generally more suitable for 15 amps, and 12/2 wire should only be used in circuits with no more than 20 amps of current. But if the wire is long, a 12/2 wire on a 15-amp circuit can minimize the voltage drop.

I will go into more detail below.

12/2 Gauge Wire

12/2 gauge wire consists of two conductors and can carry up to 20 amps of current.

The next thinner and cheaper option – 14/2 wire is only safely suitable for more general-purpose and lighter 15-amp circuits.

12/2 wire can carry more current. This makes it more suitable for appliances requiring a 20-amp circuit breaker.

Here is a summary of the key differences:

12/2 Wire14/2 Wire
Diameter0.08” (~2mm) (thicker)0.06” (~1.6mm) (thinner)
Maximum current20 amps15 amps
Suitable forRefrigerators, boilers, dishwashers, air conditioners, power tools, and other appliances that require higher currentLighting and other general loads
PriceMore expensiveCheaper

Two important things to note:

  • Since the 12/2 wire is thicker (than the 14/2 wire), it is harder to bend around corners and snake through openings.
  • Just because you can use thicker 12/2 wire on a 15-amp circuit doesn’t automatically mean that you can use larger appliances or power tools.

12/2 Wire for Outlets

12/2, 14/2 wire difference


A 12/2 gauge wire is fine for a 15-amp circuit and can be used on a 20-amp circuit, but not more.

A 12/2 wire is versatile because it can be used on either a 15- or 20-amp circuit. But the circuit breaker will likely keep tripping if you try to use it on a circuit larger than 20 amps. For example, a 30-amp circuit will require a 10-gauge wire instead.

Although 14/2 wire is more common for 15-amp circuits, some choose thicker 12/2 wire instead so that the circuit can be upgraded later to a 20-amp circuit without the need for rewiring.

Another advantage of using a 12/2 wire instead of 14/2 is that thicker wire prevents excess voltage drop over long distances.

So unless the wire run is very long, a 14/2 wire is sufficient for a 15-amp circuit, as it is cheaper than a 12/2 wire.

Number of Outlets

If you want to know how many outlets you can install using 12/2 wire on the same circuit, a general rule of thumb is 1.8-2 amps per receptacle (or a maximum of 1.5 amps).

So this means:

  • 8 (or max 10) receptacles on a 15-amp circuit (so four outlets if you have two receptacles on each outlet);
  • 10 (or max 13) receptacles on a 20-amp circuit (so five outlets if you have two receptacles on each outlet).

The standard recommendation considers that you should use no more than the 80% current threshold and not exceed the maximum.

Video References


Sparky Channel

How helpful was this article?

Were Sorry This Was Not Helpful!

Let us improve this post!

Please Tell Us How We Can Improve This Article.

About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

| Reach Me

Leave a Comment