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Mike G., Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 7380
Experience:  Proven Professional 48 years Experience
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# How many watts can a two pole 20amp circuit breaker.....each

### Customer Question

How many watts can a two pole 20amp circuit breaker.....each pole?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Hi, I'm Mike and I'll be glad to assist you. Each pole will handle 1920 watts, That is 16 Amps. Loads on breakers should not exceed 80% of their rating

20 amps X .8 = 16 Amps
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
so then u shouldnt exceed 80 percent of 1920 watts on each pole?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Are you feeding 120 V or 240V? The easy way to figure it wwould be as follows

Wattage / Voltage X 1.25 (recprical of 80%) = equals Amperage
The next size breaker would be required.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It's 120V. Another question. I have a 2 pole 20amp breaker for the kitchen. One pole(switch) is dedicated only for the refrigerator. The other pole (switch) is for the outlets in the kitchen. Starting yesterday when just using one apppliance....ie a microwave or coffeemaker the breaker for the outlets started tripping. I never use both the microwave and coffeemaker at the same time so i dont think i was overloading the circuit. Now today it got worse and would trip every 20-30 seconds just using the coffeemaker and when that switch breaks it has a funny plasticy smell to it .....plus it really doesnt break all the way so u have to push it all the way into the off position then back to on to get it to come back on. The switch dedicated to the refrigerator hasnt tripped/broke and is working fine. U think the top of the circuit breaker (the top switch) has gone bad and the breaker needs replaced?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Is this a single pole or a 2 pole breaker? If a 2 pole is there a shared neutral? Breaker will trip to the half way position and will need to be pushed off and then to the on position to reset. If the problem only happens with a certain appliance, I would check it in another outlet to see if it is the appliance or the circuit. Breaker do fail over time. One of the big causes is they don't connect to the buss as they did when they were new. This loose condition produces arcing and heat which will trip the breaker as a short would. Pull the breaker and inspect the jaws and the buss. If there is evidence of arcing you'll need to replace the breaker and dress the buss. If the buss is too bad then that position will not be able to be reused. It will cause a new breaker to fail the same way because of a loose connection. You could try swapping breakers to see if that holds the circuit.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It's a 2 pole breaker. One pole dedicated to the refrigerator it's working fine (so far knock on wood) the other pole is just for the outlets in the kitchen. And no it trips with either my coffeemaker which uses around 1000watts......or my microwave which is an 800 watt. The switch for the outlets breaks even when using only one appliance. I never turn on my microwave and coffeemaker at the same time just to be safe it doesnt trip. Never had any problems before sunday. Plus what's that heavy plasticy smell coming from the circuit breaker panel? Could that breaker be melting when it trips? My landlords electrician might be able to come over later on if not maybe tomorrow so it's out of my hands to do the repairs but just wanted some insight before he comes over
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
The smell at the panel is as I mentioned. The buss connection on the breaker or the wire termination on the breaker are loose and arcing, causing heat to trip the breaker. Simple easy repair. Make sure the buss is not pitted or burned away because of the arcing. Don't put a new breaker on a bad buss position.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
ok i'll be sure to keep these things in mind when the landlords electrician/handyman comes by either today or tomorrow. Until the i'm not going to run any major appliances on that circuit. Do u think it's ok/safe to keep that switch on i'm only running a Tivo DVR on it right now and there isnt any smell coming from the breaker
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
I suggest that you leave it off. The condition will only get worst and increase the cost of repair.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well my landlord is handling this so i dont pay anything. Question about how this breaker trips. U said when a breaker trips u have to push it all the way to the off position then back on. I've had 15amp breakers trip before but they go all the way to the off position when they have broken in the past....just have to switch them back on. Are different amp circuit breakers made different where they dont break all the way b/c my 15amp ones do
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok my landlord's electrician just left. First he checked the outlet that the coffeemaker and microwave was tripping on .....took out the innerds and the circuit screws were loose. So he tightened those. Checked the other outlet in the kitchen and it was fine. He was convinced those loose connections on the outlet were the problem b/c when he took out the Zinsco two pole 20amp (2 switch) breaker it didnt look damaged at all. The bus was ok too. I asked him what u wanted me to when i talked to u yesterday b/c as i said on that same breaker...... but on the other pole is only the refrigerator. U had asked me if both switches were on the same neutral but i didnt know. He said both circuits coming from the two pole circuit breaker were on the same neutral. I asked him if that was ok he said yes. Is that true? Also I insisted that he go ahead and put in the new breaker i bought b/c i was thinking just b/c the outside doesnt look damaged doesnt mean something on the inside isnt defective. Not sure if you agree with that assessment. Ok, so he turned on the breaker.....i ran a cyle on my coffeemaker and it didnt trip. He said though eventually since this is such an old Zinsco breaker he's going to replace the whole breaker panel. I'm not looking forward to that.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
