Ideas from Ed: Nut or not? (Volume 5, Issue 5)
I’ve been asked a million times whether it’s necessary or at least recommended to wrap electrical tape around wires joined together in a “wire nut.” I’ll defer to a master electrician (not me!) who wrote an article I once read in which he said (paraphrased): “If you see tape around a wire nut, you know the connection was made by an amateur.”
Properly installed on a group of wires, and twisted really tightly, wire nuts make a decent connection. I’ve also had them fail by not grabbing a wire well enough, probably because only some wires were gripped by the little “spring” inside of the nut. Most likely the fault was actually mine. Nevertheless, I don’t like using them. It also seems I never have the right size on hand when needed.
If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the advertisement for Peter Paul Company’s Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars, “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.” More often than not, I don’t.
So what do I like to use to join wires together? Push-in connectors like these:
Remember, I am NOT advertising a particular brand of product. I show you what I use, plain and simple. I’m sure other manufacturers make a similar item.
These fittings come in various configurations. The ones I most commonly use are 3-port and 4-port versions. Here are some close-ups:
(Somehow I always manage to have “stuff” all over my hands when I take pictures. That’s either joint compound or drywall primer in the above picture – not some skin-eating fungus!)
These little connectors seriously grip the wires! Once you strip a half-inch of insulation from the wire, all you do is push the wire into the holes. Done! These connectors grab stranded wire if you pre-twist so the resultant end is rigid enough to poke into the fitting. Here’s a project using them:
By the way, I hate metal electrical boxes, too, but it’s all I had on hand when I was on this project. I don’t like them because of the need to run the extra ground wire to the box itself, and also because the sharp edges seem to always attack a finger or two of mine.
One downside to using the push-in connectors is that it’s very difficult to remove them. The package says you can do so by twisting the wire while pulling, but I usually find it easier to just snip the connector off and move on.
In summary, if you’re wondering how to properly use wire nuts so the connection is secure, consider the alternative I’ve shown. I’ll bet you’ll never use wire nuts again!
I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!
If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here: