Wire and Breaker Size for Electric Dryers: Complete Guide

When installing a new electric wire, it can seem like a daunting task to ensure the electrical side of the installation is correct. Dealing with electricity and wires is always a serious issue, and getting it wrong could result in your dryer not functioning right, or worse, a fire.

Most electric dryers run on 240 volts, and the National Electric Code (NEC) says to use at least a 30 amp breaker on a dedicated circuit for these appliances. 220-volt electric dryers also require 30 amp breakers, while 110V/120V dryers only need 15 amp breakers. You should wire most electric dryers using 10/3 gauge wire (10-gauge cable).

The different electric dryer voltages, breaker sizes, and wire gauges can get super confusing if you don’t know much about electrical work. But once you break it down into manageable pieces, which I’ll do throughout this post, it isn’t that complicated.

Wire and Breaker Requirements for Electric Dryers

The wire and breaker size that you need for your electric dryer depends mainly on the power needs of your appliance. While there are apparent exceptions, there are three main voltage categories of electric dryers: 220V/240V and 110V/120V.

240-volt electric dryers are by far the most common that you’ll see. Most electric dryers that you see in the laundry rooms of homes in the United States are likely 240 volts. 

220-volt dryers are nearly identical to 240-volt dryers, and many 220-volt appliances get marketed as 240-volts to simplify things. When wiring them, there’s virtually no difference between 240 and 220-volt electric dryers; they require the same size wire and breaker.

110V/120V dryer circuits are usually associated with a gas dryer where less current is needed. While 240-volt dryers require a 3- or 4-prong dryer plug depending on the type of dryer outlet present. The gas dryer 110V/120V dryer plug powers the gas dryer electronics and plugs directly into a standard wall outlet.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way and you’re all caught up on the different appliance voltages you’re likely to encounter, let’s look at the breaker and wire gauges you’ll need for your electric clothes dryer.

Breaker Size for Electric Dryers

Electric Clothes Dryer SizeRecommended Circuit Breaker
240 volts30 amps
220 volts30 amps
110V/120V15 or 20 amps

Selecting the correct size circuit breaker for your electric clothes dryer is crucial. Installing a breaker that is too small will continuously trip when you run your electric dryer, and getting one that is too powerful can be a safety concern.

Most electric dryers are 240 volts, so a 30 amp circuit breaker is sufficient in most cases. 220V electric dryers are incredibly similar and require the same electrical circuit breaker size to function correctly. Both electric dryer sizes pull between 10-30 amps.

A 30-amp, double-pole breaker covers two breaker spaces inside the electrical panel. The dryer breaker inside the electrical panel works for electric clothes dryers.

For more compact 110V/120V electric dryers, you can use a much smaller dryer circuit breaker. Typically you plug these less powerful electric dryers directly into a wall outlet, so a 20 or 15 amp breaker is sufficient. These electric dryers typically pull 7.5-15 amps.

Wire Size for Electric Dryers

Electric Dryer SizeRecommended Wire Size
240 volts10 AWG
220 volts10 AWG
110V/120V14 or 12 AWG

Once you’ve figured out the correct breaker size for your electric dryer, it’s crucially important to use the right size wire for the dryer circuit. 

For 240V and 220V electric dryers using a 30-amp circuit breaker, you should use 10/3 American Wire Gauge (AWG) wire. 10/3 has two hot wires, a neutral wire, and a ground wire in the cable. It’s best to use the larger diameter wire to reduce heat from the flow of electricity.

You should wire 110V/120V electric dryers that plug into wall outlets using 14 or 12 AWG wires. If your outlet has a 15 amp breaker, use 14 gauge wire. And if your outlet has a 20 amp breaker, you should wire the dryer circuit using 12 gauge wire.

If you’re wiring an electric dryer receptacle, typically for 240V or 220V appliances, you may be wondering whether to use a 3-prong or 4-prong outlet. Which one you should use is very straightforward, according to the codes made by the National Electric Code (NEC).

Always use a 4-prong receptacle for a newly installed electric dryer circuit. While you might see 3-prong ones in older houses, newer NEC guidelines now require using 3-prong outlets for 240V and 220V electric dryers. If you have an existing 3-prong dryer outlet, it is grandfathered and you can use a 3-prong dryer plug wire.

What If You Don’t Use the Right Size Breaker for Dryer?

If you simply don’t have the perfect hardware on hand, you may be wondering what would happen if you used either a lower or higher amp breaker for your electric dryer. Let’s explore this question a little more.

Lower Amp Breakers

If your electric dryer required a 30 amp breaker, but you installed a 20 amp one (for example) instead, what would happen?

Typically using a lower amp branch circuit breaker, like a 25 amp breaker, for an electric dryer is not a safety problem, but it will likely consistently trip the breaker. Using the dryer will pull more amps than the breaker allows, causing it to trip and shut off power completely. While installing a lower amp breaker usually isn’t necessarily a safety issue, it sure will be annoying and prevent you from properly using your electric dryer.

Higher Amp Breakers

Now, let’s take a look at what would happen if you used a higher amp breaker than recommended for your electric dryer. If your dryer required a 30 amp dryer breaker, but you installed a 50 amp one (for example) instead, what would happen?

If you wire everything else for a 30 amp dryer breaker, but you install a larger breaker, you are at risk of causing an electrical fire or harming your electric dryer. A larger amperage breaker won’t trip when an overcurrent occurs which can permanently damage the dryer.

However, if you use the correct size wire for a 50 amp breaker (in this case, 6-gauge wire), even though your dryer only requires 30 amps, you should be fine. Most modern appliances have built-in overcurrent protection and will bump down the 50 amps to the needed level without causing any harm.

Conclusion

When you first look at which breaker and wire size you need for your electric dryer, all of the numbers and nuances can make it seem very overwhelming. But once you take a moment to understand the reason behind the numbers, things become much clearer. 

Once you’ve found your standard dryer’s voltage (typically 240V, 220V, or 110V/120V), choose the correct size breaker. Use a 30 amp breaker for 240V or 220V dryers and a 15 or 20 amp breaker for 110V/120V dryers.

Next, simply choose the right gauge wire for your breaker. 10-gauge AWG wire for 30 amp breakers, 12-gauge wire for 20 amp breakers, and 14-gauge wire for 15 amp breakers. If you need to wire a new branch circuit receptacle for your electric dryer, always install a 4-prong dryer cord and plug to comply with the current NEC code.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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