Dead Outlets

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Fudog, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    There has been a major crack down on the listing and labeling of imported electrical equipment by customs.

    In the back of the NEC there is a list of UL standards. These Standards is what governs the manufacture of electrical products. These products are tested at random from shipped stock. The plant is visited by UL personal at unannounced times.

    ETL Semco Intertek walks hand in hand with UL but all the Nationally Recognized Testing Labs work together for the safety of the general public.

    Labeled. Equipment or materials to which has been attached a label, symbol, or other identifying mark of an organization that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction and concerned with product evaluation, that maintains periodic inspection of production of labeled equipment or materials, and by whose labeling the manufacturer indicates compliance with appropriate standards or performance in a specified manner

    Listed. Equipment, materials, or services included in a list published by an organization that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction and concerned with evaluation of products or services, that maintains periodic inspection of production of listed equipment or materials or periodic evaluation of services, and whose listing states that either the equipment, material, or service meets appropriate designated standards or has been tested and found suitable for a specified purpose.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  2. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    I think we are referring to the devices from China that have a fake UL label or even a holographic sticker. Big business over there, and the containers that get opened here are about 1 in 100, usually for a nuclear reading.

  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    Long story....but a long time ago, ~~ 1988, I was in a factory in China, doing a QA for my company, and a UL inspector was on scene regarding some products they were doing for another company. Let's just say I did not have a warm fuzzy feeling!
  4. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    I would just about bet that you could find some UL stickers on the internet.

    They don't mean much anymore. Sometimes not even the real ones.
  5. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    Location:
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    I am NOT wrong, my facts are rock solid. The fact that back stabs are UL Approved does not mean that it is the best choice. Not by a long shot.

    In this case, we are talking about items that cost about 15 cents when bought by the hundred at the supply house. They are accepted by those businesses that are wiring large projects and need to keep all costs down to catch the contract. I do not see that as a raging endorsement. I think the OP should avoid the cheap stuff as the old crap wears out and install good stuff.

    Apparently the cheap crap is so complex to install that it might fail in the future. Again, not a raging endorsement. Better to see the wire and the screw.

    JW, you are employing a series of logical fallacies, the Strawman argument being prevalent.

    Example. An electrician prefers to wire room lights on a separate circuit from the receptacles, to avoid losing the light if a receptacle breaker trips.

    And you argue back, but what about a general power outage? Then you are in the dark.

    That is a Strawman argument. The other guy did not say his system would benefit in a general black out and need not defend his logic against your counter argument.

    You cannot say that his system does not work. It works perfectly to the purpose he is applying it. Sure, it is inefficient in wire, and that is generally bad. But your counter argument there is baloney. You want to tell him that it is not worth the extra wire, hey, that is a matter of judgment and debate. But the power going out means nothing to his original proposal.

    (I only do it where required and in workshops where something like a table saw could stall and trip the breaker. The laptop I am banging on right now is not likely to trip the breaker and shut down the table lamp that is illuminating what I am doing.)

    I say that backstabs are junk with propensity to fail. You tell me that UL approves them. So? So what? They still have a propensity to fail. A greater propensity to fail than the "preferred" that I find in a ten pack for about $17. One is acceptable but clearly inferior (junk) compared to the other.

    You address my view on the strap on receptacles. You walked right past my argument on that. When the strap passes thru the receptacle (sandwiched in two plastic moldings) the support of the brass contacts for the blades are inferior. I have seen more than a few such fail with a sharp push of a plug into the outlet, which shoved the brass contacts back against the back bit of plastic and the whole thing just dissolves. The UL says it is OK. That does not invalidate my argument against them.

    The ones that I like have the strap wrapping all the way around the back, so that support of the whole device is assured. Let us argue oranges and oranges.

    Additionally, not all receptacles have the same gauge of brass for the contacts. And you know this. Guess what? The 15cent outlets have the least possible brass. Any period of heating or stress is going to anneal the brass and the next thing you know, the plug is falling out. Pay a little more? Get heavier contacts. I don't care what they are RATED. The ones I buy EXCEED the requirements of the UL.

