Question about backstabbed outlets


Old 07-03-07, 08:44 PM
JoggingGuy's Avatar
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Question Question about backstabbed outlets

We had our house built back in 1997, so it's relatively new. I've found out over the years that almost every single outlet and light switch is backstabbed.

I've already had both the attic light switch and attic AC service switch and outlet both fail in spectacular fashion, probably because of the added heat up there. When we were repainting the living room, I replaced all the outlets and tied them to the screws.

We're getting ready to paint the bedroom now and the main light and all outlets are on one breaker. When we plug in the vacuum cleaner and turn it on, the main light dims pretty badly from the voltage drop. Now that I have a few plates off, I can see that these are all backstabbed too.

What I have noticed is that these outlets do not have pigtails. The outlets are daisy-chained, with the source power going into one side and the wire going to the next one is plugged into the other side. All backstabbed with no pigtail!

Shouldn't these all have both wires coming to a wire nut with a pigtail coming off that to feed the outlet? No wonder I have voltage drops :-O To my way of thinking, all those backstabbed connections quadruple the possiblility of failure.
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Old 07-03-07, 08:58 PM
Unclediezel's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northeastern PA.
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First off----Take the time to tie the wiring to the screws. it takes some extra time , but it holds up much better.

As far as "Daisy Chain"? - get a cheap voltage tester, and there should be two cables in each receptacle box- one is live , the other feeds the next outlet. The two "Black " wires go on the gold screws on the Outlet( Both on the same side) "White " to silver screws( On the opposite side) - The "Pigtail" your thinking of is made up by a small tab between the screws on either side of the outlet.
Old 07-03-07, 09:22 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 973
The NEC does not require the use of pigtails, though some mucipalities amend the code to require them. The receptical is usually allowed to provide a pass through feed to downstream recepticals.

The problem with pass through feeds is a failure at one receptial can take out all downstream recepticals...backstabs compound the issue by increasing the likelyhood of a failure.

I recommend adding the pigtails. I personally use IDEAL Term-A-Nut pigtails. This is a pre-made pigtail that integrates a wirenut, 6" stranded wire pigtail (makes tucking the wires easier), and fork terminal. All you do is twist the nut around your wires, loosen a screw on the receptical, insert fork terminal under the screw, and tighten. They sell them in black, white, and green, and they come in 10 packs for about $5 a pack, about 50 cents each. While that's more than the cost of some scrap romex and wirenuts, the time saved and ease of install makes them a great deal. The orange Big Box store sells them...not sure about the blue store.

Boy, I'm sounding like a commercial.
Old 07-03-07, 09:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Tustin
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as for the voltage drop when you plug a vacuum in, that's normal, depending on the vacuum, most now days use upwards of 12 amps, that is running amps, to start the motor adds more draw to the circuit. Dimming of the lights is perfectly normal in most situations.
Old 07-04-07, 05:06 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
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I do not recommend adding pigtails. In my opinion it is unnecessary and a waste of materials. Some would say a waste of time. There is absolutely nothing wrong (except in a few situations that don't apply here) with using the receptacles to pass power through to the rest of the circuit.

I do think that, as you are working on a circuit, that you should move any back stabbed connections to the screw terminals.
Old 07-05-07, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Saint Louis
Posts: 259
I assume you're replacing the receptacles as well?

Get some spec grade stuff.
Old 07-05-07, 09:35 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
My house is all backstabbed too. I don't go around mitigating this unless I have some other reason to be in the box, or unless I get a failure. Most of us here know the symptoms that indicate a backstab failure and know how to find them when they occur, so it's no big deal to just handle it when and if it fails.

As previously stated, if you run a vacuum cleaner (or clothes iron) on the same circuit as incandescent bulbs, the bulbs will always dim momentarily (whether backstabbed or not). It's just a fact of life. In higher-end homes, they make sure that lighting is never on the same circuit as receptacles just to avoid these annoyances.
Old 07-05-07, 10:16 AM
JoggingGuy's Avatar
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Thanks for all the good advice. I'll be moving the wires to the screw terminals as we paint and move stuff around to fix the problem

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