One of the more common mistakes we see on the job is that electrical outlets have what is called “Back Stabbing”. It is the practice of just taking the insulation off the end of the wire and shoving it into the back of the device. It’s something we hate to see but see all the time.
Inside the device, there is a little piece of metal that you push the wire past that keeps you from pulling the wire back out. That is considered a good connection. No screw tightening is required. The wire is not tight in the device at all and over time that weak connection can and commonly does fail. When this happens, losing an outlet or light is the least of your concern. Worse things can happen. Surprisingly, the National Electrical Code does not disallow backstabbing, despite the dangers.
We had a customer last week in the Salem area of Virginia Beach close to Regent University call us because some of the outlets and lights stopped working in part of their home. We sent one of our guys out immediately and he found a bunch of back stabbed outlets.
The problem of backstabbing electrical outlets became popular about the same time as aluminum wiring. Most likely, people were trying to cut corners any way they could in the 70s and 80s. It’s also a faster installation. They didn’t wait too long before they outlawed the use of aluminum for branch circuits rated at 30 amps or smaller. They also decided to not allow back stabbed outlets to be used for 12 gauge wire because there were so many issues. They still allow back stabbed outlets with a smaller wire called 14 gauge.
In today’s homes, most of the wiring is 14 gauge. Most of the switches and outlets are backstabbed. This is cheaper for the electrical contractor to install, however, it costs the homeowner more in the long run. Especially if a bigger issue is created such as a surge or a fire. We recommend that you call us to evaluate the switches and receptacles in your home so that we can curb any issues before they arise. The customer that I mentioned earlier opted to make a plan for changing out all of their switches and receptacles over the next 2 months. This gave them a sense of relief because they were having a lot of issues before and now they have a worry-free future when it comes to the flickering and loss of power problems they were having.
Call us anytime to schedule a visit. If you mention this tip when you call and schedule an appointment, we will give you a free USB Outlet!