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Why do Americans (and others) choose wire nuts over reusable terminal blocks like Wago offers?

Do they offer any benefits? More current, longer lifetime,...? Or are there regulatory restrictions?

picture of different Wago terminals

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  • 3
    Wire nuts are quite rather reusable. However, this is rather an open-ended, discussion inspiring question, and I'm not sure it's a good fit. No VtC. Yet...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:16
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    Do not think there is an answer, just that Americans are used to them and they are easy and cheap to find. Think stuff like wago, people would need to look for.
    – crip659
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:22
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    comparing the price from Grainger showed ~0.093 USD for a wire nut, where an equivalent Wago terminal block (that accepts stranded wire) runs ~0.32 USD a piece (prices for buying in sets of 100 for each). about 3.3x as expensive, albeit from a single supplier, and definitely USA based.
    – GOATNine
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:49
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    i find wagos much faster to wire, maybe 15 seconds faster per wire, with less strain and wiggle testing. A worker need not make very much per hour (~$12) for the extra cost of a lever-lock or push-on to cancel out or leave wagos cheaper. You can remove push-ons by chomping the block with nippers.
    – dandavis
    Nov 16, 2021 at 17:49
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    @GOATNine Grainger doesn't have realistic pricing, but it's even worse than you found - when you are buying splices at electrician quantities (thousands at once) so economies of scale flatten out pricing games... Wagos are many dozens of times more expensive than wire nuts. Nov 16, 2021 at 22:38

11 Answers 11

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The reason is inertia.

Wire nuts are easily available in stores. Everyone knows how to use them. Amateurs (homeowners) keep using wire nuts because they don't know of the existence of anything else because they are not stocked in shops and if they are, they are in the "obscure funky stuff" display.

Professionals keep using wire nuts because they have a proven track record of customer satisfaction and safety. That doesn't mean push-ins are bad. But if a professional is highly adept at doing installations with twist nuts, can do them quickly, effortlessly, and knows the result will be no callbacks, why would she start using something else? It's high risk and not much benefit. (Not that the lever nuts themselves are high risk, but that any changes to the highly rehearsed and tuned techniques of a professional create risks.)

Maybe cost too ... I buy the expensive clear Wago brand lever nuts. They are WAY more expensive than buying a bucket of mixed twist nuts. But I think there are cheaper push-ins available and I don't think cost is the main factor.

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    "Wire nuts are easily available in stores. Everyone knows how to use them." Should I direct you to images of wire nuts with black tape around them for added security?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 16, 2021 at 20:19
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    I can also add picture of 4 12g wire stuck in a nut, barely twisted with blacked tape around the whole thing.
    – DMoore
    Nov 16, 2021 at 20:33
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    Perhaps "knows" should have been further qualified but that's really another topic and beside the point here.
    – jay613
    Nov 16, 2021 at 20:46
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    @J... in an older home with brittle rubber-insulated wires, reusable lever nuts are a godsend. Seriously, if they were $10 each I would still use them. You carefully tape-wrap, tuck in and arrange the wires with lever nuts and it's like having a patch panel where you can replace and maintain devices using stranded pigtails without disturbing the house wiring.
    – jay613
    Nov 17, 2021 at 17:48
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    @MonkeyZeus there hasn't been enough time for Wagos do develop useless folklore-based localized best practices. Give it time. I have found that the levers can be inadvertently opened by contact with wires when being pushed into the box. You get used to avoiding that but tape could help. There. All we need now is a generation of electricians to have that idea drilled into them.
    – jay613
    Nov 17, 2021 at 22:23
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Because the big box stores haven't made selling these a priority. Let's face it if Joe-Average homeowner saw these first at big blue/orange/green and they were readily available, they would certainly be used more.

I have no idea why the big boxes don't sell these. I am sure some stores do but most don't and if they do they are on the bottom shelf - you know like the very very bottom tray.

