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What kind of elec. outlets should I buy?

paulc127's picture

I need to replace all of the electrical outlets in my house. (According to the wife, they're the wrong color,) Also they are very loose and don't really hold a plug well.

Anyway, does brand matter? Also, is there anyplace to buy online in bulk?

Thanks in advance.


(post #59698, reply #1 of 43)

Not so much brand as quality level.  The major manufacturers each manufacture several quality lines.  I'd stay away from the bargain outlets.  A quality outlet is not that much more (less than whatever -- a cup of coffee -- pick your metaphor).

If you get the higher priced of the outlets offered in a store you are probably fine.  One feature to recognize is the metal strip that forms the ears is continuous from one end to the other, running down the back of the outlet, providing support.  If you go to the counter of an electrical supply house, they can show you the various outlets and explain what makes one better than another.

Don't use the press fit connections on the back of outlets.  They are not reliable.  Take the extra minute to form the wires properly around the screws.  A really high end outlet may have back connections that are not press fit, but secured by tightening screws on the sides after inserting wires through the back.  These outlets are on the high end of price but electricians like them because they are fast to install, and high quality.

If you go to an electrical supply house and buy in box quantities they should give you a fair price if you ask.

(post #59698, reply #2 of 43)

Value is typically in the middle of the market. It is, IMHO, so in so many things. Avoid the most and the least expensive. If you only had enough to buy a few higher end units locate these in the most used locations. Kitchen, shop and bath come to mind as often used and abused receptacles.

(post #59698, reply #35 of 43)

Go to an electrical supply house, and ask to see the difference between "regular" or "economy" grade and "spec" grade.  Ask to see "spec" in residential and commercial.

Gene Davis, Davis Housewrights, Inc., Lake Placid, NY



(post #59698, reply #3 of 43)

Thanks for the informaton. I  think I'll go to an electrical supply store and ask for a high quality unit. I only need 30-40. Not cheap, but it won't break the bank.


Thanks, Paul

(post #59698, reply #4 of 43)

For a decent, inexpensive home grade recepticle I ask the boss to stock Levingtons. We have tried many others but they just never measure up.

1 opinion

(post #59698, reply #5 of 43)

I have enjoyed using the 'Passe Seymour Legrande' line, not that there are not others. A bit more than cheap but I have had good experiences installing and maintaining them. Solidly constructed, reliable, won't break the bank.

Mid and low end Leviton I'm less impressed with but I can't say don't seem to give good service if installed with a little care. I have been known to crack a few if I get in a rush and horse down the screws.

Cooper mid grade is good. I have less experience with them, supply houses don't carry them normally, but they seem a bit better than Leviton.

Eagle. Round here Eagle was only available at the big box and in the low grade. Not impressed. Seemed cheap, stripped screws and a few obviously defective, but in low use spots, The HO bought them, I can't say I've had any great number of callbacks. We took extra care to be nice to them during install. I hear their mid grade may be better.

Of course all of these manufacturers have lower and higher grade lines so comparisons are within common grades.

Any receptacle will give better service if well installed and supported properly. Don't hang the devices off the cover plate. Also avoid push-in type back wiring. The clamp type is probably as good as wrapping the screw, the time honored method. IMHO no single cause of problems is greater than the use of push-in wiring.


(post #59698, reply #8 of 43)

"IMHO no single cause of problems is greater than the use of push-in wiring."

I've read this on Breaktime several times.  If this is true (and I've heard it enough here to beleive it's true) why do the manufacturers and the code allow the push-in wiring? 

I replaced a bunch of outlets in my home.  Most I used the screws, but on a few, I back stabbed the wires because it was fast and easy and I thought it was OK to do.  Now I'm wondering if this is something new for me to worry about?  Should I go back and find which outlets I did this to, and re-wire them?  Or just leave them alone since they seem to work fine.

Why do they make outlets with the back stab push in connections if they aren't as good?  Wouldn't the outlet manufacturers want their products to perform well?  Wouldn't they want to avoid the liability of making a product with a design flaw that could cause a failure or maybe burn down a house?

(post #59698, reply #10 of 43)

>> Why do they make outlets with the back stab push in connections if they aren't as good?

Because they reduce the labor cost for installation, and because not enough people have died in the resulting fires yet.

(post #59698, reply #28 of 43)

uncle dunc,

Your absolutely right.

As to 'why save a few bucks?':

Save $1 per switch or receptacle on say, 120 per unit, on 1,000 units...

Bingo! $120,000.

The developer has left the building.


(post #59698, reply #29 of 43)


(post #59698, reply #30 of 43)

You probably shouldn't waste money on the best paint or brushes either then.Look at what $3 a gallon would add up to.And,if you're just going to walk on the floor anyway,why spend the bucks on hardwood flooring or ceramic tile when you can get vinyl squares for  88 cents?