If the 2 circuits are sharing the neutral and are on a 2 pole breaker it was OK at the time a Zinsco breaker was installed. A loose connection on the neutral wire in the panel will cause unusual thing to happen on a installation with a common neutral, which may cause a circuit to trip. When the loads are even on both circuits there is no current in the neutral. If only one circuit is in use the current on the neutral will be the same as the hot wire. If both circuit are in use and the current in the neutral will be the difference between the two hot wire. This is where the problem starts. Different loads on a bad neutral will cause one circuit to have a higher voltage and the other a lower voltage and when that happens the breaker could trip on the low voltage one, because the lower the voltage the higher the amperage.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Well the neutral connection was tight he checked that. The only thing that was loose was the circuits screws inside the power outlet but he tightened those. So are u saying that the two circuits coming off this two pole breaker should be on different neutrals ideally? Like i said on on pole/switch is the refrigerator and of course that is always running. On the other switch/pole i have a microwave/coffeemaker plugged into on of the kitchen outlets then on another outlet on that circuit i have a tivo dvr plugged in. ..........Even though he said the breaker didnt looked damaged do u agree with me to go ahead and insist that he put the new breaker i bought in? B/c i was thinking well u cant see inside the breaker.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Being on their own neutral makes for less problems. Another thing, the shared neutral can't be dependant on a device. What tha means is that all connection on that neutral must be done with a wire nut and not on a device screw due to the fact that connection loosen up and when there is a shared neutral the condition previously described happen more often.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok thanks for the info. Do u agree though that i insisted that he go ahead and put the new breaker in even though the outside of the breaker in there didnt show signs of damage? I mean when the breaker tripped yesterday there was a melty plastic-y smell. I was thinking just b/c the outside didnt look damaged doesnt mean the inside isnt. ........i'm sure those loose screws connecting the circuit wires to the power outlet didnt help out matters either. Glad he found that and tightened them.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Changing the breaker wouldn't hurt if one was avaiable. I would have swapped breaker with another circuit to see if the breaker was failing.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Question can loose circuit screws in a power outlet affect the flow of power to another outlet on that same circuit?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Yes they most cwrtainly can. That is why they should be connected with the screws, not more than one wire under a screw and never have a shared neutral dependant on a device.
Loose wires cause flickering, voltage drop and burning insulation off the loose wires. If not corrected as soon as possible the damage to the wiring will increase the longer it continues.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I"m not talking about loose screws in the breaker panel i'm talking about loose screws that hold the circuit wires to the inside part of the power outlet where u plug ur appliances in. He tightened those. I noticed when he took it out there was wire coming in from the right side of the outlet innerd and he had to tighten the screw alot on that one then wire going from the other side of the outlet innerd that he had to tighten too. Let me see if i can understand how homes/apartments are wired that are on the same circuit. Does the wiring go to one outlet....screw in there.... then out the other side and flow to the next outlet on that circuit?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Circuits are wired outlet to outlet. Any connection on the device that is part of the path to the next outlet, if loose will affect the rest of the circuit. Loose connection can either fail completely or make an breake depending on the current in the circuit. Wire in the circuit will move. The heat from the current expands the metal o the wire and will contract when the load is dropped. This movement allows for arcing at the bad connection and the melting of the insulation on the wires causing the smell of burning plastic. In general any loose connect will cause failure of the circuit in part or totally.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok thanks that's what i thought. Thanks. Since the screws were tightened on the power outlet circuits and the breaker replaced i havent had any problems. KNOCK ON WOOD. thanks so much for your insight
