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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 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 at 9:15
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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

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  • 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 at 17:37
  • From the picture it looks to me like the back clamping type connection would allow secure long term connection of aluminum wire, at least 12 awg, but are these only rated for copper? Would they hold 10 awg aluminum? – Jim Stewart Aug 17 at 1:02
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    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 at 7:54
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    @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 at 13:58
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    @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 at 17:32

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