Several questions and answers on the site mention electrical outlets or receptacles with "backstab" holes (just a short while ago, here). I'm sure people in the US find that description to be obvious, but for the benefit of those of us from other countries, can someone give the definition and perhaps an illustration of a "backstab hole" vs "non-backstab hole"?

  • I've never seen these in the UK. It would be helpful to know which countries' wiring codes support these abominations^Wunits. – abligh Aug 17 '20 at 6:38
  • Never seen them in the UK for outlets or switches but have seen similar non-screw connections for smoke detectors and some light fittings. A similar principle is also used in the Wago 773 connector blocks (push-in, not lever). I don't know if these suffer from the same reliability issues. – Carl Aug 17 '20 at 9:15

If I understand correctly, "backstabbed" receptacles are such that:

  • Have holes in the wall-facing side,
  • into which you push a wire, and
  • the wire is held by the pressure of metal plate pushing against it - a bit like a spring.

You may also find them referred to as "back-wire" or "quick-wire" receptacles.

important: "backstabbed" receptables are notorious for low reliability, and specifically, the tendency to overheat, arc and melt. Many suggest avoiding or replacing them.

Illustration of how such holes may look like from the back:

enter image description here

and here is a comparison between a clamping-based (on the right) and a "back-stab" mechanism (on the left):

enter image description here

There's a longer treatment of back-stabbing on Quora.com:

What does it mean when an electrical outlet is backstabbed

  • How about the style of outlets where the cables go in the back but are clamped down using screws on the sides? It might be helpful to the OP to show an example of these too since they are not the same thing as the dangerous spring-style backstabs shown above. – supertanker13 Aug 16 '20 at 17:37
  • 2
    Disadvantage of 'backstab' is that they only fit one size of wire. Which works well if the correct wire gauge is used. Screws win hands down, if tightened properly! – Tim Aug 17 '20 at 7:54
  • 1
    @JimStewart my recollection is that backstabs are not acceptable for aluminum wiring but I cannot find a source other than "thou shalt use screw lugs and alumiconns". Logically given that AL wiring is a problem because it heats and expands and works loose a backstab seems more likely to work free than a screw clamp. diy.stackexchange.com/questions/169232/… has some discussion of backstabs and [aluminum-wiring] – Freiheit Aug 17 '20 at 13:58
  • 2
    @JimStewart It depends entirely on the specific outlet. The 5252-W in the image above is a $8-10 industrial grade outlet that accomodates up to #10 AWG in side and back wire configurations (not sure about Al on these specifically). The higher grade outlets like these often now also use the back-clamping connectors in place of the unreliable spring style 'backstab' connectors (which are typically #14 Cu only) - the back clamping connectors are completely reliable. – J... Aug 17 '20 at 13:58
  • 1
    @JimStewart It's trivial to look up, but yes, and it's a 5262 then, not a 5252. Price is double that of the non tamper-resistant outlet (~$20). – J... Aug 17 '20 at 17:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.