One of the most important questions that almost everyone who is undergoing a home renovation has on their mind is how to plan the electrical outlet spacing and how many electrical outlets there should be?
According to US regulations, no single point measured along the floor line of the room walls should be more than 6 ft away from an electrical outlet. This means that a standard, 12 x 14 ft room needs at least 4 to 6 electrical outlets, depending on the wall space.
Things can get a little complicated when it comes to electrical installations, especially when our real-life needs and government codes and requirements clash. In this article, I will try to clear (most of) the confusion behind this issue.
Before diving deeper into our topic of the day, we should clear out what a wall space is:
Any space wider than 2 ft and unbroken along the floor line by doorways, fireplaces, and fixed cabinets (that don’t have a work surface) is considered a wall space.
Therefore, kitchens, dining rooms, family and living rooms, parlors, recreation rooms, sunrooms, bedrooms, libraries, and similar rooms or dwelling unit areas need at least one electrical outlet on every 6 ft of wall space.
This definition, however, still doesn’t clearly determine how many electrical outlets there should be per room. We can answer that question with a few examples as the specifics of each building are unique:
|Room||Dimensions (ft)||Number of electrical outlets|
|Kitchen||10 x 16||6-10|
|Living Room||16 x 20||8-12|
|Bedroom||14 x 20||8-10|
|Bathroom||8 x 12||4-6|
You should remember that the numbers shown in the table above are the minimum government requirements rather than what you might need for your home. That number is individual and highly depends on your household’s needs.
Following the code, we can see that a mid-sized kitchen needs 6 to 10 electrical outlets. You should note that countertop outlets aren’t considered receptacle outlets, and therefore aren’t counted toward the required number.
You also need to consider your household needs. Apartments and smaller homes might get away with the minimum required electrical outlets for their kitchens. On the other hand, larger families may need to use a wider variety of appliances, and therefore, might even go above the maximum shown in the table.
Living rooms are far less tricky than kitchens, at least when it comes to electrical outlet calculations. All you need to do is calculate the wall space (doorways, fireplaces, and countertops with no work surface excluded) and place an outlet every 6ft.
However, this will, most likely, force you to resort to using extension cords later, which is far from ideal. For this reason, you need to take into account the number of devices that there’ll be in the living room (stereos, TVs, etc.) and install outlets based on their placement. It’s a good idea to add a few extra outlets to account for future needs.
As wasteful and counterproductive as it might seem, bedroom receptacle placement needs to follow the same pattern as the rest of your home. It might seem like having an unnecessary outlet on a sidewall of your room is beyond redundant, but you must follow the rules.
Although it might be more convenient to place a couple of electrical outlets next to your bed and call it a day, your home inspector will most definitely disagree.
While you might think that four electrical outlets are too many for a bathroom, the government regulators disagree. The same rules apply to bathrooms as other rooms; there needs to be an outlet for every 6 ft of wall space.
I suggest sticking to the government-prescribed minimum for this part of your home, as there simply isn’t a need for more than that in the bathroom.
How Many Electrical Outlets Per Room Is Too Many?
When considering electrical rewiring, one element of electrical outlet planning installation is commonly thought about too late. The number of receptacles you can install in a room depends highly on the type of breaker they are connecting to.
Most homes have a combination of 15 and 20 Amp breakers. While usable, the 15 Amp variety is much less common than the 20 Amp version.
Having over ten outlets per room might be too many, especially if all of those outlets connect to the same breaker. Some rooms, such as the kitchen, might benefit from more outlets, but this brings out the question of whether the circuit breaker can handle the electrical load that these outlets bring.
While adhering to local and federal regulations is mandatory, keeping your home safe should be your primary concern when dealing with electricity. For this reason and more, everyone dealing with installing new outlets should ensure that their home’s circuit doesn’t get overloaded by having too many outlets connected to the same breaker.
A standard 20 Amp breaker can handle up to 10 electrical outlets, experts say. With a maximum suggested load of 80%, up to 10 devices can be connected at the same time, depending on their electricity usage.
If their total electricity usage exceeds 1,920 watts, you’re risking overloading the circuit.
Electrical glitches are responsible for around 47,700 home fires in the US every year. Estimates show that one of the major factors in those glitches is overloaded circuits, commonly caused by plugging too many devices into a single outlet.
Why is that a problem? Because you’re trying to draw more current from the circuit than it can handle, causing it to overheat and potentially cause a fire.
Recognizing the signs of an overloaded circuit is something that every homeowner and tenant should be familiar with. Here is a short list of some of the most common overloaded electrical circuit signs:
- Issues with lighting (flickering, dimming)
- Strange sounds are coming from electrical outlets
- Issues with fuses
- Devices that require electricity to run seem to lack power
- Experiencing a light electrical shock when touching switches and electrical appliances
Fortunately, you can avoid this issue by following one simple tip: don’t use extension cords for major appliances such as stoves, fridges, freezers, etc., and plug them straight into the wall outlet. If you don’t have enough outlets, refer to the start of this article to determine how many receptacles you should have in your home.
As someone who has recently finished a major home renovation process, I can sympathize with those of you who are just starting one.
From this experience, there’s one suggestion I can make with absolute confidence: Even though the government regulations clearly state the number of electrical outlets each room should have, it might be best to leave the final decision to professionals.
A professional electrician is familiar with the code and knows where and how electrical outlet spacing needs to be planned. Having receptacles conveniently positioned and not having to trip over extension cords is a luxury we commonly disregard.