What Is a Dedicated Circuit and When Do I Need One?

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated April 19, 2022
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  • Dedicated circuits help prevent appliances from tripping your breakers.

  • They also lower your risk of damaging your appliance and extend the lifespan of your breaker.

  • All major home appliances and heat-producing devices should have their own dedicated circuit.

  • Installing a dedicated circuit is an advanced project best left to an electrician.

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If you’re constantly resetting a circuit breaker only for them to trip again when you turn on a major appliance, you may need to move to a dedicated circuit. A dedicated circuit transmits an electrical current to one major appliance; no other appliance or device draws electricity from this circuit. This is different from a shared circuit, which splits electrical currents into multiple loads (or devices). 

Dedicated circuits help prevent unsafe overheating and those frustrating circuit breaker trips during an electrical current overload. Does your home need more dedicated circuits? Learn why every home should have them and where to install the circuits according to code requirements below.

Why Do Homes Need Dedicated Circuits?

A dedicated circuit has its own circuit breaker in your electrical box, which helps prevent electrical overloads and reduce the risk of an electrical fire. Although both dedicated and shared circuit breakers will automatically trip if a circuit overheats, a dedicated circuit limits the amount of current capable of running through it, almost completely eliminating the possibility of overload or overheating. There are many reasons why homes require dedicated circuits. Dedicated circuits also helps:

  • Prevent having to reset a tripped breaker as frequently

  • Keep the breaker from wearing out so quickly

  • Lessen the risk of damaging your major appliances

Make sure your home’s electrical circuits are up-to-date according to the National Electrical Code (NEC). The National Fire Protection Association set this code to safeguard people and property from electrical hazards. It is considered the benchmark for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection across all U.S. states.

What Appliances Need a Dedicated Circuit?

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The NEC requires that major home appliances and heat-producing devices have their own dedicated circuit. These include:

  • Refrigerators

  • HVAC systems

  • Dishwashers

  • Washers

  • Dryers 

  • Water and sump pumps

  • Garbage disposals

  • Freezers

  • Hot tubs

  • Ovens and electric ranges

Smaller appliances like microwaves, toasters, and even hairdryers sometimes need a dedicated circuit. If you’re unsure, check the appliance installation manual or consult with a licensed electrician.

How Do I Know If I Have a Dedicated Circuit?

Most modern circuit breaker boxes show when a circuit is dedicated. Check the control panel to see what appliance or area in the home is marked against each breaker. 

If it’s still unclear, you can establish this through a process of elimination. Turn off the breaker and note which items have lost power. An electrician can also confirm whether you have dedicated circuits in your home.

Selecting the Right Size of Dedicated Circuit

It’s essential to choose the right sized circuit for the appliance it serves. If the circuit is too small, the appliance can cause the breaker to trip repeatedly and eventually wear out the circuit. This can lead to overheating and electrical fires. An informed electrician can suggest the right circuit for your needs. Here are the common sizes for dedicated circuits:

15- to 20-Amp Dedicated Circuits

You will typically use 15- to 20-amp dedicated circuits for appliances such as:

  • Dishwashers

  • Refrigerators

  • Washers

  • Microwaves

  • Hairdryers

  • Coffee makers

  • Garbage disposal units

30- to 50-Amp Dedicated Circuits

You’ll need 30-to 50-amp dedicated circuits for heavy-duty appliances that draw more power, such as:

  • Dryers

  • Air conditioning units

  • Electric furnaces

  • Electric water heaters

  • Electric ranges

Installing Dedicated Circuits

Projects pertaining to electrical systems can be a bit advanced for a DIY; it’s best to call out a local licensed electrician to install any dedicated circuits safely and with the correct amperage required for your home.  According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of a standard 120v dedicated circuit outlets runs about $5 per outlet. You’ll also need to budget for labor, which averages about $55 per hour.

If you’re experiencing frequent circuit breaker trips or notice a burning smell coming from the electrical panel, you may need to install a dedicated circuit. That said, it’s worth having a pro investigate whether your appliances need a dedicated breaker or if it’s a bad circuit breaker that’s causing your problems. A faulty circuit breaker can be a major fire hazard, and it is not something to ignore.

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