Learning, Wiring,

What Size Wire for a Dryer (Guide)

Electrical installations can often be tricky, and they tend to vary a lot depending on what you are installing them for. There are so many factors to consider and each one matters equally since there is almost no room for error.

When it comes to dryers, you need to be extra cautious since they are high-powered appliances that usually run on 240 volts. In most cases, you might even be looking at installing a dedicated breaker just for your dryer. Whatever the case may be, this guide will tell you everything you need to know regarding gauge wire so you can successfully install a clothes dryer in your home.

The wire gauge that you use for your electric dryer depends on the type of dryer you are using and its requirements. For 220 volt dryers, the amperage requirement is high, and they need a 10 AWG wire paired with a 30-amp breaker. For 110v dryers, the requirement can be 12-14 AWG paired with a breaker of 15-20 amps, respectively.

30volt breaker labeled for dryer

Wire and Breaker Requirements for Electric Dryers

This is something that does not come with a standard answer, and you need to find it out yourself by checking the clothes dryer that you are planning to install. Each dryer has its own power needs and those are what define the type of wire and the breaker that you will need to install.

As far as the voltage is concerned, your dryer will either have a 220-volt input or a 110-volt input. The higher voltage options usually take more amperage and there is a reason for that.

240 volts dryers usually run completely on electricity and do not have any other source of power attached to them. 110 volts is usually available in dryers that also have a gas connection attached to them.

One more thing to keep in mind when making this decision is that you may also see voltages mentioned as 240 volts or 120 volts. These are the same as the ones mentioned above and you need not worry about them requiring any different connections or wiring. With that information in mind, you can easily figure out the next steps.

electrical box with different voltages for breakers and labeled accordingly

What Breaker Size to Use for Electric Dryers

If you are using a dryer that requires 220 volts, the circuit breaker you will need to install should be 30 amps. This is because the overall wattage that these dryers have is much higher, and therefore more current is needed to run them.

As for the 110 volts option, you should go for a breaker that is either 15 or 20 amps. These are significantly smaller than the 220 volts options, but they are still powerful enough to require their own dedicated breaker.

It is critical that you choose the right circuit breaker since going too high can make it a safety issue, while a low-powered dryer circuit breaker will cause constant tripping. Either one of the cases can be a load of problems that you do not want to face. It is crucial since there are also some cases where the electric clothes dryer itself gets damaged due to fluctuations or a surge of power. (1)

It is also possible that you will need to use a double pole dryer circuit breaker for the 30 amps option as they are most used for dryers with high amperage. The smaller option can easily be connected to a standard breaker of 15-20 amps.

opened box of outlet wires

What Wire Size to Use for Electric Dryers

For the wire gauge, the more amperage there is to deal with, the thicker the gauge wire you will need. Not doing this can lead to a fire hazard and there is no limit to how much damage it can cause.

In the case of 220 volts dryers, you should go for a 10 AWG wire as that can take on a load of 30 amps.

For the 110 volts electric clothes dryer, you can opt for a 12 AWG wire or even a 14 AWG one.

More specifically, the 12 AWG option is for 20-amp breakers, whereas the 14 AWG is for 15-amp breakers.

It is also possible that the dryer you get comes with its own specifications, so you should follow them.

Another factor that comes into play here is the receptacle that you are using with the wires.

While it may be confusing to decide if you need a 3-prong option or a 4-prong option, the recommended type is 3-prong outlets.

If you have a new installation to work with then always get a 3-prong outlet for the dryer. Old outlets where there are three prongs can also be used as it is along with a standard 3-prong wire.

man with grey black gloves holding wire connector

What Happens if The Right Breaker Size is Not Used for Dryer?

The answer to this question depends entirely on the side that you end up going to. Having exactness is an essential part of electrical installations and dryers are no different from any other appliance that needs high power. By implementing the correct size of breaker, you are ensuring that your device runs properly and does not trip while protecting it from power surges that could potentially fry them.

Naturally, there are two paths that you can choose if you do not go for the exact size of the breaker. It can either be lower than the specified amperage, or it can be higher. Each of these has a different impact on the circuitry and you must know exactly how they impact the performance of your dryer. We discuss both scenarios here separately, so you know everything about using improper breaker sizes.

Breakers with Lower Amperage Rating

Let’s assume that you have a dryer that requires a breaker rated for 30 amperes to make it work. However, you do not have that on you when installing the dryer wiring and you choose to install a 20-ampere one simply because that is the one you have available. While it may not seem like a big deal at the installation time, you will start seeing the issue when you turn on your dryer.

In all likelihood, as soon as your dryer turns on, the massive load requirement it will generate will end up overloading the breaker and cause it to trip immediately. This will keep on happening every time you try to turn it on simply because the breaker is not designed to take on a load of 25-30 amps.

In addition to that, you must also keep in mind that the breaker quality will also matter to some extent. While even cheaper breakers can easily trip when overloaded, using something low quality could also melt the breaker and lead to other issues, including a potential fire hazard. That is why using a breaker with a smaller than the required size is not recommended. (2)

Breakers with Higher Amperage Rating

In the case of high amperage breakers, things are completely different. While you may be thinking that you are providing plenty of headroom to your breaker during installation, that is not necessarily a good thing.

For example, you need a breaker of 30 amps to run your dryer but instead, you get a breaker rated for 50 amps. The overkill installation may make you feel like you are setting yourself for good, but that is not the case at all. Remember how we talked about pairing the wiring with breakers?

If you use a larger breaker and it ends up getting a surge of electricity, you will end up with overheated wires and potentially a fire as well. When more current than needed flows through the breaker, it won’t trip because of the massive headroom and will continue to let the extra current flow through the wires. In case your wires do survive, there is a big chance that the electrical components inside your dryer will be completely fried.

Now that you know what size wire for a dryer is best, you can easily install your electric dryer the right way.

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) safety issue – https://ehs.princeton.edu/health-safety-the-campus-community/art-theater-safety/art-safety/common-safety-concerns
(2) fire hazard – https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/is-your-home-a-fire-hazard.html

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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.

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