How Many Outlets per 20 Amp Circuit

Today we’re gonna talk about how many outlets you can have on a 20-amp circuit.

Now, there’s a general rule you can follow or you can calculate it precisely based on the appliances you’re gonna use. Typically, each outlet has two receptacles, so you can have up to 5 or 6 outlets on the same circuit. But, the total power you need for your appliances must not exceed 1,920 watts (on a 120V supply), no matter how many outlets you install.

I will go into more detail below.

General Rule

A general rule of thumb to estimate how many outlets you can have on a 20-amp circuit is giving no less than 1.8-2 amps per receptacle (or maximum of 1.5 amps).

We divide the maximum current allowed (20 amps) by the current we will allow per receptacle:

Number of outlets = 20 / 1.8 = 11.11, or 20 / 10 = 10, so 10 or 11 receptacles

Absolute maximum = 20 / 1.5 = 13.33, so 13 receptacles

So this means 5 or 6 outlets if you have 2 receptacles on each outlet.

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

Exact Number of Outlets

If you would like to know exactly how many outlets you can install (or, rather, use concurrently) on the same 20-amp circuit, it depends on the power consumption of your appliances and how many receptacles are on each outlet.

As per the above calculation, if you choose to have, say 10 receptacles (via 5 double-receptacle outlets), then the maximum current you will allow per receptacle is 2 amps, assuming it is equal across all the outlets.

However, you can have up to 20 amps in total (theoretically), irrespective of how you divide the current between the receptacles. Still, for regular use, you should not use more than 80% of this limit. This means the current should not persistently exceed 80% of 20 amps, which is 16 amps.

If your electricity supply is 120V, this means the maximum power you should allow is:

Given by P = IV = 16 x 120 = 1,920 watts

So if you want to use a heavy appliance that requires this much power, it should be a single, dedicated receptacle. You shouldn’t share it with any other receptacle or outlet.

You can have more outlets on the same circuit (up to 4 more double-receptacle ones), but the total concurrent power draw across all of them should not exceed this wattage. That is, they should not be operational at the same time.

Now that this point has been made clear, here are some possibilities (assuming that each outlet is used for the same power draw simultaneously):

  • 1 outlet for a single heavy appliance that requires up to 1,920 watts, either with a single receptacle or an unused second one.
  • 2 outlets where each is used for no more than 960 (1920 / 2) watts together.
  • 3 outlets where each is used for no more than 640 (1920 / 3) watts together.
  • 4 outlets where each is used for no more than 480 (1920 / 4) watts together.
  • 5 outlets where each is used for no more than 384 (1920 / 5) watts together.


What wire will I need for a 20-amp circuit?

A 20-amp circuit typically requires a 12/2 wire. You cannot use thinner 14/2 wire on it. You can use thicker 10/2 if you want, but it is usually unnecessary and will cost more. It may only be recommended if you have a long run or constant heavy appliance usage.

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: 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.

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