Outlets in Your Garage: 5 Things You Need to Know

One of the most significant barriers in revamping or settling into your garage is the electricity. 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 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.

This said, 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 just want to vacuum out your car. When you add a workbench, an appliance, or additional task lighting, you quickly run out of receptacles. But if you only use your garage for storage or parking your cars, 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) is constantly changing and many areas have slightly different regulations.

If you intend to convert your garage into a living space, the regulations change. At that point, you’re required to follow the building codes for residential spaces.


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 every time you want to plug in a drill.

There are no specific height requirements for outlets in a garage. However, common 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 anyways. Here are the standard heights for garage outlets, 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 deciding where to place outlets in your garage.


How Much Does It Cost to Install Outlets in a Garage?

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

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

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

From there, you need to account for the cost of ground wire. This will range from $2 to $5 per foot, depending on what wiring you need. 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 be saving 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 you 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 new cable, however, there are exceptions.

If the outlet you were looking 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 isn’t going to have much of an impact, particularly on your wallet.

In most situations, you will find yourself having to run new wires when you’re looking to convert your garage outlet to 240V. If you’re at all unsure what your circuits need, an electrician should be able to give you specific advice based on your home’s electrical system.


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

Electrical fires account for 51,000 house fires every year. Outlets and wiring are not something you want to mess around with, 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 outlets.

The maximum power draw of an outlet is 1.5 amps. In theory, you should be able to install 13 outlets to a 20 amp circuit and still have 0.5 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 in to a circuit that is already powering other devices. A garage with multiple large devices will particularly have this problem. 

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

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