Timothy Thiele is one electrician that advises residential DIYers on just how to make home installation projects safe and also easy.

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Illustration: The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Why cable Gauge Is essential

Whilecircuit breakers or fuses offers an excellent protection versus overloading wires and overheating them, they space not pure protection. Both these gadgets are designed come sense existing overloads and to trip or "blow" before the wires have the right to overheat to the hazard point. Yet they are not foolproof, and it is still important to guard versus exceeding the amperage rating of any type of given circuit by plugging too plenty of appliances right into them.

There is the potential for peril anytime a maker or appliance tries come draw more power top top a circuit 보다 the cable gauge is rated for. Because that example, plugging a heater rated because that 20 amps into a 15-amp circuit wired with 14-gauge cable poses a unique danger. Should the circuit breaker fail to run correctly, the heater will certainly draw much more current 보다 the wires deserve to safely handle, and could heat the wires come the allude of melt the insulation approximately the wires and igniting bordering materials. 

On the various other hand, over there is no danger whatsoever by plugging appliances v mild electric loads into circuits through heavier gauge wires and also a greater amperage rating. The circuit will attract the power asked for by every little thing is plugged right into them and no more. So, for example, running a laptop computer with a very small amperage need on a 20-amp circuit wired v 12-gauge wire is perfectly fine. 

The potential for peril is many pronounced v the usage of irradiate household extension cords. Plenty of a family members fire has developed when a light expansion cord through 16-gauge wire is offered to power a heater or heating appliance of some sort. Most manufacturers will certainly discourage the usage of any kind of extension cords through portable heaters, but if one have to be used, it needs to be a heavy-duty cord through a high amperage rating the matches the amperage the the appliance and also of the circuit it is plugged into. 

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Wire UseRated AmpacityWire Gauge
Low-voltage lighting and lamp cords10 amps18-gauge
Extension cords (light-duty)13 amps16-gauge
Light fixtures, lamps, light circuits15 amps14-gauge
Kitchen, bathroom, and also outdoor receptacles (outlets); 120-volt air conditioners20 amps12-gauge
Electric clothing dryers, 240-volt window air conditioners, electrical water heaters30 amps10-gauge
Cooktops and also ranges40-50 amps6-gauge
Electric furnaces, large electric heaters60 amps4-gauge