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Electrical Tip of the Day – don’t use the “stab in the back” connections!

February 24th, 2011 No comments

Ask any well trained journeyman electrician who has done service work about “stab in the back” outlets and switches and you will be in for an ear full.  We jokingly call them back stabbers or service call generators, because that is exactly what they do. We get a least a call a week one these from someone, usually in one of the newer track homes built in the last 20 years, that has lights flickering or an outlet that seems to have quit working.  On the more dangerous end of the spectrum we get those frantic calls about how an outlet or switch just seemed to MELT in the wall.

Let me introduce you to  “stab in the back” switches and outlets – one of the most dangerous installs methods we find used in the electrical trades:

stab in the back switch

These devices rely on small metal pinchers recessed in holes in the back of the plastic case to hold the wire contentions in place.  They are very poor quality connections and make even worse junctions for feed thru wiring methods (daisy chaining from outlet to outlet to outlet).  Most reliable companies will not even allow the use of this method and require their employees to use the proven method of pig tail wiring:  Wire nuts for pig tailing multiple wires together, and the biding screws on the devices for the final mechanical connection of conductors to the devices.

Here is a picture of properly secured wire on an outlet by use of the binding screws to get an idea of what the difference looks like:

side wired outlet

Next time you have a screw driver handy go take a cover plate off any device location in your home, might need a flash light to look in the box, but you will be able see  right away of the installer used the binding screws or not.  If they did not consider giving us a call to talk about some options on replacement or re-termination of the existing devices.

Remember – don’t get stabbed in the back!