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Very Good. I couldn't help but notice that you asked the same question in different ways multipal times on the site. I would suggest that you only ask it one time and allow any of our experts help you. I don't want you to go broke using our services.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Sorry but the site says it allows 2nd opions. So if i want to ask more than one person the same question and get a 2nd opinion i'm allowed to do so.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Don't misunderstand me. I just saw the number of accepts and wanted to help you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I just bought an APC 8 outlet surge protector for the power outlet on the wall behind my TV. Ok on this APC surge protector (actually on all their products even their battery backups) there is a "Building Wiring Fault" LED light that comes on if wiring isnt correct. OK so i plugged in the surge protector to this power outlet behind my TV so I could plug in my TV, Roku Player and DVD player and that light came on for the building wiring fault. According to the APC website it says that light comes on b/c maybe there is an overloaded neutral wire, reversed polarity on the outlet, or a grounding wire is missing on the outlet. I've lived in this apartment for 8yrs and that power outlet has never given me any problems and works just fine. The one thing i noticed a long time ago is the power outlet is upside down so the prong for the ground is on top instead of on bottom. I thought maybe that was causing that building wiring fault light to come on but then i did some research on the internet and i read it's actually preferred 3 prong power outlets be installed upside down so the ground is on top. So i dont think that's the issue. I'd assume if the polarity was reversed then the outlet wouldnt power my tv, etc right? I'm thinking maybe the grounding wire might be loose or not connected but just want an opinion on this. I plugged this same APC surge protector into all the other power outlets in my apartment and the "building wiring fault" light didnt come on with any of them so they all seem to be ok. Also i have a volt meter/tester i put it on that outlet with my tv and audio receiver on and it read consistently 119-121 volts. Also never had any issues with things plugged into this outlet.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
If the polarity of the outlet is reversed anything plugged into it will still work. The problem is that there could be a problem between the hot wire and the ground or worst yet if the ground is missing a shock potential will exist. The information given with the power strip is correct and should be taken seriously. As far a whether the ground is up or down isn't a matter of code. Some think that being on the top prevents a metallic object from crossing the hot and neutral should if fall in that direction, some think that the length of the ground make the plug stay in the receptacle better, Others think that it should be installed with the wriien words on the yoke readable as that was the way it was intended to be installed. There is no right or wrong way for sure.The best way to check the outlet would be with a 2 wire voltage tester. If you have one I'll direct you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I only have a voltage meter/tester. Here is what i use: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QE4EPW/ref=wms_ohs_product_T2 It read steady 119-121 volts....i kept it attached for like 5 minutes with my tv and audio receiver also on. Like i said i've been using this outlet for 8yrs and never had a problem with it. Always had surge protectors on this outlet but none that had this feature of alerting of some kind of wiring issue. None of my other outlets in my apartment trigger the wiring is faulty light on this APC surge protector. Seems odd that this outlet is the only one in the apartment that is upside down and is also triggering this wiring faulty light on the surge protector. Perhaps when whoever installed or fixed this outlet and decided to make it upside down they didnt wire it correctly. Also i've never had any problems plugging things into this outlet it never sparks or flashes sends out any kind of shock of electricity that is visible. But i am having the landlords electrician come out on friday and he is going to look at the outlet. Oh, i have one other outlet that is on the same circuit as this outlet. I plugged the surge protector into that other outlet and the faulty wiring light didnt come on so it's gotta be something in the outlet and not beyond into the circuit panel. B/c i would think if something was wrong with the entire circuit the other power outlet on it would show a faulty wiring light as well.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
I would have to agree with your assumptions. If you use a 2 wire tester as follows it will tell if the polarity is reversed and what the voltage is. Test as follows
1. hot to neutral - should be 120V
2. hot to ground - should be 120V- if zero the hot and neutral are reversed
3. neutral to ground - should be zero - if 120V the hot and neutral are reversed
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I dont have a 2 wire tester. Only this tester http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QE4EPW/ref=wms_ohs_product_T2 can i use this product?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
No, it doesn't take a reading between to points. Any home center will have a multimeter for around \$20.00. It will be able to test for voltage and resistance, which are the basics of the trade.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Will this one work? I can order one from amazon.com and get them in one day i dont have access to a car: http://www.amazon.com/Palm-Size-Handheld-Digital-Multimeter-DT830B/dp/B00066ZZO4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309396846&sr=8-1 If not can u look on amazon.com and recomment one to me. I also saw this one: http://www.amazon.com/Equus-3320-Auto-Ranging-Digital-Multimeter/dp/B000EVYGZA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1309396912&sr=8-2
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
That will work just fine.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Tell me will the surge protector work properly even if there is some misconfiguration of wiring in the outlet?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Very good question. I would have to do some research on it. My innitial response would be that if there ar indicator lights on it to alert you of a mis-wire it will not protect, otherwise why the indicators.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

