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Old 04-29-2011, 12:56 PM
rjk rjk is offline
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"Backstab" electrical outlets?

We had an electrician in today doing an inspection,and he told me that backstab electrical outlets are dangerous. He says that the wires are just plugged into the back of the outlet, and can shift with heating and cooling until they can start a fire.

I know that the proper way to connect an outlet is to twist the wire around a screw and tighten it down to get a good contact.

Are backstab plugs really that bad?

(We will be getting another inspection. This is just for info.)
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  #2  
Old 04-29-2011, 01:00 PM
spifflog spifflog is offline
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IAMAE, but I don't think they are dangerous. They are approved for one thing. I've tried to take the wire out of the outlet a couple of times, and I've never been able to do so, so I don't think the house is going to shake in any manner sufficient to work it louse. Sounds like urban electrician myth.
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:06 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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I'm an electrical engineer, and I would never ever use one in my own house.
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:12 PM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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I have never heard of this happening. I had assumed that since the outlet came designed that way and was UL approved that there wouldn't be any problems.

When I did house wiring for my place I used the screw terminals just because I preferred the option of someday removing the wire. To remove a wire from the back stab terminal usually requires that it be cut off.

I'd like to see some electricians weigh in on this.
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:30 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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they are at best not durable. they can lead to unsafe conditions as well.

if people use backstabs they are doing a job quickly. if they are doing a job quickly they also might nick a wire while stripping it. this combination could cause it to fail at some point.

when you fasten a wire under a screw you get a good look at the quality of you connection.

i've had people have a problem and when i dismount the receptacle and pull it out a backstabbed wire falls/slides out the back, a real hazard. this has happened many times.

even though they might be approved i agree with your electrician. there are many electricians that feel this way regarding quality and safety of the work.

Last edited by johnpost; 04-29-2011 at 01:31 PM.. Reason: kant spel
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  #6  
Old 04-29-2011, 01:39 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is online now
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Backstabbing is an approved wiring method. Push in connectors are also approved.

Ive never seen fires due to either but occasionally the connections do fail and it requires swapping out the outlet because good contact is no longer made.

When wiring places like homes that may never see an electrician again for years I wire using the the studs on the outlets and wire nuts.

When doing commercial places like stores in malls and such I have no issues backstabbing or using push ins. An electrician is likely to come through regularly to change displays and such and it's five minutes to a service call to fix an outlet that's gone bad.

Overall it's just a cost thing. Using the terminal screws takes more time up front. and for a home owner it's worth paying for that time. The back stabs take less time but you may end up paying for that saved time later.
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:54 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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I have replaced quite a few backstab devices where the wire was scorched at the point of contact, as well as several where the body of the device had cracked and the wire was no longer being held in place.

Needless to say, I do not use backstabs. The name says it all - down the road, they will stab you in the back. I'm not personally aware of any fires that have been caused by the things, but I have seen them cause erratic failures.
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Old 04-29-2011, 04:53 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbaDog View Post
When I did house wiring for my place I used the screw terminals just because I preferred the option of someday removing the wire. To remove a wire from the back stab terminal usually requires that it be cut off.
The backstab terminals I've seen have some sort of a tab that you can push to release the wire without having to cut it. I could see how temperature changes or manufacturing defects might lead to a possibility of the wire slipping back out.

My favorite reason to use the backstab terminals used to be that you can change a bad outlet without turning off the breaker. (To be honest, that's probably another reason against them when you look at it from a rational, safety-oriented point of view. But back then, I was an apartment manager who had a dozen things to juggle, who had to put up with a building with inconsistently labeled breakers, and who hated tenants complaining about their reset clocks...)
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Old 04-29-2011, 05:13 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
The backstab terminals I've seen have some sort of a tab that you can push to release the wire without having to cut it. I could see how temperature changes or manufacturing defects might lead to a possibility of the wire slipping back out.
My experience with replacing the outlets in my house for aesthetic reasons is that the release tab is very flaky and about 1/2 the time you need to cut the wires because that is the only way that works.
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  #10  
Old 04-29-2011, 05:26 PM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
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A contractor's dream

Back wired outlets came along as a present to contractors so a home could be quickly wired. They use spring tension on a tang the locks into the wire. In time, arcing can develop there and the outlet needs to be repaired. The repair is to move the wire to a screw. Yes, arcing can be dangerous. Newer code uses arc fault interrupters that prevent this danger. These can easily be retrofitted if you are concerned. When I'm doing individual outlets, I always use the old fashion way of using the screws. Shame on me.
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  #11  
Old 04-29-2011, 06:38 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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If you're concerned, just replace the receptacles. It's a cheap and easy job.

I just replaced all six receptacles in out living room. The springs in some of the sockets were shot. (I also noticed a few of receptacles were of the "backstab" variety.) Only took a few hours.
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  #12  
Old 04-30-2011, 01:02 AM
rjk rjk is offline
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Thanks, all. It sounds like we have to do it. As I said, we'll get another inspection or two, with estimates, and go from there.
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  #13  
Old 04-30-2011, 03:01 AM
njtt njtt is online now
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You know, I had never heard of a "backstab electrical outlet," so I Googled it - and this thread was at number four!

Last edited by njtt; 04-30-2011 at 03:02 AM..
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  #14  
Old 04-30-2011, 12:41 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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backstab is a short coloquialism, it is easier than 'quick and dirty unreliable method receptacle wiring method'.

the spring backwiring for receptacles admits 14AWG wire, for new wiring 14AWG can only be used for lighting circuits, so they are usable for repair work. (USA)
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  #15  
Old 04-30-2011, 02:08 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnpost View Post
for new wiring 14AWG can only be used for lighting circuits
This is incorrect
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  #16  
Old 04-30-2011, 02:13 PM
Arjuna34 Arjuna34 is offline
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I'm an electrical engineer and a licensed electrician, and I would never use them in my house, or anywhere else I was wiring a receptacle.
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  #17  
Old 04-30-2011, 10:44 PM
GaryM GaryM is offline
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There are receptacles available where the wire is inserted from the back, as in the back stab units, but the screw is used to secure the wire. There's an internal clamp rather than just a spring.
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