Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Older house with Wiring Dilemma
11 posts / 0 new
Last post
robear00
Older house with Wiring Dilemma

Just bought a house that was built in 1957. Upon going through the panel box, I have found that all three bedrooms and one outlet in the living room (where the TV would most likely go) are all on the same 15 amp circuit (10 oulets in all). Oddly enough, the opposite living room/dining room wall has 4 outlets, with one of them being on its own circuit. What would be the best way to break some of these 10 up? Could I change the breaker to a 20 or higher amp rating, or would that cause any problems with the wire?

canuk
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma

It's not uncommon to find homes of that vintage to have only 2 ( depending on the size ) circuits feeding the main living space .

You have to remember back in the day the electrical needs were far less than today.

For example ... my house is early 50's and the main living space ... including kitchen and bath ... is feed by 2 circuits ..... basically the house is split in half .

The wiring used in your home would be rated for handling 15 amps of current with a 15 amp breaker/fuse to protect the circuit.

If you were to switch the 15 amp breaker to 20 amps that means the existing wiring is expected to handle 20 amps of current.
Which means the existing wires would overheat and become a fire hazard.

In other words .... NO ... don't change the breaker/fuse rating.

Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
robear00 wrote:

Just bought a house that was built in 1957. Upon going through the panel box, I have found that all three bedrooms and one outlet in the living room (where the TV would most likely go) are all on the same 15 amp circuit (10 oulets in all). Oddly enough, the opposite living room/dining room wall has 4 outlets, with one of them being on its own circuit. What would be the best way to break some of these 10 up? Could I change the breaker to a 20 or higher amp rating, or would that cause any problems with the wire?

What you have found it is not unusual and is code compliant.
on a 15 amp circuit you are allowed 180 volt amps per outlet.
at 120 volts that equates to 1.5 amps. you have 10 outlets on that circuit. Bedrooms, hallways, livingrooms and lighting are considered general lighting loads and are typically on 15 amp circuits. Kitchens and dinning rooms are considered small appliance loads and are 20 amps. There also is a requirement of at least 2- 20 amp appliance outlets circuits to be located at your kitchen counter. These typically also feed adjoining dinning rooms or breakfast areas.

Now have saying that
a 15 amp circuit uses #14 awg wire.
a 20 amp circuit uses a #12 awg wire
So you can not just change the breaker 20 amps because the wire is two small and it could overheat.

If your not having problems it is fine having 10 on a circuit.

Any more questions?:)

canuk
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma

Ravens53 ...... those would be the wire gage for copper .... wouldn't they be different for aluminum ?

kentvw
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma

Although the 180va requirement applies in commercial applications, oddly enough it does not apply in residential applications. You can put as many receptacles as you want on a typical circuit.

(Although I always used 180va as a rule of thumb back in my residential days.)

canuk
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
Quote:

You can put as many receptacles as you want on a typical circuit

Really ??

Up here we are limited to 12 devices on a typical circuit.... that's it.

Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
canuk wrote:

Ravens53 ...... those would be the wire gage for copper .... wouldn't they be different for aluminum ?

You are right that is copper thanks for pointing that out.
Aluminum #12 is 15 amps
Aluminum #10 is 20 amps

Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
kentvw wrote:

Although the 180va requirement applies in commercial applications, oddly enough it does not apply in residential applications. You can put as many receptacles as you want on a typical circuit.

(Although I always used 180va as a rule of thumb back in my residential days.)

Kent, you might be right.. I was always taught that if you have a unknown receptacle load you need to base it on 180va and a lighting load was based on the largest lamp the fixture allows.

Interesting that your allowed as many receptacles as you want in Colorado...It just goes to show I do not know everything:(;)

Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
canuk wrote:

Really ??

Up here we are limited to 12 devices on a typical circuit.... that's it.

Well Up Nort I would expect that you can use all the heat you can get....Ehhh;):)

kentvw
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
Ravens53 wrote:

Kent, you might be right.. I was always taught that if you have a unknown receptacle load you need to base it on 180va and a lighting load was based on the largest lamp the fixture allows.

Interesting that your allowed as many receptacles as you want in Colorado...It just goes to show I do not know everything:(;)

Actually that is per NEC. I'm surprised it has not changed over the years and I've had the discussion with a couple of people on the NEC Committee. I don't know that it has ever even been recommended. I mean, what are you going to base load off of? I guess one way would be to base it of service size calculations at 3w/sq-ft....... So let's see; load on 15amp cicuit at 80%. means 12a x 120v = 1,440w. 1440w / 3w = 480.......... So, 1 15a circuit per 480sq/ft.............. Makes no sense to me.

Maybe I'll write a recommendation for the next cycle and see what happens.

Ernie_Fergler
Re: Older house with Wiring Dilemma
kentvw wrote:

Actually that is per NEC. I'm surprised it has not changed over the years and I've had the discussion with a couple of people on the NEC Committee. I don't know that it has ever even been recommended. I mean, what are you going to base load off of? I guess one way would be to base it of service size calculations at 3w/sq-ft....... So let's see; load on 15amp cicuit at 80%. means 12a x 120v = 1,440w. 1440w / 3w = 480.......... So, 1 15a circuit per 480sq/ft.............. Makes no sense to me.

Maybe I'll write a recommendation for the next cycle and see what happens.

I always thought the logic behind the NEC is that it may prevent people from using those cheap brown or white, extension cords.
Now talk about something that should be outlawed....

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.