You get what you pay for.Televisions and vacuuum cleaners will wear out cheap receptacles a lot faster than the 50 years you say you've seen them last.

(post #59698, reply #31 of 43)

Different cost / Benefit ratio. Different analysis.

As far as paint goes I'm no expert. I can say that Consumer Reports has done some testing that I have read about. Their conclusion indicated that many of the most expensive paints fared no better than some discount lines. If I remember correctly their top paint, at least once, was a moderately priced paint from a big box. I only remember this report because it, once again, supported my view that value is in the middle of the market no matter what your buying.

To this particular case. The vacuum may cause more wear than a clock radio simply because it is plugged and unplugged frequently, several times each usage but seldom more than once per use in any one receptacle. The TV much less so. Smaller load much less frequently moved.

You can spend as much as you can talk the customers into or, more likely, your boss is willing to finance and sell. Many customers won't stand for too many $20 receptacles without a good reason. Customers are seldom impressed by getting 'the very best'. They just want something that works well, looks good, lasts a reasonable amount of time and won't drastically increase the cost of the home.

Consistent overbuilding can kill a business by lowering profit margins. On the other side the same is true if you install too many devices not up to the task at hand. Call backs are expensive.

In competitive markets a consistent but small reduction in profit margin, from overbuilding or call backs, can, over time, break a business. In hard times many electrical contractors live on the financial edge. They must daily perform a balancing act.

Contrary to your understanding of what I posted I am not advocating using substandard, cheap or units not up to the job they are called to perform. A carpenter would not use rosewood or birds eye maple for duck boards over a puddle. A mason does not use expensive imported marble tiles to line a dry well. An electrician should not waste a customers money installing a receptacle suitable for the space shuttle. Not when a device a tenth the cost will outlast the house. 

I am advocating a balance because the platitude of 'using only the very best', as opposed to something 'more than adequate for the situation', is wasteful and foolish. Business is all about getting the most bang for the buck. Providing value added products that customers want, ones that will provide differences that they can sense, care about, and ones that they are willing to pay for.

(post #59698, reply #32 of 43)

Hey is any body using those premade pig-tales with the crimped ends that I keep seeing at the supply house??


(post #59698, reply #38 of 43)

Those premade green pigtails are popular with systems run in conduit and where there are a great number of metal boxes. I have never seen them used in any great numbers in Romex cable, NM, systems and where plastic boxes are used.

(post #59698, reply #41 of 43)

Thanks Lorn: I seen them and was just curios


(post #59698, reply #42 of 43)

Gimme a choice, and i`d never choose phillips-head contacts instead of robertsons (square-drive, eh?) for any of my electrical stuff--and you won`t find robertson heads on the cheepy units, either

(post #59698, reply #43 of 43)

Rod: not sure if we are on the same page.I was wondering if premade pigtails were that much faster than reg.hand made

Stay Safe



(post #59698, reply #39 of 43)

premade pig-tales

I used some donated ones on a Habitat house.  After you get used to them, they work great.  The problem comes when you have multiple wires coming into a box, and the nut won't fit over all the wires.  Then you have to pig-tail.  If you buy them, do not get the stranded without connectors on the ends for outlets.  Connecting stranded directly to outlet is a no-no in my book.

You get out of life what you put into it......minus taxes.


You get out of life what you put into it......minus taxes.


(post #59698, reply #40 of 43)

Thanks Marv: I was just wondering if they were that much faster.I don't mind spending a little more if it speeds things up(not that making pigtails is all that hard),but when you are doing everything in a house by yourself anyway I can save some time helps


(post #59698, reply #36 of 43)

You are so right.  Better is the mortal enemy of good enough.  I find myself pointing out items that are " a little bit or quite a bit better" to a customer who often says they want it.  Later when all the "littles" are added up it becomes significant. 

Matching the material to the task at hand or reasonably foreseen is the right thing to do.  If customer has the resources and desire you can play "how much can we make this cost". 

Properly installed most receptacles will last a very long time unless subjected to abnormal abuse.  If you shove the filing cabinet into the wall even the best will probably break.

For those who have fought for it Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.

(post #59698, reply #37 of 43)

No one has suggested using hospital grade receptacles(the twenty dollars you like to quote?) here.What we're saying is that using the good commercial grade receptacle from a given manufacturer, that might cost 2 bucks a piece more, is money well spent.It's not "overbuilding" for "titanium houses"or "space shuttles" or whatever exaggeration you can come up with.In $30 an hour labor markets, two bucks a receptacle isn't anything.The original poster here justs wants to know a good receptacle to buy,I don't think he cares how Pulte Homes greases its bottom line.

