15 Vs. 20 Amps – Understanding The Difference And Your Needs

Vertical Power Strip 15A or 20A PlugsIn server installations, it is important to have enough power to run the equipment, protect the computers from a power surge, and manage the electricity usage for maximum efficiency.

Voltage is the potential for electricity to move through the circuitry, so higher voltage means the electricity moves more easily. The power of the electricity is the amperage, which has the name of amps for short.

What is the difference between 15 and 20 amps?

Twenty amps are more powerful than fifteen amps. To find out the amperage needs of the installed equipment, consult with the manufacturer’s information about its power requirements.

A plug-in for twenty-amp circuits looks different from a plug-in for fifteen-amps. Fifteen amps are the most common circuits in normal household electrical wiring. The fifteen amp plugs may be two-pronged or three-pronged (the third prong is for a ground circuit). All the plug-in receptacles align vertically for fifteen amp circuits.

20 amp circuits

For twenty-amp circuits one of the prongs (the left one while facing the plug-in outlet) aligns horizontally. A plug-in for a twenty-amp circuit accepts both the vertically aligned fifteen-amp plug and a horizontally aligned twenty-amp plug.

The receptacle is “t-shaped” to accommodate the lower fifteen-amp plugs and the higher twenty-amp plugs. Twenty-amp circuits easily accommodate fifteen amp electricity draws, but a fifteen-amp circuit does not work for twenty amps. When equipment needs a twenty-amp circuit to work properly then it will have one of the vertically aligned plugs where the left prong is rotated 90 degrees to make it impossible to plug it into a fifteen-amp circuit.

Electricity is like water in the way that it flows. Twenty-amp circuits can handle the lower power requirements of a fifteen-amp demand; nevertheless, the opposite is not possible. Should equipment require a twenty-amp circuit, it is important to provide the correct electrical connection.

This includes not only using the correct outlet receptacles of the proper design but also includes using better gauge (thicker) wiring for the electrical connections and a higher capacity breaker switch designed to handle an electrical load of 20 amps or more.

A word of caution is necessary when working with twenty-amp circuits. It is the amperage not the voltage that has the potential to kill a person. Normal electrical circuits are in the range of 100 to 120 volts. This is the same for fifteen amps circuits as for twenty amp circuits. However, the twenty amps circuits carry much stronger electrical current and pose a greater risk.

Important considerations

With computer server installations, it is common to use the higher twenty amps circuits because each active electricity consuming part of the installation needs a significant amo of power. A single twenty-amp circuit only accommodates equipment, which draws, in total, a maximum of twenty amps.

The way to determine the electrical load placed on each individual circuit is to look at the manufacturer’s specifications of the amperage required to operate the equipment, then allow for about 10 to 20% of extra unused capacity and add up all the load requirements of the equipment that is connected to that single circuit.

It is important not to overload each circuit because equipment failure, circuit breakers going off frequently, and equipment damage is possible. It is very useful to have twenty-amp circuits when housing a lot of computer equipment and servers, which have in total, a high demand for electricity.

+Katrina  is a product specialist, solving issues for your computer server and power needs at Racksolutions.com.