The "protection working" led light is on too though. Who knows. So I opened up the outlet just to see what is going on in there. There was a wire connected to one side of the outlet inside and one wire connected to the other side. That's it. Shouldnt there be a 3rd wire that is for grounding? If so i think that's the problem. No grounding wire. But it's just a guess my apartment complex is like 50yrs old and i think the wiring is just about as old so who knows how it's supposed to be hooked together. The last time the electrician was here he said all the electrical circuits in these apartments run thru metal tubes. I've read online that sometimes these metal tubes will act as the ground. Is that true? Then if so maybe i'm still looking at a reverse polarization issue.

Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
There should be a ground wire if the device is a grounded duplex (3 hole). Depending on the wiring used when the outlet was installed, there may be a ground available from a connection to the box. If a metal sheathed cable or a grounded cable was used the box may be a ground. Connection of a jumper to the device and box will offer a ground. The screws that attach the device are not considered a good ground connection of a in the wall box, so the jumper is required. You can verify the presence of a ground by testing between the hot wire and the box for 120V.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok what about the metal tubes that carry the circuits in the walls u never answered that. I've read online in many places that some of these metal tubes the carry the wires are actually good at grounding the wires and that's why alot of times u dont see a grounding wire on a 3 prong outlet.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
That only provides a gound to the box. A jumper wire is required from the box to the device.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yah i think for sure the outlet isnt grounded and that's why the faulty wiring light is coming on. I bought a surge protector that has an "on" light and a "grounded" light. Well the "on" light came on but the "grounded" light didnt. I checked all the other outlets in my apartment and the grounded light came on for those so just this one outlet isnt grounded. I know in the back of the receptacle boxes there is supposed to be a screw to connect a grounding wire hopefully mine has one and he can just ad the grounding wire that way. I know that circuit has grounding on it b/c there is one other power outlet on this circuit in the bathroom and when i plugged this new surge protector into that one the "grounded" light came on in there too.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Well you have the situation well in hand. Without a ground the surge protection is wothless because there is no way tochanel the surge to ground as intended.

Thanks for accepting.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
So I am right about there being a screw in the back of the receptacle box where u put in the outlet in right where u connect a copper grounding wire? If there isnt one there how would he ground it.....somehow get the ground from the bathroom outlet to the one that isnt grounded?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
As previously instructed, test from the box to the hot wire to see if you read 120V. If you do the ground is provided by the raceway. If there isn't a tapped hole for a ground screw, he'll need to install the ground jumper with a self tapping screw to the box. It is done all the time and he should know how to do it. If the box should not have a ground through the raceway then to get one hell either need to run a length of #12 wire to the panel, the grounding electrode conductor (Main Ground For The Service) or any box having a ground.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Could he piggy back the grounding wire that is on the same circuit in the bathroom power outlet and run it to this outlet (if there isnt a grounding wire already run to this outlet and it's just not connected)? I'm thinking there is a ground in this outlet but whoever renovated this apartment 8yrs before i moved in and then installed this outlet upside down just didnt connect a copper wire for the ground. At least i'm hoping that's what happened .....i really would hate for him to have to run a grounding wire all the way from the breaker panel to this power outlet but oh well i guess that's his job. I've been using this outlet for 8yrs on my tv and audio receiver i guess i've been lucky that nothing has happened. What are the grounds used for? Is surge from things like lightening etc protected by the grounds or is that something different?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
The ground is the safety backup path way for current to go back to the source.
( transformer). It provide a means to clear a short circuit by tripping the breaker. Grounding is one of the biggest considerations in any electrical installation. Bad ground or no grounds are a hazard for shock and damage to electrical equipment..
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Wow hmm i guess like i said i been lucky using this outlet for 8yrs with no issues/problems or damage to my tv or other stuff.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Sometimes you get lucky. Thanks for using Just Answer.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Is it ok to use an extension cord with a surge protector? Now that i know (after 8yrs) i'm using a non grounded outlet i dont feel comfortable. I have several major appliance extension cords. I plugged my APC surge protector into one of them and ran the extension cord into the bedroom to another outlet. Turned back on the APC surge protector. Faulty wiring light is no longer on. I'm gonna keep it this way til the electrician comes over tomorrow. That is if it's ok to do this.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
No problem with that for a day or so.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I've been doing some research on grounding online. Is it true u can rig up a ground by inserting wire into the screw hole where u screw your wall plate onto the outlet then running that wire into the ground screw on the outlet? I read on a few places online that fixture screw hole is grounded and runs to the ground of ur building. Sounded odd to me but i just thought i'd ask.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
The only way you can ground a receptacle is one of the way previously mentioned. Using the cover and it's screw is absolutely not one of them.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
yah i thought that sounded too to be true lol. ok thanks.nite
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
OK, good luck, till the next time.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I'm back. If my electrician doesnt show up tomorrow (he's stood me up many times before) wuld this product be a good temp fix to ground my outlet. I'd plug this into my outlet then plug my surge protector into this http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XVG72G?tag=vglnk-c615-20
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
That will protect from shochs but offer no protection for you electronics from surges - NO GROUND.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It says in the description it's a "grounded receptacle with built in shock resistance". Look under "technical details". http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000XVG72G?tag=vglnk-c615-20
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
What that means is that it is a 3 blade receptacle which is called grounded and it is OK by exception in the code for shock protection because it is a GFCI, but not having a ground won't do a thing for surge protection with your strip. The use of the words misled you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Electrician was just here. Turns out the box was grounded but the outlet was bad/going bad so that's why the grounding wasnt working. He replaced the outlet and everything is working good. Faulty wiring light on my surge protector no longer on.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
Very good. Glad it was simple.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yah funny thing. I never even considered it was the outlet going bad!
Expert:  Mike G. replied 5 years ago.
That's why I said to open the box and check for a ground. All's well that ends well.