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12 Or 14 Gauge Wire For Outlets? (Let’s Find Out)

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Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 01:27 pm

When constructing or remodeling an outlet circuit connection, the question of whether to use 12 or 14-gauge wire often pops out.

A wire gauge refers to its physical size, meaning the measurement of a wire in diameter.

It is also a numerical designation, meaning the larger the wire gauge number, the smaller the wire diameter.

The decision on which wire gauge to use for an outlet sometimes depends on the circuit breaker. For example, if the circuit breaker is a 15-amp breaker, then using a 14 gauge wire is not a wrong choice, but when you have a 20-amp breaker, the best option is a 12 gauge wire. Generally, when wiring an outlet, the perfect wire gauge is a 12 gauge wire cable because it has a larger diameter and cross-sectional area.

Which Is Thicker 12 Or 14 Gauge Wire?

A 12 gauge wire is approximately the thickness of a nickel, whereas a 14 gauge wire is roughly the thickness of a dime.

Using the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standard, the higher the gauge number, the thinner the wire.

Therefore, A 12 gauge wire is undoubtedly thicker than a 14 gauge wire from this measurement.

A smaller wire generates higher resistive heat than a larger one by its smaller cross-sectional area. As a result, it can handle less current and overheats when used for a more extended period.

A smaller gauge number refers to a larger diameter wire. The gauge concept refers to the number of cables you can fit through a standard opening.

For example, a common 12-gauge copper wire has a diameter of 2.05mm, while a 14-gauge copper wire has a diameter of 1.63mm.

How Thick Is 12 Gauge Wire?

The thickness of a 12 gauge wire is 26% more than the thickness of a 14 gauge wire; therefore, the 12 gauge wire is thicker. The diameter of a 12 AWG wire is 0.0808 inches or 2.05mm, while a 14 AWG wire is 0.0641 inches or 1.63mm.

Nevertheless, the thickness of a 12 gauge wire depends on its insulation. PVC or polyester are the most often utilized materials for insulation because of their low cost.

The PVC insulation is usually half an inch thick, while the polyester insulation can be anywhere between an inch and a half wide.

Wire insulation is a material that holds and covers together with the wire; it aims to keep the electric current from the wire contained.

For example, the thickness of a 12 gauge wire is 2.05mm in diameter and covered with insulation.

If you’re wiring a circuit with both lights and outlets or unsure which wire to use, 12 gauge wire is the best choice.

It is thicker and costs a bit more, but it is always a safe choice on a 15 or 20-amp circuit breaker.

So it is not a wrong choice to use a 12 gauge wire for your entire house as far as we are concerned.

How Thick Is 14 Gauge Wire?

A 14 gauge wire is about as thick as a paperclip. A 14 gauge wire is not a specific thickness. The thickness of a 14 gauge wire is 1.63mm in diameter and is suitable for a 15-amp circuit breaker.

The American Wire Gauge (AWG) system is the standard that we have used to measure the thickness of cables for over 100 years now. This system categorizes wires by their size and not by their thickness.

The most common sizes are 16 AWG, 12 AWG, 10 AWG, 8 AWG, and 6 AWG, all classified as “light duty” wire.

These different wire classes have recommended maximum amperage ratings for electric circuits that they can handle without overheating or melting down.

When it comes to thickness, we measure it by the number of strands bundled together in one inch, whereas thickness measures thousandths of an inch.

How Many Outlets Can You Put On 12 Gauge Wire?

When you plug nothing in, a 20-amp circuit should be capable of supporting as many outlets as you need without overloading the breaker.

Practically speaking, there are limits to the number of outlets. But, the practical and approved number of outlets connected to a 12 gauge wire with a 20-amps circuit breaker is ten outlets.

The circuit breakers in your home’s electrical panel serve as safety mechanisms. Whenever the current in the circuit reaches its rating, each of these devices intends to cut off electricity.

It stops this to avoid overheated cables, electrical surges, and fires. The practical idea of deciding the number of outlets is to multiply the number of circuit breakers by 1.5.

