The last thing you want to do is to connect a washing machine to an undersize circuit. Depending on the machine’s wattage, you may start a fire. But what counts as an undersized circuit? Are 15 amps sufficient? Are you better off using 20 amps? If these questions keep you up at night, this guide has some much-needed answers.
Can A Washing Machine Run On A 15 Amp Circuit?
You can run a washing machine on a 15 amp circuit. Simply put, you don’t want the washing machine’s electrical draw to exceed the breaker’s rating. The breaker will trip continuously, preventing you from running the machine. Your best bet is to pair the appliance with the correct breaker size.
Sometimes, 15 amps are enough. In other cases, you need a larger breaker size.
GE Appliances talks about a top-load, front-load washer that runs on a 120V circuit protected by 15 or 20 amp breakers. It shows you that washers can run on either 15 or 20A circuits.
This is not surprising. After all, most households use 15A and 20A circuits. It wouldn’t make sense for manufacturers to make appliances that are too powerful to work on the most common breaker size on the market.
The breaker size is the most important factor. The breaker protects your home by tripping whenever the electrical draw exceeds the breaker’s capacity. It does this to prevent the wires from overheating. They can only carry a limited amount of current.
If you funnel dangerous volumes of electricity through a circuit’s cables, they will melt, starting a fire and burning your house down. A 15A or 20A breaker will prevent this outcome by tripping and shutting the power off whenever one or more appliances use more than 15 or 20 amps.
How To Determine The Correct Outlet Size For Washing Machine?
Some people think they have to guess or estimate the outlet or breaker size. But that isn’t the case. If you keep these factors in mind, they will point you in the direction of the appropriate circuit size:
1). Wattage Matters
Wattage has to be your first consideration. Washing machines are not the same. Some are large, while others are small. Some washers and dryers can run on 15 amps, while others require more power.
The easiest way to determine the truth is to compare the washing machine’s wattage to the breaker size. Every major appliance has a plate or label that tells you everything you need to know about the device, including the wattage.
Once you determine the wattage, divide the number by the volts to get the amps. You can also use resources like The Calculator Site to quickly convert watts to amps.
But knowing the amperage of the washing machine is merely the first step. If I say, the washing machine uses ten amps. Most consumers will quickly assume that a 10A washer can operate safely on a 15A breaker.
However, you have to remember the 80 percent rule. The NEC doesn’t want homeowners to use more than 80 percent of a circuit’s capacity. They want you to leave some room for error. Therefore, you should only use 12 amps on a 15A circuit.
A 10A washer can still run on those 12 amps. But as you can see, you don’t have as much room to play. A malfunction can force the washing machine’s electrical draw to exceed those 12 amps. This is why a 20A circuit is better. At the very least, 20 amps are safer.
2). Check The Manual
Have you checked the manual? Rather than guessing, a manual will tell you the exact breaker size you need for the washing machine. You don’t have to perform any calculations.
3). Outlet Matters
The washing machine’s plug will probably make your decision for you. 15A sockets have three slots, accommodating 3-prong plugs. 20A sockets require a 3-prong plug as well. But one of the prongs has a horizontal section.
If your washer has a 20A plug, it won’t enter a 15A socket. On the other hand, a 15A plug can enter a 20A socket. It should be noted that a socket’s design doesn’t say anything about the breaker size.
You can add a 15A outlet to a 20A circuit. In other words, a washer with a 15A plug gives you options. But if the device has a 20A plug, you should take that as a sign that it requires a 20A socket on a 20A circuit.
4). Follow The NEC
The NEC won’t give you a choice in the matter. The National Electric Code expects consumers to fit a laundry room with a 20A designated breaker. 20A is the minimum size.
Therefore, if you want to remain on the right side of the law, you should do as the NEC demands.
5). Consider The Dryer As Well
Do you have a dryer in the laundry room? What kind of dryer do you have? The electric dryer is more problematic because it uses a lot more power. You need a 30-amp breaker. Gas dryers are different. They can run on 20 amps.
Keep the wire gauge in mind. You don’t want to upgrade the breaker from 15A to 20A without changing the wiring. You need at least 12-gauge. Wires that accommodate 15A circuits will overheat if you connect them to a 20A circuit.
Don’t forget about the GFCI. Receptacles in laundry rooms should be GFCI-protected. But from what The Spruce has seen, you can forego the GFCI for a 30A outlet that serves an electric dryer.
What If I Use Undersize Circuit For Washing Machines?
An undersized circuit may start a fire. If you have a small circuit, the wires serving that circuit will be equally thin. A 20A circuit requires 12AWG wiring. Pairing a washing machine with a smaller circuit means using smaller wires of 14AWG or less. The appliance will overwhelm these cables, melting the insulation and setting the combustible objects in the vicinity alight.
This assumes that the breaker has failed to respond. If you have a functional breaker, it will protect the wires by tripping whenever you run the washing machine.
Most people would prefer to buy the thickest wires possible. But higher gauges attract heftier price tags. Therefore, consumers tend to match the wire size to the breaker size
What If I Use Oversize Circuit For Washing Machines?
You can use an oversize circuit. A washing machine can run on 20 amps. However, you don’t lose anything by connecting that same appliance to a 30A circuit.
A washer on a larger circuit can use more electricity without accidentally overwhelming the wires. However, the wire size matters. Some people increase the breaker size without elevating the gauge.
This is dangerous because you get the same problem as an undersized circuit. The wires will overheat. However, this time, the breaker won’t trip because you haven’t exceeded its capacity.
Does A Washing Machine Need a Dedicated Circuit?
Every device with a rating of 1000 watts or higher requires a dedicated circuit. Therefore, if your washer uses 1,800 watts, you need a dedicated circuit.
Many of the contractors you consult will clarify that washers need designated circuits, not dedicated circuits. They sound the same, but the concept is different.
A dedicated circuit is exactly what it sounds like. You can only run one appliance on that circuit.
In fact, your electrician will probably install one outlet to prevent other people from accidentally connecting more devices to the circuit. A Washer’s dedicated circuit should only run that washer.
A designated circuit is ‘Single Use.’ In other words, you must assign the circuit to a single purpose. For instance, you can create a designated circuit for laundry. Therefore, every laundry appliance will use that designated circuit, not just the washer.
Can A Washing Machine Run On A 20 Amp Circuit?
20A is the smallest breaker you can use in a laundry room. This tells you that 20 amps are perfectly adequate for a washing machine. But if your washing machine uses more than 20 amps, you should upgrade your circuit.
A laundry room with a washer and an electric dryer should aim for 30 amps or more to be safe.
15 VS 20 Amp Outlet For Washing Machine
Your washing machine will tell you what to use. If it has a 15A plug, you can use either 15A or 20A outlets. If it has a 20A plug, you can only use 20A outlets.