    I'm not wild about those stab-nuts. They exist for the same reason that the back stab does: because contractors who bid big apartment buildings and condos etc are all trying to under cut each other and anything to get the electricians moving faster is snapped up. Again, not a raging endorsement.

    Next you will want to tell me that proper solid wire, well twisted together with a linesman's pliers, trimmed well, and with the correct size nut twisted on with the same pliers, is exactly as good as the stab-nuts, because the UL says we can use them?

    That's patently absurd. A UL listing does not mean that all approaches to achieving the same end are all equally good. Often they will not be.

    Damned good thing the code insists that wire splices be in boxes.....

    "This line of thought that the stab-loc is somehow inferior just because we have found improper installations would be no different than someone saying that twist on wire connectors are somehow inferior because I am constantly finding wire nuts that have come loose."

    Again, a logical fallacy. A false comparison of the two. It is very different. Plus a straw man. I did not say that back stabs that I saw fail failed due to faulty installation. I said that they failed because they are built of inadequate materials.

    The matter of twisting wire together and securing it properly with wire nuts is a matter of understanding the purpose of the method and the stresses on the wire joint being made. I doubt that an inferior grade wire nut has been on the market in a decade or two. At least, I have not had any offered to me. They all have a high tensile conical steel coil in them formed of a diamond shaped wire that as it twists on, really bites into the wire, and is going to resist losing its temper in any heating cycle that it is likely to see. They are designed to expand and contract countless times (I have no clue how many times the tests take them up and down in temperature, but it is a whole bunch) and thus to maintain a tight grip on the wire thru countless heating cycles.

    Receptacles, on the other hand, come in any number of grades. Backstabs are the LOWEST. They will tolerate the least abuse, they will fail more quickly than higher grade products. I find it extremely hard to imagine that any electrician with more than a few months on the job cannot correctly strip the wire, press it in the hole, and screw the blessed thing into the box. While I can readily imagine that same electrician not appreciating the fine points of twisting wire together and running a nut on it.

    Wire nuts do not experience anything when the vacuum cleaner gets turned on. Back stabs get beaten up when people plug stuff in and out of them on a regular basis.

    Back stabs deteriorate each time they are used. Wirenuts are properly installed or they are not. If they are, they will essentially last forever. The same cannot be said of a backstab at all. All receptacles have a limited number of times that they can accept a plug being shoved into them or have current at the top of their rating drawn out of them. Some will last a lot longer than others.

    I tell the clients that I could buy outlets for 17 cents, but I hand one to them, and then hand them one that cost me 1.70 (more to them), then I tell them there is a thing called hospital grade, those cost on the order of $25 each. And then I joke that I bet NASA has a spec and the outlets cost $100 each.

    And I CERTAINLY do not claim to be a master of all matters electrical. Not even remotely. I just manage. I am confident of my opinion of back stabs and those stab nuts. Don't like them, don't trust them, do not recommend their use.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  6. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Location:
    North Carolina
    First my friend I am not belittling you or your opinion in any way. I want you to know and understand that and also that I’m not trying to get you to change your methods. All I am doing is pointing out that you are simply wrong in your train of thought.

    Don’t forget the other part of my argument, how many times have you been left in the dark when a breaker tripped? I bet it has been more times from a power failure. If the breakers keep tripping then something is wrong and needs addressing.