That's it. They are definitely safer to use in outlet boxes for the average person and they are easier. If messing with 12g multiply this times 10. Joe-Average usually doesn't get his wires appropriately twisted when combining 3+ 12g wires. Joe-Average should use these. If the spring did have issues like the backstabs... It is like 3-4 mins to replace. I doubt this is an issue. Having 3+ wires without proper contact is a much much larger issue in my opinion. I have bought many a house where I open up an outlet and was like "how did this even work?" and then notice the melted plastic and black marks.

That being said I just wired another basement last week and used nuts haha. But I think its just because I have a big bucket of nuts. Probably be one of the last I use.

Anyone that has any safety concerns or fear that these might go out... the largest producer of canned lights use blocks. You would have to open up your ceiling to fix a "bad spring" and I have never heard of this ever ever happening.

Why big boxes don't sell them... No idea. I am guessing it cuts into profit margin on other things.

In addition - Probably the most common - potentially dangerous thing - for homeowners or beginning electrician is updating aluminum connectors with copper pigtails. When done properly the house is just as safe as an all copper house. When done wrong you get burnt aluminum improperly connected to the copper. My point here? Is that every town near me has changed the required to using the block connectors for pigtails - no exceptions for the purple nuts. So the last couple of house I did I bought exactly what was in the picture below.

enter image description here

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    Big Orange sells them here. 🤷🏻‍♂️ Nov 16, 2021 at 20:48
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    @RibaldEddie - some stores do. It is definitely based on location. I don't get them on shelves by me but can order online.
    – DMoore
    Nov 16, 2021 at 20:53
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    For anyone reading this with AL wiring spend some time in the tagged questions - diy.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/aluminum-wiring . It is worth seeing how other DIYers work with it and learning WHY your AL wiring requires a bit of extra care.
    – Freiheit
    Nov 17, 2021 at 15:00
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In my experience, wire nuts are typically cheaper, occupy less space (such as in a cramped electrical box or with a low profile light fixture)(EDIT: as @DMoore points out, I may be using the wrong terminal blocks, as consensus is that they are indeed smaller than wire nuts in all cases. I'm leaving what I posted as it's from personal experience, but adding this note as a tip of the hat), and are just as re-useable as terminal blocks, with many of the same drawbacks (need to ensure the wires are securely in the device after insertion, limited to a reasonable number of wires per device, etc.).

I'm also hesitant to use terminal blocks for household wiring for much the same reason I'm hesitant to use backstabs in an outlet; Springs wear out and become a point of failure. If the terminal block is not spring loaded, then you run into the situation where you're holding a light fixture up while wiring it, and needing a third hand so you can operate a screwdriver.

EDIT: A valid point is to be made that the "3 hands" argument also applies to wiggle testing wire nut connections. It's still less awkward than using a screw driver would be, but it's not as bad as I initially made it out to be.

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    Not worth adding to the answer, as it falls more under industrial wiring instead of DIY. When adding a stranded wire to a spring terminal, it's a tossup between not ferruling the end of the wire and risking a poor connection, or ferruling it and risking breaking the ferrule off inside the spring terminal. Given the last half dozen light fixtures I've installed have had stranded wires instead of solid, I'll stick with the wire nuts personally.
    – GOATNine
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:33
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    for spring loaded terminals you don't need a ferrule when using a stranded wire. Also for some screw terminals you don't need ferrules (the ones with the plates, I don't know the name). However you will need ferrules when using traditional screw terminals where the screw directly puts pressure on the conductor.
    – Fritz
    Nov 16, 2021 at 15:55
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    To be fair, you may end up holding the wire bundle in one hand, the fixture in the other hand, and twisting the wire nut on with the third hand, so that's not really a point for or against either.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:31
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    @Fritz when you get to 22AWG stranded wire, it's very easy to get a poor connection without a ferrule in my experience. for standard DIY, you never see wires that small.
    – GOATNine
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:43
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    Having recently completed my first wiring project with Wagos instead of wire nuts, I'm retracting my previous comment. With all the wires stripped, pushing the Wago onto the wire and flipping the lever down can be done one handed. My particular application was on a wall, but if I were working with a light overhead, I would be able to easily prestrip all my wires, lock the stranded wires from the fixture into one port of each Wago, then, while holding the light with one hand, be able to push a Wago onto the appropriate #14/#12 in the ceiling and flip the lever down. I'm never going back!
    – FreeMan
    Jul 12, 2022 at 16:24
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Aside: your question says "reusable" but the Wago 2273 series push-ins in your photo are not reusable. The Wago 221 series lever nuts are reusable. The next guy inside this j-box will likely be me, so make his life a little better by using a Wago lever nut.

