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Split Circuit Outlet

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Split circuit outlets have been used in kitchen counter areas for use with small appliances. Codes have evolved over the years and there is some variations on codes between Canada and the United States or even between jurisdictional locations. Since I am not working in the field I want to be able to provide information about split circuits but yet refer you to our expects I have lined up in our forums for verification and specific requirements where you live.

My house was built in 1995 (in Canada) and I have split circuit outlets in the kitchen counter area and not GFI protected, having said that there has been a number of changes to the rules in regards to outlets within close distance to sinks above counter tops.

Split Circuit Outlet

In the above picture there are two separate ungrounded conductors (hot) on a dual breaker coming to the outlet, ( the black and red wires), the single grounded conductor (neutral) gets connected at the panel to the neutral bus, there is also a equipment grounding conductor (bare wire) that gets connected to a grounding bus at the panel and to the outlet electrical box (if metallic) and to the grounding screw of outlet as well as any onward cables.

A split circuit is connected to a dual breaker at the panel, it is bridged so that is one circuit trips both circuits trip, at the outlet (or outlets) the joining tab between the brass color screws is broke off and the top half and bottom half of the outlet is on a separate circuit however a single grounded conductor (neutral) is used for the return. The two ungrounded conductors (hot) from separate circuits is connected to the brass color screws of outlet.  Recent code revisions are now requiring circuits over the counter top near the sink to also have GFCI protection.  Now that creates a problem with split circuits that to date I have never seen a split circuit GFI outlet.  I have also read that there some variations on the type of outlet including some stating that the NEC allows to  pass through 20 amps on a 15 amp outlet. Personally I prefer never to have anything that has been rated for 15 amps carry 20 amps.

20 amp T shape outlet

Specific 20 amp outlets do come as a T shape as shown in the picture to the left.

From one of our experts on our forums, this is the Ontario Canada Kitchen codes summary...

Ontario Canada Kitchen codes summary...

Receptacles within 1.5m of sink need to be GFCI.

Kitchen counter circuits have two options...
1. split wired 15 amp.
2. 20 amp with T slot receptacle

GFCI option for those circuits...
1. Use double pole GFCI breaker on the 15 amp split- expensive.
2. Use 20 amp T slot GFCI receptacles.

The 20 amp T slot option was introduced in 2002 to get around the split receptacle issue with GFCIs.

I would strongly recommend that if you are wiring new kitchen outlets to take advantage of the expertise on our forums as we have moderators from both the United States and Canada on there, please be sure when seeking advice that you indicate the general area in which you live such as in the state of New York United States or live in the province of Ontario in Canada.

Written: March 11, 2012
Revised: June 30, 2013
Proof Read / Released: July 10, 2013
By: Donald Kerr


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