- Q.Many of the receptacles I
use have push-in connectors on the back. Does a push-in
connection perform as well as the side-mounted screw
responds: Whenever I go on a residential
service call where the power is out in a receptacle
or a portion of a room, 75% of the time the problem
is caused by a failed push-in terminal on a
receptacle or switch.
Push-in terminals are small copper spring clips
that only make contact with a small portion of the
wire. When a push-in terminal is subjected to a
high-amperage draw, the terminal often overheats,
eventually causing the connection to burn out.
Another problem is that when the electrician pushes
the receptacle or switch into the box, the wires
twist and bend, putting a lot of stress on the
relatively weak spring clips.
The National Electric Code (
NEC) has restricted the use of push-in
terminals to #14 AWG copper wire only. Even though
the push-in connectors are quicker and easier to
use than the screw terminals, I never use them, nor
do I allow my employees to use them.
Some ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
receptacles have clamp-style terminals that are
almost as easy to use as push-in terminals. The
wire is pushed into the back of the GFCI and a
screw is tightened to secure the clamp. Many
higher-grade receptacles and switches have a
similar clamp terminal. These terminals make a good
connection, but as with any terminal, the wire
should be given a tug to make sure the connection
Sean Kenney owns and operates Sean M. Kenney
Electrical in Amesbury, Mass.