I keep finding 14 Gauge on 20 amp breakers!

Since I started inspecting at the end of last month, I’ve done 7 inspections and every one I have inspected has had 14 Gauge branch circuit wiring on 20 amp breakers. It’s mainly been on newer homes, I think these electrical contractors are cheaping out and just throwing them on there instead of grabbing a 15 amp breaker. What are your thoughts?

That is wrong every day of the week. A minimum of 12 gauge wire is required for a 20 AMP circuit. Not sure why they would do this. A 15 AMP breaker is generally cheaper.

15A & 20A breakers are the same cost. This is likely someone adding a circuit after the fact and doing it incorrectly.

It could be permissible to have conductors with a lower ampacity than the OCPD if the circuit were feeding AC units or motor loads.

That’s what I was thinking…

No offense, but I would be careful and make sure you are looking at the wire sizes correctly. You did say you are a new inspector and have done 7 inspections and everyone has the wrong size wires. The odds of that are pretty rare. Do you have any photos? What color was the outer jacket? How many circuits were like this?

You could be correct as the newer insulation is a lot smaller then the older insulation is .

The inspector should not be looking at the insulation. Different insulation have different thicknesses. MTW is thicker than THHN. The conductors need to be looked at or the sheath on NM cables can be read.

No offense taken at all. The insulation is black and I’m pretty positive it’s 14 you can clearly see a difference in 14 and 12 but the branch wiring is almost all the same in the panels and they have 15 and 20 amp breakers on them so something is definitely not right

Do you have any photo’s?

What are the loads being served?

I’ll get some pictures shortly. They are not really any heavy loads, mainly just outlets and all the 20 amp breakers that serve the kitchen but they still have 14 gauge

OK take a look at the conductors, to me they seem like 14 gauge. I’ve seen 12 and these look smaller than 12 also I can see the copper in some areas. I just want to make sure I’m seeing and performing this correctly.


They look like #12 to me. If you look at the third CB up from the bottom you’ll see that it’s a 15 amp. The conductor to that CB is smaller than the 20 amp CB’s.

Do you have a photo of the cables entering the panel?

Maybe my eyes are getting bad I’m only 34!!! But they seem the same size. I’ll look at my panel because I have the same thing



Here is the entrance. The neutrals look like 12 but the hots look like 14. Maybe I’m wrong but I think I’m right. Any feedback much appreciated, thanks everyone! I’m just here to learn and gain more knowledge

Sometimes black conductors appear to be smaller than white conductors but in this case they’re not. Generally yellow jacketed cables have #12 conductors and white have #14 conductors.

You will never encounter a cable with different gauge neutral and hot conductors. Listen to the electricians on this forum, Robert and Jim.