Our Thoughts on Back Wired Outlets


Back wired (or backstabbed) outlets are when the wire is pushed through a hole in the back of the outlet to catch on a spring rather than tightened down under the terminal screws on the side of the receptacles. This connection is not reliable or safe. Over time the tension clips that hold back-stabbed wires loosen, in some cases causing the current to arc and generate heat. Normally we attach the wire to the side of the device where it can be screwed on. We see more fires and arcing, melted, and non-functional outlets due to back-wiring than any other issue.  

It is not uncommon for us to find back-wired outlets and many people have used them for years with no problems, but it would be remiss of us not to alert you to the possibility that these outlets could fail, melt, or catch fire. Repairing back-wired outlets is not hard, but we normally would recommend checking all the outlets in the house, which can take a bit of time. Please let us know if this is something you would like us to look into.


Aluminum Wiring

Some companies offer to "rewire" houses that have aluminum wiring, when in actuality they are simply installing Aluminum compatible switches and receptacle outlets, and/or installing "purple" wire nuts in order to add copper extensions to all the wires in order to connect them to copper devices and lighting fixture leads. These aluminum compatible devices and these purple wire nuts (which contain an anti-oxidizing compound to reduce the likelihood of a galvanic reaction between the copper and aluminum conductors) are no longer approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commision for permanent repairs.

There are only two approved permanent connection methods for joining aluminum and copper.

One is COPALUM, this is where a special company is hired to use a hydraulic press to join copper and aluminum together.

The other method that is approved is connecting the wires together using "Alumiconn" connectors. These connectors can be purchased off-the-shelf and installed by a licensed electrician.

We have used different methods to resolve aluminum issues on various houses over the years.

Recently we replaced every piece of aluminum wire with copper in a large home in Chapel Hill. This project took several weeks and cost over thirty-thousand dollars, not including the Sheetrock and painting. On other recent projects we have used Alumiconn connectors to replace all the improper splices in homes at a fraction of the cost of replacing all the wiring without having to fish any wire or disturb any sheetrock or wall surfaces.

We would be happy to check out the wiring in your house and discuss options for resolving the aluminum issues.

We regret that we are unable to provide you with an exact quote for this work. Please let us know if you have any more questions or comments.


Here are a couple of links that explain some of the issues:






Knob & Tube Wiring

When evaluating and repairing knob and tube wiring we look for (and implement) several things:

- Is the wiring covered or encapsulated in any way by building insulation which will prevent proper heat dissipation? If so, we try to work with the customer to find a way to mitigate this problem.

- What kinds of loads are placed on this system and can these loads be minimized by the use of LED bulbs,  as well as smaller breakers/fuses and supplementing the receptacle outlets with new circuits.

- We try to add GFCI & AFCI breakers/devices to help protect against shock and fire hazards. Adding three additional layers of protection to the existing short-circuit and over-current protections.

- We try to evaluate the condition of the existing knob and tube wires, splices, boxes. Any improper splices, insulators, or connections need to be corrected.

Link to more info: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob-and-tube_wiring

Replacing Overhead Light with Ceiling Fan

To replace an overhead light with a ceiling fan usually requires installing a fan-rated box in place of the existing plastic light box. Aside from that procedure fan install is pretty straight forward. Installing a fan takes an hour or so depending on the model and location.   Retrofitting a fan-rated box takes 20 to 90 minutes depending on access, framing, ceiling construction, etc.


Of the brands of fans you could order online, we would recommend Modern Fan Company, Minka-Aire, Hunter, and Craftmade.  You could also check in with the folks at University Lights 919-489-8583. They are helpful and could order something for you.

We recommend that when purchasing fans from Lowes, Home depot, or other box stores that a customer purchase an extra fan for each location. Contractor grade,  Hampton Bay, and Harbor Breeze fans are notorious for having broken or missing parts, poorly fabricated hardware, or being difficult to balance. If we run into a problem like this during the install, it is most cost effective to box up the fan for return rather than attempt to repair the issue. If there is already a second fan available, then we don't have to charge to return the fan and get another.


These are the pros and cons associated with fan remote controls:


Easier and less expensive than installing a new switch

No need to install a fan speed control switch or a dimmer for lights as these will be on the remote control

No need to climb a ladder to reverse fan direction



Remote controls are not as reliable; failing more often than switches- requiring replacement

Batteries in remotes need to be replaced

In apartment living situations, remotes neighboring apartments can interfere with each other (this can be remedied by re-programming the remote)





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