Reasons electricians choose wire nuts

#1. Trust

After you've been using wire nuts for years with no issues, you've learned to trust them and your ability to install them correctly, every single time. Nothing new can have this level of trust.

#2 Complacency.

Many electricians that have never used a Wago lever nut never will. There's no reason, they'll tell you, because "a properly installed wire nut costs $0.01 and will never fail." They're right about not failing, about 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% of the time they'll still blame improper installation. Unless you point out they personally installed that wire nut.

They're wrong about a wire nut costing $0.01, because they don't factor in their $1-2/minute hourly fee to "properly" install them. Lever nuts are faster to install, test, remove, and reinstall.

#3. Ignorance of wire nut failure modes

Everyone believes they know how to use wire nuts (marrettes). Most are half right. Using wire nuts properly means either:

a. stripping the wires to the correct length, holding them side by side, putting on the cap, and twisting the nut clockwise until "tight."

b. stripping long, pretwisting the wires with a pair of side cutters / lineman pliers, trimming to strip length, and capping "tight" with the wire nut.

The devil in the details is the definition of "tight." Manufacturers don't specify. Some electricians say "as tight as you can with your fingers." Whose fingers? Winged or non-winged nuts? Winged will obviously result in significantly more torque. Others say as tight as you can with lineman pliers. Held inline or perpendicular to the nut? Nobody says. Some manufacturers have produced videos (Leviton) showing barely finger tight. Most show that when sufficiently tight, a wire nut connection will have braided some of the insulation too.

An examination of the failure modes of wire nuts includes:

  • exposed bare wire (excessive stripping or insufficient capture)
  • insufficient stripping, leading to a loose wire
  • insuffient torque to securely capture the wires
  • conductors breaking off inside the nut (excessive torque or fatigued wire)
  • unreliable joining of stranded and solid wire
  • improper selection / wrong size / too many wires per nut
  • loosening due to vibration or thermal cycling

After witnessing just a few of these failure modes, anyone should recognize a) there is skill involved, b) the value of pull testing every wire, and c) pre-twisting. When pre-twisting, you can see and remedy most faults before the nut goes on.

#4. Ignorance of lever nuts improvements

  • No colors! One nut works on wire gages AWG #12-24.
  • Joins braided and solid reliably.
  • Visual confirmation that every wire is fully captured.
  • Installs on a single wire. Pop a lever nut onto the feeder and now there's no exposed hot.
  • Test port for meter probes.
  • They don't kink, twist, bend, or fatigue the wires.
  • You can easily add or remove one wire.
  • They nest flat.
  • Can be installed one handed. This is salvation when standing on a ladder holding up a fixture with the other hand.
  • You can get them onto really short wires.