    Why do you do all that twisting with pliers? The installation instruction on the container the wire nuts come in says, no pretwisting required. I don’t know very many, other than you and me that twist the wires. Most trim them even and install the nut. This is called the method of installation.
    It is a matter of choice not requirement. When I install receptacles I use pig tails with the continuity of the circuit not relying on the device. This is a matter of choice in my installation methods and yes I do this with stab-loc devices as well as wire binding screws. This leaves each device carrying only the current imposed on it instead of the current of the whole circuit. I suppose I could get on a soap box and preach how much my installation methods are far superior to others but this would be an untrue statement. It would only be my opinion not fact.
    Now we are getting somewhere in this discussion. It is not a matter of an inferior device but a matter of the device being installed in an inferior manner. We (you and me) install the wire nut by first twisting the conductors before installing them but this is not a requirement according to the installation instructions. Someone following the instructions and simply trim the ends evenly and then install the nut does not make the wire nut inferior but the method of their installation is what causes the failure. This is true with the stab-loc receptacles.
    Every consumer product made comes in different grades even the cars we drive. It is one’s ability to pay for the higher grades of product that drives their choice of purchase.
    During my final years in the electrical trade I no longer bid new work. The extent of my work in the field today is limited to jobs that will allow me to take my time in getting around. I suffer with Psoriatic Arthritis and move very slowly. This means that the bulk of my work in the field is following around behind other electricians doing repair work. Just like you I find some pretty scary thing lurking in electrical systems. The number one failure I find is wire nuts. Yes those electricians that do not have enough grip to tighten the nut enough to keep the arcing from happening and causing a failure in a few years.
    It has been my experience that there are at least 100 failures of loose wire nuts or loose screws for every one failure of a stab-loc. I am finding the same ratio when aluminum conductors were used also. And yes I keep records.
    I can accept this statement. It is you opinion and you don’t trust them. What I have a problem with is when someone says they are inferior. This leaves the untrained to think that they are not safe when this is not true. The stab-loc is tested by a NRTL with the very same technique as any other receptacle.

    I agree that the installation process will cause a wire nut to fail should it be done incorrectly. I also agree that the installation process will cause a stab-loc to fail if done incorrectly and this is true with any installation process including the screw over a bent wire which I have found several of in my life.
    In post 8, 9, and 10 one could ascertain that it was the back stab and the back stab alone that caused the problem of the original post. A well-seasoned electrician would be looking at the evidence with a little different outlook. What caused the failure was the wall shaker overloading the circuit to the point of failure.
    It doesn’t matter if the failure was at a stab-loc, wire nut, terminal, screw, or whatever; the problem was an overloaded circuit.

    I suppose that if we are going to start looking at the approved method of stab-loc devices being an inferior method of installation we should look at things such as mobile and manufactured homes as being an inferior dwelling unit. The devices in these installations don’t even have the stab-loc or wire binding screws. They have pressure blades that pierce the insulation of the cable. Small blades cut through the insulation to make contact with the conductor. See link below.

    I suppose that when someone comes and asks for advice on repairing a circuit in one of these dwellings we should advise them to sell the place and buy a stick built home. Being that 2x4s can be damaged in high winds I recommend that you have your new home build from formed concrete walls.
    I have no problem with someone saying that in their opinion they don’t trust one method over another method but I do have a problem when someone has a problem and the first words out of someone’s mouth are about one particular method.

    If one wanted to get real technical about any installation we could start talking about the trip curve of the overcurrent device. As a rule of thumb any breaker will carry 135% of its rated current for two hours before tripping (UL standard 489). This means that the highest priced 15 amp receptacle on the market when wired as a feed through device would be burdened with 20.25 amps for a period of up to two hours. Let this continue over and over again and even the highest priced receptacle will fail no matter the wiring method.

    We bought this house built in 1964 in August of 1995. We added a room in 1999 to wit I changed two of the circuits on that end of the house. The devices both receptacles and switches are back stabbed. We have a house full every Thanksgiving and Christmas that we feed.

    With all this hoopla concerning stab-loc can someone explain why I have not had a failure with my kitchen receptacles? They get one hell of a work load during these two times of the year feeding many meals. We have blenders, coffee makers, deep fryers, warming plats, and the like in constant use for at least two days twice a year. Could it possibly be the method used when installing the stab-loc devices by the electrician at the time?

    I think that you are a very smart electrician based on the content of your posts. I feel in my heart that you hold the trade in high esteem. I know from experience that your thoughts concerning methods will change as you get more experience in the trade. You will learn to say that in my opinion I don’t trust one method over another method instead of just bashing an approved method.

