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Old 03-25-2008, 10:22 AM   #1
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Backstabbing Questions


I see that most of you folks in the know consistently advise against "backstabbing" when connecting outlets. As always, I'm deferring to the experts out there and not backstabbing, but I do have a couple questions:
1) Why is backstabbing a poor practice?
2) If it's such a bad practice, why are outlets manufactured with backstabbing as an option? I know it's much easier and quicker to backstab (especially for us diy'ers), but if it dangerous, I'd think that the manufacturers would eliminate the backstabbing option.
Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Old 03-25-2008, 10:59 AM   #2
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Backstabbing Questions


Good question. While I do not back stab, many contractors do because it saves time. Most if not all devices with back stab capability are 15 amp. Like recepts and switches. Thus not allowing for #12 wire to be used.
Back stab devices do not afford as good a connection as the wrap screw method. Only a blade with little surface area is compressed in the stab. When wrapping a screw your surface area is much larger and a much more secure connection results. If the screw is not used properly that also can relate to a bad connection. There is nothing wrong with back stab. But I have found that I personally like to use the screw, especially if you need to remove the device.

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Old 03-25-2008, 11:08 AM   #3
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Backstabbing Questions


I paid a little extra and bought backwired outlets for my basement. The backwiring isn't the same as the springloaded stab in connection. This is a compression connection that tightens with the same side screw on the outlet.
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Old 03-25-2008, 11:26 AM   #4
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Backstabbing Questions


Quote:
Originally Posted by atty_toconnor View Post
I see that most of you folks in the know consistently advise against "backstabbing" when connecting outlets. As always, I'm deferring to the experts out there and not backstabbing, but I do have a couple questions:
1) Why is backstabbing a poor practice?
2) If it's such a bad practice, why are outlets manufactured with backstabbing as an option? I know it's much easier and quicker to backstab (especially for us diy'ers), but if it dangerous, I'd think that the manufacturers would eliminate the backstabbing option.
Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
It depends on the type of back wire device you buy. Like kcdave said, there are the more expensive type which have a plate that sandwiches the wire when the screw is tightened. These are fine. The cheap residential type have a spring that catches the wire.

The problem is, these only rely on the spring to make the connection. Over time, the spring looses it's tension, especially with heavy loads on the device. About 80% of all service calls I've done where a receptacle isn't working, it was due to the stab connection. Avoid this practice, even if it is legal.

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Old 03-25-2008, 11:26 AM   #5
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Backstabbing Questions


Quote:
Originally Posted by atty_toconnor View Post
1) Why is backstabbing a poor practice?
Likely due to the poor quality of the backstabbing device- usually a spring which can weaken over time and if overheated.

2) If it's such a bad practice, why are outlets manufactured with backstabbing as an option? I know it's much easier and quicker to backstab (especially for us diy'ers), but if it dangerous, I'd think that the manufacturers would eliminate the backstabbing option.
Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Some practices aren't immediately realized when they are discovered and need some long term effects. Aluminum wiring comes to mind.
Originally backstabbing outlets allowed for 14g and 12g copper wire, now 12g is no longer allowed. 14g is allowed but many in the field do not like the way they make the connection and would not use them. Easy is not necessarily better. It is not dangerous, just not preferred or long lasting. For the same reason there are 49c receptacles and also $2, 3 & 4 receptacles for the same 120v, 15a duplex outlet. You will likely get the quality you pay for.

I prefer the backwired outlets since you can tighten the screw to increase pressure. Backstabbing has no provision to do this.
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Old 03-25-2008, 11:46 AM   #6
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Backstabbing Questions


Thanks for your responses. They are greatly appreciated. Another question: The outlets I bought are 20 amp for use on the kitchen counter. The first in the chain of three is a GFCI. The others are not. They are connected with 12g wire. The outlets allow for backwiring NOT backstabbing - not knowing there was a difference, I used the wrong term in the original post. Thanks to all of you who set me straight regarding the difference between the two terms. Given the use of 12g wire, can I backwire these 20 amp outlets? I hope so because it will save a ton of time, but if you folks say no, that's good enough for me. Thanks again for your help.
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Old 03-25-2008, 11:48 AM   #7
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Backstabbing Questions


Yes, backWIRING can be done with 12AWG.



BTW, I have a question. The newer push in wire connectors... are they the same principal as backstabbing?
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Old 03-25-2008, 11:50 AM   #8
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Backstabbing Questions


Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboyAndy View Post
Yes, backWIRING can be done with 12AWG.



BTW, I have a question. The newer push in wire connectors... are they the same principal as backstabbing?
Yes... but they are much more robust, and they have teeth that grab the conductor, like a chinese finger trap. But I still would only use these inside a fixture, not on the branch circuit.

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Old 03-25-2008, 12:08 PM   #9
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Backstabbing Questions


Quote:
Originally Posted by atty_toconnor View Post
Thanks for your responses. They are greatly appreciated. Another question: The outlets I bought are 20 amp for use on the kitchen counter. The first in the chain of three is a GFCI. The others are not. They are connected with 12g wire. The outlets allow for backwiring NOT backstabbing - not knowing there was a difference, I used the wrong term in the original post. Thanks to all of you who set me straight regarding the difference between the two terms. Given the use of 12g wire, can I backwire these 20 amp outlets? I hope so because it will save a ton of time, but if you folks say no, that's good enough for me. Thanks again for your help.
You are good to go then. But I should tell you also that just because it is a 20 A circuit doesn't mean you have to use 20 A devices. You can save a little and use 15 A devices if you choose.

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Old 04-14-2008, 07:23 PM   #10
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Backstabbing Questions


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Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
Yes... but they are much more robust, and they have teeth that grab the conductor, like a chinese finger trap. But I still would only use these inside a fixture, not on the branch circuit.

InPhase277
AAAaaaaahhhhhhh..... Someone give me a bunch of the push in wire connectors and I just finished putting them in my branch circuits in my basement. Oh well, I'm glad I did a search and found this thread. Better to fix it now while I'm still working on everything.

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Old 04-15-2008, 04:01 PM   #11
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Backstabbing Questions


Quote:
Originally Posted by atty_toconnor View Post
1) Why is backstabbing a poor practice?
It is an unreliable method of wiring which results in many service calls to find and repair bad connections. The connections can become loose and deteriorate over time. This can be dangerous.

Quote:
2) If it's such a bad practice, why are outlets manufactured with backstabbing as an option?
The code making panels have not yet disallowed the practice in the National Electric Code. I know of one state which has disallowed this in their state code. Many of us have submitted proposals to disallow this wiring method, but have not been successful yet.

Quote:
I know it's much easier and quicker to backstab
That is why the practice is still allowed. But just because something is allowed is no reason to do it.

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