1 Reply Latest reply: Apr 1, 2015 11:59 AM by GOrrigo RSS

Two kitchen circuits - one to bottom half of all outlets, the other to the top half


In my kitchen, there are two 20 amp 120 volt circuits, each on its own circuit breaker.  But, instead of one circuit feeding some outlets and the other circuit feeding the other outlets, one of the circuits feeds the bottom outlet of all duplex receptacles and the other circuit feeds the top outlet of all duplex receptacles. I assume that this was done to balance the load if you have your counter-top bunched together - say a microwave next to the toaster.

The wiring is done with 12 gauge, 3 wire (plus ground) Romex, with the bottom outlet getting the white and black wires and the top outlet getting the white and the red wire. In the breaker box, the black and the red are on opposite sides of the neutral.  I checked this by measuring the voltage between the top and bottom hot blades in the outlets (i.e., effectively between the black wire and the red wire).  It was 250 volts.

I have two questions:

  1. Is there enough capacity in the white wire to handle the two 20 amp circuits?  I assume that there is since they on opposite sides of the 250 volts, with the neutral in the middle. The red side would be on the minus side of the sine wave when the black was on the plus side and vice versa.  It seems to me that, if both circuits were running at the same amperage (say two toasters running), the neutral wouldn't even be carrying any current.
  2. How can I GFCI protect the outlets? This is the real reason I started this discussion.




  • Re: Two kitchen circuits - one to bottom half of all outlets, the other to the top half

    Our GFCI's cannot be split fed. I'm unaware of any manufacturers that offer one either.  Since the GFCI is measuring imbalances in current between the hot and neutral wires of a circuit, you would not be able to use both hots on this circuit with a GFCI, unless you had two neutral wires.  One of the hot wires would need to be capped off, and the the remaining receptacles would need to be common fed.  If you'd like to further discuss your application, please call our support team at 800.824.3005.