#5. Other

  • the foul taste in their mouths from backstab connections
  • not available at the orange store (at least not mine)
  • Pro aura. Putting on a wire nut requires skill. A lever nut, not so such much. See also, plumbers and PEX.
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  • Update: WAGO lever nuts ARE now available at my local orange home improvement store. Jul 29, 2022 at 18:35
  • Ignorance of failure modes can be a big barrier to acceptance, and not just in electrical work. "I know what to expect from X. Y may be better overall, but it'll take me a long time to figure out its tricks and failure modes, and if that results in a callback it could cost me more than I'll save..."
    – keshlam
    May 16, 2023 at 22:00
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    About the aside: Wago 2273 are reusable, you can pull the wire out by rotating the wago while pulling gently. The wire is also reusable without cutting the end and stripping again. It's also a great feature because the wires can turn inside the wago which makes it easier to push it inside the box and close it. They only work with solid core though.
    – bobflux
    Jun 3, 2023 at 7:56
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I have wondered the same thing among more differences in electrical standards and practices.

My hypothesis on wagos has two/three parts:

Backstabs:

Due to bad design the backstab in the standard us outlet, where there is a single point of copper that acts as a mechanical lock, mechanical spring and electrical conductor, there is a high chance of failure when using this port.

Due to the similar mode of operation (push wire in hole) it may be incurrectly assumed that the same issues are present in wago connectors. Here however, the conducting element is pushed on the wire by a spring and a separate element makes sure it can't fall out.

Lower voltage / Higher current

Due to the fact that the us commonly uses 120v, opposed to Europe where 230v is the norm, currents in the US for the same load are doubled.

For the same terminal block, with a low but non-zero resistance, the powerloss in that part is 4 times higher in that part. This will heat up the terminal much more. Especially on a backstab the expansion and contraction of the connector will make a bad connection worse.

Culture

This is just hypothetical, so feel free to disagree.

It seems to me that the US has a much higher valuation of craftmanship in electrical work. The ability to make a proper wirenut connection or to bent the wire for a screw connection are valued.

This combined with much stricter rules on who is allowed to do electrical work keeps the old practices alive. (This statement seems to be false, see comments)

The standardization of outlets and switches may also play a role, I believe the design is pretty much frozen.

In the Netherlands there is, I think, much less faith in the capability of hired craftsman. There are less rules on who is allowed to do electrical work and there is no such thing (anymore) as a mandatory inspection of the electrical work by a homeowner. There are standards to which an outlet has to conform, but the actual design of the device is left to the manufacturer.

This combined with the high costs of labour has lead to easy to install wirenuts, outlets and switches.

The case for wirenuts

When properly made, a wirenut itself has no current running through it, it just makes a wire-to-wire connection by pressing them together. A wago-style bloc actually conducts the current itself and thus consists of a wire-to-nut and a nut-to-wire connection. So in theory a wirenut will have a lower resistance and lower heat-development.

When NOT properly made, however, a wirenut is no more than the wires loosely twisted together.

The case for wago-like terminals

It is very easy to install a wago-like terminal correctly, to the point that almost anyone can do it. Due to the per-wire spring it is less likely that the entire nut fails due to thermal and/or mechanical stress, only a single wire will get loose.

A final advantage is that it is trivial to add a wire (provided you have connection holes left) to an existing terminal.

Personal experience

I am not an electrician, but I have some professional experience in electrical work for high-current systems and a lot of DIY experience rewiring my house.

I would never consider using wirenuts, primarily for ease of use. Wirenuts may have a lower unit price, the extra time needed to install is more expensive.

When visiting this SE I am always surprised by the design of the outlets, with large exposed copper conductors, big screws and still the same, broken, backstab ports.

In contrast the sockets I've installed in my house have spring-loaded terminals and a molded inner cover making them touch-safe even without the coverplate.

