This simple electrical test could save your life!

By
Managing Real Estate Broker with Cornerstone Business Group Inc 0225086119
http://actvra.in/qDR

Owning a real estate brokerage and an electrical contracting company has a number of advantages for me.  It's not unusual for me to offer electrical services to a client as a thank you for buying a home through our company.  We just did that for a broken water heater.  It can save the client a lot of money, and it endears them to both of our companies for the extra-mile service.

There is one issue that we run into a couple times a year that everyone needs to be aware of because it is terribly dangerous.  Normally about the time it turns cold or the time it turns hot clients start having trouble with receptacles.  It happens when they plug a space heater or an air conditioner into an outlet.

It works for a while, but then it stops working and normally knocks out whatever is down the line.  The culprit more often than not is what is called backstabbing.  A receptacle that is backstabbed  or back wired is one where the electrician stuck the wires that feed the device into little holes on the back of the receptacle.  It is perfectly legal and has been since the 70s, and it is probably one of the most dangerous "legal" wiring techniques you can employ in your house.

Devices should always have the feed wires wrapped around the screws in a fish hook fashion.  The screws are then tightened down and the connection is solid.  The backstabbed connections expand and contract with high energy appliances like heaters and air conditioners.  When they do that, they begin to break connection and heat up.  The heat ultimately melts the insulation off the wires causing a fire hazard.

This past year we inspected one house where the lady lost a line of receptacles, but the breaker stayed on.  When we inspected her devices we found one that not only was a backstabbed receptacle the culprit, but it had charred the 2X4 it was mounted to and had melted about 30% of the box it was installed in.  She was nearing a potentially tragic fire.  I'm glad it stopped working long enough for her to call us.

If you want to check your devices you can do it simply enough.  Turn off the breaker to a circuit.  Take the cover place off and unscrew the receptacle mounting screws and pull it out of the wall.  If the wires are plugged into the back, they are backstabbed.  If they are fastened around the screws, they are wired in the preferred way.  Check a couple more devices to make sure they're consistent, and always make sure the power is off before sticking your hands in any electrical equipment. 

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Rainmaker
57,220
Kim Mulligan
Cooper Jacobs Real Estate - Seattle, WA
Selling Homes for the 21st Century

This is a great post and a public service. I have seen many electricians use this method , and then those that refuse too. Now I know why! I'm going to check the circuits in my house to make sure a more recent remodel didn't include this technique. Sometimes the old fashioned methods are still the best! Although I wouldn't ever attempt this without my lightstick tester too!

Feb 18, 2012 11:05 AM #20
Rainer
639,083
Carl Winters
Canyon Lake, TX

This one definitely deserves a "suggest". Some very good information provided and all the reasons why.

Feb 29, 2012 05:15 PM #21
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Kim, in my opinion, it is never an acceptable technique.  I've seen more near fires from this one wiring technique than nearly all other mistakes put together.  Thanks for dropping by.  Glad you have a tester!

Thanks C & C.  Have a great week.  

Feb 29, 2012 05:43 PM #22
Ambassador
1,335,061
Michelle Carr-Crowe-Selling Silicon Valley Homes in Top Schools San Jose, Cupertino, Saratoga, Palo Alto-Just Call 408-252-8900
Just Call (408) 252-8900! - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

Thanks for the helpful preventive insight on this potential problem.

Mar 24, 2012 06:32 PM #23
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

You bet, Michelle.

Mar 24, 2012 06:45 PM #24
Rainmaker
935,356
Amanda S. Davidson
Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group - Alexandria, VA
Your Northern Virginia Real Estate Agent

Mike- Great advice! The best thing I learned in this was that you have an electrical company. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know that. Just saved the contact info, I will refer you whenever possible!

Mar 25, 2012 02:46 PM #25
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Thank you, Amanda.  Yep, I own an electrical contracting company and a real estate brokerage.  One thing we do when we sell a house is to have one of my electricians go through it and check everything electrical.  We'll fix minor things and make a list of things that need more attention.  If it's not too serious, we'll fix it right then as a thank you.  

Mar 25, 2012 02:51 PM #26
Rainmaker
341,680
Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor
Big Block Realty - La Jolla, CA
Connecting Good People to San Diego Homes!

Wow Mike, I can't believe I only now discovered your blog, you have great tips and I can't believe how diverse your talents are. I'm a subscribed fan. Keep it up, loving the achieves and the new posts alike!

Apr 12, 2012 03:47 AM #27
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Thanks, Thomas.  Have a great Thursday!

Apr 12, 2012 03:49 AM #28
Anonymous
Bobby Watson
I too am an electrical contractor and I think it's a travesty that they alow this type of wiring to have a UL listing on the product. I have more service repairs due to this type "back stabbing" of wiring than any other problem. Glad there is a web post to back me up when I say it needs to be corrected.
May 21, 2012 04:25 PM #29
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Me too, Bobby.  This is the number 1 reason we get service calls in residences.  Glad to see others are feeling the same.  Thanks for dropping by.

May 21, 2012 05:34 PM #30
Rainmaker
1,001,807
Sharon Parisi
Keller Williams Dallas Premier Realty - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Mike, thank you for this educational advice. So far, every receptacle I had looked at in my house is fastened around a screw.  I will pass this along to everyone I know.

Jul 22, 2012 11:10 PM #31
Rainmaker
1,761,446
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

This is a great post and thanks for sharing, God Bless and Happy Selling

Aug 21, 2012 05:56 PM #32
Rainmaker
1,123,524
Mike Cooper
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro

Good to hear, Sharon.

Thanks, Charles.  The same to you.

Aug 21, 2012 06:06 PM #33
Rainer
333,774
Paul Gapski
Berkshire Hathaway / Prudential Ca Realty - El Cajon, CA
619-504-8999,#1 Resource SD Relo

Thank you for sharing your blog; we need Real estate Professionals to share their comments and information regarding their markets and experiences. Thanks again from beautiful Sunny San Diego.

Oct 19, 2012 03:14 PM #34
Rainer
282,326
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Mike -- thanks for sharing this bit of information -- and linking to it on one of your later blogs.

Dec 15, 2012 07:19 AM #35
Rainmaker
308,259
Jane Chaulklin-Schott
TEAMCONNECT REALTY - (407) 394-9766 - Orlando, FL
TeamConnect Luxury Homes - Orlando, Florida, 32836

Thanks Mike. Invaluable information. Certainly will check.

Apr 13, 2013 08:23 PM #36
Rainmaker
278,114
Bill and MaryAnn Wagner
Wagner Real Estate Group - Galloway Township, NJ
Jersey Shore and South Jersey Real Estate
Wow! Who would have thought. Thanks for the important information Mike.
Jun 05, 2013 05:55 AM #37
Rainmaker
1,001,807
Sharon Parisi
Keller Williams Dallas Premier Realty - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Mike, this woman was so fortunate.  I plan to check all of the outlets in my home!

Apr 17, 2014 07:45 PM #38
Rainmaker
112,703
Mark Neighbor
A O Home Solutions - Sell House Georgia - Buy House Georgia - Mc Donough, GA
Sell House Fast In Georgia

Great Article. Thanks for the information. Im going to check my house now. Was there a date range when the practice was most used or an area of the country?

May 25, 2016 07:36 AM #39
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