Garage Outlets: 5 Things You Need to Know

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Electricity is one of the most significant barriers in revamping or settling into your garage.

Whether you’re looking to use your garage to charge your new electric car or you’re looking to upgrade it into the ultimate workshop or hang-out space, you will almost always find yourself wishing you had more garage outlets.

In this article, we’ll answer five of the most common questions about adding extra outlets in your garage.


How Many Outlets Are Required in a Garage?

A good rule of thumb for garage outlets is one per parking bay. However, only one electric receptacle is required in a residential garage.

According to the National Electric Code:

210.11(C) Dwelling Units.

210.11(C)(4) Garage Branch Circuits. In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of this section, at least one 120-volt, 20-ampere branch circuit shall be installed to supply receptacle outlets required by 210.52(G)(1) for attached garages and in detached garages with electric power. This circuit shall have no other outlets.

Exception: This circuit shall be permitted to supply readily accessible outdoor receptacle outlets.

However, the one-per-vehicle rule is just the minimum. One of the things I regret when building my house is not adding more outlets in my garage.

The single outlet is fine if you want to vacuum out your car. 

You quickly run out of receptacles when you add a workbench, an appliance, or additional ceiling lights for your garage. But if you only use your garage for storage or car parking, one outlet will probably do the trick.

Like every rule, there are exceptions.

For example, if your garage is detached from your house, you’re not required to include any outlets. For specifics, refer to your local building codes and ordinances. The National Electrical Code (NES) constantly changes, and many areas have slightly different regulations.

The regulations change if you intend to convert your garage into a living space. At that point, you must follow the building codes for residential areas.


How High Should Outlets Be in a Garage?

Garage outlets need to be easily accessible. An outlet won’t do you much good on the ceiling unless you plan to haul out your ladder whenever you want to plug in a drill.

There are no specific garage outlet height requirements. However, standard practice is to install each outlet at least 18″ off the ground and no more than 5’6″ above the floor. 

Most garage owners will generally want outlets installed within those parameters. Here are the standard heights for garage receptacles based on their intended uses.

  • Water Heaters: 18 inches
  • Table Press: 18-20 inches
  • Washers and Dryers: 34-36 inches
  • Drill Presses: 30-36 inches
  • Refrigerators and Freezers: 48 inches

At the end of the day, you have quite a bit of freedom in deciding the height of receptacles in your garage.


How Much Does It Cost to Install Garage Outlets?

The cost to install an additional outlet in your garage can vary. Still, it is usually anywhere from under $100 to over $1,000. The average price is $350. 

This will depend on the location and voltage garage outlets you plan to install, the existing circuits, and how much an electrician will charge you.

Starting off, at most online retailers, a standard outlet can cost you anywhere from $10 to $25. The outlet itself is really the cheapest part of this whole transaction. 

From there, you need to account for the cost of ground wire. Depending on your desired wiring, this ranges from $2 to $5 per foot. The further away from the circuits you place your new outlet, the more the wiring will cost you. 

If the existing circuits have enough power to account for another outlet, you will save a lot of money. In many cases, unfortunately, this is not the case. The cost of running a new circuit off the electric panels will vary depending on what voltage you’re demanding. 

Adding a new 120V circuit to your existing circuits should cost around $150 to $250. A 240V circuit, on the other hand, usually costs anywhere from $300 to $800.

The final cost you will need to consider is that of the electrician.

Unless you have an extensive history doing electrical work yourself, I recommend hiring a professional electrician to install your new garage outlets for you. Electricians can cost anywhere from $100 to $250, but that will vary based on where you live.


Can You Convert a 120V Circuit to 240V Without Running New Cable?

Whether you just bought an electric car or want to install a refrigerator in your garage, you can usually convert a 120V outlet to a 240V outlet.

Generally, converting a 120V circuit to 240V requires running a new cable. However, there are exceptions.

If the outlet you wanted to upgrade is the only outlet connected to the circuit, you will not have to add a new cable. In most cases, your house’s wiring is already rated for up to 600V. So adding a 240V outlet in your garage doesn’t have much impact, particularly on your wallet.

In most situations, you will have to run new wires when you’re looking to convert your garage outlet to 240V.

An electrician should be able to give you specific advice if you’re unsure what your circuits need based on your home’s electrical system.


How Many Outlets on a 20 Amp Circuit in a Garage?

Electrical fires account for thousands of house fires every year. You do not want to mess around with outlets and wiring, especially with the wiring in your garage near your vehicles.

The quick answer is that you should have no more than ten outlets connected to a 20-amp circuit for fire safety reasons.

However, it actually depends on what is drawing power from those garage outlets.

The maximum power draw of an outlet is 15 amps. In theory, you should be able to install one outlet on a 20-amp circuit, and have 5 amps to spare.

So why is ten the recommended maximum? Because using 19.5 out of 20 amps tends to be what blows the circuits, resulting in the dreaded walk of shame to the fusebox.

The issue typically arises when a new device is plugged into a circuit already powering other devices. A garage with multiple large devices will particularly have this problem. 

If the car, refrigerator, lights, music, or washer & dryer in the garage are already running on outlets on the same circuit, starting a drill or other power tool could blow a fuse.

Always be aware of what other appliances and electronics are used around the house when you’re powering something up in the garage.


Wrapping It Up

Understanding and properly setting up your garage’s electrical layout is pivotal to your safety and the convenience of your daily tasks. Factors like the number of garage outlets you need, their optimal heights, and cost considerations play a crucial role in enhancing your garage space.

Finally, the complexities of converting 120V to 240V and the specifics of setting up a 20-amp circuit emphasize the need to make informed decisions.

Remember, while adding as many garage outlets as you want is tempting, safety always comes first. Always consult a professional electrician to ensure you’re making the right moves.

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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including BobVila.com, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.