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    "much stricter rules on who is allowed to do electrical work" - interesting perspective. From everything I've seen here, the US seems to have much more relaxed rules (in most cases) about doing electrical work than most other parts of the world. Basically, you can do any electrical work you want on your own residence. It's a good idea to get it inspected, but in most cases, it's not required.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 17, 2021 at 12:41
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    @FreeMan: Hmm, interesting indeed. I have little direct knowledge of the US rules, but from this SE that was the impression I got. In that case there is little difference with how it is done here in the Netherlands.
    – Pelle
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:20
  • For example, it seems that in Aus & NZ about the only electrical "work" you're allowed to do on your own is change a light bulb. Here you can't do your own work in a rental property, either as tenant or owner, nor in a commercial space. i.e. you can kill yourself & your family with your shoddy workmanship, but we're going to do our best to prevent you from killing others...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 17, 2021 at 16:08
  • @FreeMan - done stuff in France. Yes they have more regs and unions and if you are doing "construction" the city for sure makes you use a local union trade for electric... However DIY electric is just as prevalent as the US - for sure. I have gone into many a house I was looking at... and seeing stodgy DIY electric all over. When in many parts of US they won't even let you put a house like that up for sale (unless it is auction and then no habitat to checked).
    – DMoore
    Nov 18, 2021 at 0:31
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The main reason is cost. Let's take this Wago 25 pack on Amazon, with

  • 10 2-port connectors
  • 10 3-port connectors
  • 5 5-port connectors

All that for $20.99. For contrast (mind you, 2021 supply variances have distorted prices a great deal)

  • 100 Ideal(brand) 3-port push connector splices (no lever) are $8.97
  • 100 Ideal red wire nuts are $13.48
    (inflated, since these have never been more expensive than their splice cousins)
  • An assortment of 158 wire nuts for $7.99

As you can see, even with inflated prices, Wago is simply more expensive to source in the US. Wire nuts provide just as solid a connection (provided you twisted the wires correctly).

There's also the problem of usage. Big box stores don't like carrying esoteric stuff that doesn't sell (I have aluminum branch wires and use the connectors DMoore talks about, which are pricey and are only carried by one store). I can't say I've seen any professional electrician use splices, let alone Wago, over a simple wire nut.

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    Why do you compare against this type of Wago? The wago 2273 series is cheaper and more widely used in house electrical wiring.
    – Fritz
    Nov 17, 2021 at 16:20
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    The aluminium part is interesting, so in North America people use AL inductors? I have only seen Al with 50mm² or above in the PowerGrid (wires to the households). Or for RC cars
    – Fritz
    Nov 17, 2021 at 16:24
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    The assortment of 158 for $7.99 sounds great, but very clearly not UL/ETL/etc. listed and a bunch of red flags besides that make me very much distrust this. Fine for hobbyist (not connected to 120V AC) projects, but very much not a good idea for any "real" wiring. Quick search finds a 50-pack of Commercial Electric (cheapie brand at Home Depot, but UL listed) for $5.97. Nov 17, 2021 at 19:18
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    @Fritz Dude that's a stab connector. People in the US will never use them. We've been burned by them in the past, sometimes literally.
    – Navin
    Nov 18, 2021 at 6:34
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    The top review on that 158 nut assortment says they're the finest quality chinesium fire starters willful blindness of safety standards can buy. Nov 18, 2021 at 21:20
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I live in Canada so extending this to all of North America!

The reason I believe that wire caps are supplied over terminal blocks is certainly price, driven by customary practice.

It appears to be customary in N.A. to provide wire caps with light fittings. In order to meet this, they provide the cheapest and safest option.

I've lived in 3 countries, New Zealand, the UK and Canada, and spent a lot of time in Australia. When purchasing a light fixture outside of N.A. I hadn't received, nor expected to receive, wire nuts or any type of connectors.

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I'm surprised this has not been mentioned previously, but speaking as a DIYer with over twenty five years of hand on experience in home electricity, I use wire nuts simply because I know that professional electricians uses them in my region (Canada/Quebec/cities where I've lived).