    [​IMG]

    Now look at this link and we can start another debate on inferior and superior
    http://www.ampnetconnect.com/documents/NM_Connector_Presentation_Rev4_Web_[090123].pdf
  7. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

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    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Late to work, I'll address that this afternoon.
  8. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    northfork, california
    Interesting that TYCO does not have to put a little circled r at its use of romolox.
  9. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Are You going to call the Police or should I ?
  10. BobL43

    BobL43 DIY Senior Member

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    Did I miss something here? TYCO? Kleenex, Romex®, romaloz. what was that wizzing sound that just passed over me?
  11. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

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    Yes you missed it.

    They caught the crook and tie wrapped their hands with UL approved Tie Wraps. They are also LAPD approved.

    It is all good.


    TGIF , Have a Great Weekend.
  12. Fudog

    Fudog New Member

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    28
    The Electrician came over Monday and one of the dead outlets had a bad connection. The connection was taped up and seemed like it was tight and even the Electrician after untaping the connection said it looked tight but only after pulling on the wires did he discover it was not wrapped as tight as it looked. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back. Thank you all very much for your time and replies.
  13. mcnakamura

    mcnakamura New Member

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    Location:
    Australia
    Problem solved.! I went ahead and took apart every outlet and switch . Looks like there was a faulty connection at the timer switch for the overhead light. I guess this outlet branched off from it. I was confused since all other lights and switches worked and the failure happened during load.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2012
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    A multimeter is a very high impedance load - that means that it puts essentially no load on the circuit. Just like a battery can show a high voltage until it is loaded, an a/c circuit can look good until there's a load on it (and the meter isn't it!). It's kind of irresponsible to just twist and tape wires up, especially if one of them is stranded and the other is solid wire which is common for things like a timer and house wiring. All power connections should be made with approved methods - crimps, terminal boards, wire nuts, or other specially designed and approved devices. When a string of outlets or switches stop working after having worked for awhile, it is almost always a bad connection, either a loose screw, or something like this, an unapproved method of attaching wires together.
  15. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    Location:
    northfork, california
    FWIW I had 4 dead outlets in a room, and a tap on one, the incoming, lit them all up. It was a backstab. Older one, I admit.
  16. BrianK

    BrianK New Member

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    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    I've also had 2 backstabbed problems in our house (built in 1987). The faulty installations were both in relatively lightly loaded circuits so I don't believe heat was the problem. In both cases, the copper wires were tarnished and not nice shiny copper as they would have been originally so perhaps this coating caused the problem. One problem was created when we plugged in a clock radio in a duplex that was never used before (in a bedroom) and this killed power to other lightly loaded bedroom plugs. I think when the plug was pushed in it disturbed the duplex just slightly which caused the problem. I've never had problems when screws were used - properly (tightened). Not sure how a backstab could be installed incorrectly (unless the wire wasn't stripped enough or pushed in far enough)

    I always use the screws on duplex recepticles and light switches rather than the backstabs (even though it is really tempting because it is easier to just push in the wire) and always recommend this to others as well. From my experience and by logically looking at the design, I have also come to the conclusion that, in the long term, backstabs are not as robust as the screw terminals - for various reasons. Just because devices are tested by UL and other agencies doesn't make them reliable nor does it guarantee that they will work in the long term. I doubt that in this case they tested the effects of corrosion (or tarnishing) on the device. Just my 2 cents based on observation.
  17. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    If you daisy chain the receptacles (a fairly normal situation), each receptacle needs to support the full line's current unless you connect the wires together and use a pigtail to feed the local device. So, the cumulative load on the circuit is what's important, not the local load.
  18. BrianK

    BrianK New Member

    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Ahh yes - but the licensed electrician (not me) too the easy way out and daisychained utilizing the infamous (aka poor) backstabs. I personally would daisy chain using the screw terminals rather than the pigtail method which would be required on both the hot and neutral because I don't like cramming all the extra wires into the box behind the duplex. I've never had a problem with the screw terminals. Having all the load go through each backstab is asking for problems regardless of the UL or any other approval - but that of course is just my opinion based on experience.
  19. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    What you are saying is you had a receptacle that wasn't used for 25 years?
  20. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    North Carolina
    Are you saying that your experience is far greater than UL?
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