 While most of the electrical system in a house is unseen and untouched by the average homeowner,receptacles have to sustain the wear and tear of people's use and abuse,and so shouldn't be a weak link.I'm saying that to use the house brand of 15 amp residential receptacle is false economy.When you say that you've seen 39 cent receptacles last 50 years you're encouraging people to be cheap.

(post #59698, reply #13 of 43)

One really big way to improve the safety of a back-stabbed outlet installation is to make sure that at least the outlet is pigtailed and not in series with the other devices on that circuit.

This means that the only power in the back-stabbed outlet is the power consumed at that ONE outlet, not all of the power on that breaker/circuit (including all of the down-stream devices).

Back stabbing is a very weak connection, only a thin metal blade is touching the wire at one point. Maybe ok when new, and when just used for a table lamp or something, but any resistance in that delicate joint will generate heat (and the more power going thru, the more heat generated). Pigtailing means that the main power feed passes thru the box, and the outlet is just a branch off that line, VERY important if downstream devices could be hair dryers, space heaters, window mount airconditioners, vacuum cleaners or any other of a myriad of today's large current consumers.

Using the screws and getting as much surface contact, under a tight screw, makes a very durable, and very sound connection. Doing this with a pigtailed circuit is the belts + suspenders way that any good electrician will insist on for all of his jobs.

The best solution for convenience is the high end type of outlet, with screw-tightened, rear wire design. As easy to use as back-stab, but still a secure joint because its captured by a screw like the connection at your circuit breaker. This kind of device is also very durable because the materials of the housing and internal connections are generally higher grade, so they tend to hold up better to heavy use.

Since the cheapo outlets cost $0.25 or so, and the high end cost $3.50 or so, the cost difference may matter if you're building a 100 home tract, but to most consumers the cost difference is easily overcome by the quality (I think).

Hope this helps,


Edited 1/16/2004 12:33:29 PM ET by Norm

(post #59698, reply #14 of 43)

"Hope this helps,

It does.  Thanks.

(post #59698, reply #9 of 43)


What do you think about Hubbell's?  I read Rex Cauldwell's book
and he recommends the Hubbell outlets as being the best of the best.  I think they're $20+.  Is there any merit to something this expensive, or are these a result of high-end spec sheet follow the leader? 


Jon Blakemore


Jon Blakemore

Fredericksburg, VA

(post #59698, reply #11 of 43)

I use Hubbels all the time. They are good, but like other mfg. have different quality levels. I have never paid $20.00 for a standard duplex Hubbel receptical, but have for some of the twist-lock types.

I have also seen Hubbels broken from abuse and improper installation. As 4Lorn says, a liitle care and attention durring installation goes a long way toward the devices' safe use and life.


(post #59698, reply #24 of 43)

I'm definatley a hubble man as far as commercial goes. I didn't know they made aresidential line.

Who Dares Wins.




(post #59698, reply #25 of 43)

They may not. I buy most of my stuff from a supply house, and spent very little time in the electrical isle at HD or Lowes.

I can call the supply house, place an order, then pick up on the way to a job or home, Might take 15 minutes out of my day. Takes me that long to park, walk in and find the right isle at a big box. If I have guestion, my supplier has a staff that can answer, not some old retired fart or snot nosed kid making a WAG at the big box.

BTW for those that haven't cracked open a recptical lately....try it. In fact try a couple. I think most of you will be supprized. Although many look alike outside, the inside is where the real differance lies. Rivets, spot welds, clamps, and bus seperation partitions vary all over the place.

I still have quite few to go, but I intend to crackem open everytime I get one I haven't done yet. So far I've seen Pass Seymore spec. grade and a Hubbel.  Both 20 amps. Got a few different one laying around the shop I think I'll whack tomorrow.


(post #59698, reply #26 of 43)

Who do you use? Most suppliers in Louisville are pretty good. I'm always looking for more though.

Who Dares Wins.




(post #59698, reply #33 of 43)

Russel Electric, aka Peterson Electric. Peterson bougth out Russel several years ago, so my account automatically rolled from Petersons to Russel also.

Nice thing is now that I work downtown all the time now, I am only one block from Russel. If they don't have what I need, it can be delivered from Bluegrass the same day. I still get the suport from the staff at Petersosns' Bluegrass location.


(post #59698, reply #34 of 43)

   Yea I've been in there a couple of times. I bought some hard to find Westinghouse breakers from them last year. Seven hundred dollars for a dozen I think it was. But they had them. Then I swung in there last month for supplies. When I'm down in that area I usualy go to E&H around the corner from them. I'm a Peterson fan as well, they are really hooked up when it comes to hard to get or obsolete stuff.

  I was just over at fifth and Market Friday swapping out an ATM at the Stockyards bank main office. Someone has to go back and trim it out as we only had scraps to fix it with Friday

Who Dares Wins.

Edited 1/18/2004 9:02:26 AM ET by Gunner