I mean... Let say I go to the store to buy hardware for my home project. In the alley, I see some product I know, and next to these, I see some alternatives products. Now, a few questions come to my mind:

  1. What are their use cases? What are their limits? Do I personally have the time and am I willing putting efforts in learning about these products?
  2. Am I legally authorized to used them in my specific location and for that specific purpose? Ain't easy to stay atop of all regulations, notably given that in some cases, regulatory documents are not freely available (that is, they must be bought or are available only to members of some official profession).
  3. Even if I'm technically authorized to use that product, suppose I use it, and then later have to call a professional electrician for some other reason... Will he then tell me that "that's obviously amateur's work because no professional use that around here"? ...that it might be unsafe (not because the alternative is inherently unsafe, but barely because it has not been done by a professional) and then refuse to proceed unless he first redo everything that I did?
  4. What if there is ever a fire, and it was found that I used some hardware that is "uncommon" in my area (even though it might be the norm elsewhere). Insurance companies would certainly be more than happy to exploit this observation in order to refuse covering the incident.

See, being a DIY is sometimes about creativity, freedom and innovation, but at other times, doing it yourself mean you have to play by the book even more that professionals. Yes, that sums up to inertia. But do I have the luxury of being an early adopter (in my area, at least) on that matter? I dont think so.

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TL;DR

Old habits die hard.

Explanation

Using a regular wire nut requires a certain amount of strength and persistence; doing it properly was ingrained during trade-school.

The ol' "pull test" is significantly difficult to fail using a push-to-connect and if it does fail then toss out that connector.

Now that Wago's, backstabs, and push-to-connects have made their way into the market the average homeowner will buy what's easier to use, still screw it up, and an electrician will get to deal with the aftermath which solidifies the "they don't make things like they used to" cliché.

Don't forget that every locale gets to make their own rules about what's acceptable. Your neighbor could very well be allowed to use something which you cannot simply because your locale has not gotten around to allowing it.

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    I don't think electricians use them because of the perception. Honestly if that was my full trade I wouldn't install them because it makes the home owner think they could do it. Kind of like a plumber using pex + sharkbite everywhere. The homeowners don't know that they got an electrician to make sure that everything was code and safe... not for the main purpose of twisting wires together. But most homeowners - especially the younger ones - think there is harry potter stuff going on just connecting wires.
    – DMoore
    Nov 16, 2021 at 21:13
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In France, only lever connections like Wago are allowed. It means:

  • for a new house, you can't get the approval of connection to the grid if the inspector finds a nut in a box or behind a switch or a plug
  • it also means, in case of fire, your insurance can blackout you if the firemen find nut connections in the burned wires But of course, as long as nut connectors or screw connectors (we call them domino) are widely available and wago (and eq) only sold in specific shops for a price, nuts and screws will still be widely used
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  • While this may well be a fact (I don't know French law), it does not attempt to explain why US electricians (and DIYers) do not use the lever-lock connectors.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 18, 2021 at 14:29
  • French electricans and US electricians probably have the same behaviour, they both refer to what they're used to (in this case, nuts and screws) instead of trying something new, and the time they'll need to master it. I was an industrial electrician at the beginning of my carreer and screw connections were common. 15 years ago, I built a house and made all the networks inside (electricity, fresh water, used water) and had to rely on the laws. That's only at this moment I knew about Wago and alikes Nov 18, 2021 at 14:32
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    then you should edit to make your point (which has been made in other answers) more clear in the answer itself, not in the comments. Comments are subject to random deletion and not everyone reads comments.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 18, 2021 at 15:22
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    I don't think an edit to cover the US is required as long as the region/country is clearly indicated.
    – r13
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:01
  • @FreeMan the title of the question got edited by someone else, to be more broad and not only cover some parts of NA -> answer is OK as r13 said
    – Fritz
    Nov 18, 2021 at 18:11
0

I’ve been using twist fasteners for sixty years. Most electricians transitioned away from crimp connectors pretty quickly once once reliable and approved twist fasteners such as Scotch Locks were available. Today is the first day I have heard of WAGO connectors.

Nothing is perfect if not installed correctly.

I found this when replacing a switch

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    This doesn't really answer the question that's been asked.
    – JACK
    Jul 12, 2022 at 16:49

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