A simple illustration means each outlet acquires 1.5-amps. Also, the maximum amount of power to be withdrawn from a 20-amps circuit breaker is 16-amps.  

Consider what you’ll be plugging into each outlet when considering how many to install to a 20-amp circuit.

While a standard 120-volt circuit breaker won’t trip until the power draw surpasses 2,400 watts, it’s best practice to keep the circuit’s maximum power draw under 16 amps at any one moment for safety’s sake.

Appliances that need a lot of power should avoid consuming as many outlets as possible along their trajectory.

Electric heaters, for example, often need 1,500 watts of electricity; thus, a circuit that powers one should only have a few additional outlets.

How Many Outlets Can You Put On 14 Gauge Wire?

According to the NEC recommendation, a 15-amp circuit should not have a total current draw more significant than 12-amps.

In this way, the circuit breaker can withstand the sudden surge when you turn on equipment such as a power saw or an air conditioner for the first time.

Therefore, only eight outlets are allowed on a 14 gauge wire following this regulation. In a practical sense, It is only acceptable to connect a 14 gauge wire to a 15-amp circuit breaker.

There is no specified limit to the number of outlets installed on a 15-amp circuit, not even by the NEC. Nevertheless, if you use appliances that take more current than the circuit breaker can handle, you will overload the circuit breaker.

As a result of this requirement, the National Electrical Code (NEC) states that circuit breakers are only supposed to handle 80 percent of the load for which they were built unless they are specifically designated to do differently.

Continuous duty requirements apply to most lights that we utilize for more than three hours at a time. A 15-amp breaker is restricted to 15 x.8 = 12 amperes for continuous duty loads, such as lighting.

All fixtures must not take more than 12 amperes of current at once. An amperage draw of a fixture determines how many fixtures are necessary.

You would have to calculate each fixture’s current draw for you to determine the total fixture.

To do this, divide the fixture’s power in watts by the Voltage, giving you the power draw in amperes.

Afterward, multiply the result by the capacity of the circuit, i.e., 13 amps for a 15 amps circuit.

The result indicates how many fixtures you can use continuously above three hours.

What Is A 12 Gauge Wire Used For?

There is no specific equipment you can put on a 12 gauge wire. But a 12 gauge wire is suitable for kitchen utensils, bathroom, outdoor receptacles, and 120-volt air conditioners supporting 20-amps.

You can run a 12 gauge wire for up to 70 feet on a 15-amp circuit breaker when connecting to a certain height. However, the peak drops to 50 feet on a 20-amps circuit breaker.

Since the gauge of a wire reflects the thickness of the conductor that conducts the electron flow, the conductor must have the ability to lower resistance while simultaneously promoting increased transmission performance.

Using the gauge number, you may quickly assess whether a cable is acceptable for a specific application.

For example, when choosing the current carrying capacity of a solid, electrically conducting cable, the cross-sectional area of the wire is employed as a defining element in the calculation.

What Is A 14 Gauge Wire Used For?

You can use a 14 gauge copper wire for lamps, light fixtures, and lighting circuits connected to a 15-amps circuit breaker. Remember, you also have to determine the number of each outlet to join, as discussed earlier in the article.

A 14 gauge wire flexibility makes it difficult for the cable to hold a piece of large equipment for a long time.

In addition, a standard 14 gauge copper wire has a diameter of 1.63mm, generating more resistive heat and overheating when handling more current.


When wiring your house, it is always best to separate the outlets’ circuit from the light course. It gives you the maximum guarantee that you still have the lights powered up when the outlets fail.

Furthermore, given that you don’t add too many lights to the light circuit, you can always control the circuit with a 15-amps breaker and a 14 gauge wire.

On the other hand, when you have an outlet circuit with a 20-amps breaker, you need a 12 gauge wire for connection.

In this sense, the 12 gauge wire is the best for an outlet that could include lighting.

In comparison, the 14 gauge wire is most suitable for lighting only on a 15-amps circuit breaker.


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