INDIANAPOLIS — Changing light fixtures and light switches is becoming more and more popular especially with all the new smart devices to choose from. Most of those new devices have wires and not screws. The question is what’s the easiest and safest way for homeowners to connect all the wires in their walls and ceilings, if they don’t want to call an electrician?
So many people have different opinions on this. But most electricians I spoke with connect electrical wires using traditional twist-on wire nuts.
“I think the biggest issues is the cost, and wire nuts are the least expensive. The other issue for most of our crews is sticking with what we know and trust. I mean I think everybody knows what a wire nut is,” said Adam Allen, owner of Fisher’s Fixer Upper.
It’s true. Most electricians and home owners know what a wire nut is. They are basic. After turning off any electricity to your wires, line up the ends of the bare wires together that you want to connect and twist the appropriately sized wire nut on until secure. A good rule of thumb is the wires start to twist just past the wire nut.
But there’s another wire connector that’s easier to use, especially for homeowners, although they are about three times the price. We priced a 100 count bag of wire nuts at Menards that cost 11 cents per nut. We also found what are called Wago lever nuts for 36 per connector also at Menards.
So if a wire nut is a third the price, why would you want to use a lever nut? For homeowners, the simple answer is they are very easy to use. The brand of lever nuts that is the most well known comes from Germany and is called Wago. They are fairly new in America, but it’s the device predominantly used in Europe by electricians and homeowners. Adam Allen told me he has no problem with Wago nuts, it’s just a matter of price and that adds up when you own a business.
“To connect wires using a Wago, just strip about half an inch of wire, lift up the lever fully, push the wire in and close the lever down. They are very simple to use, and it’s nice and tight. The biggest advantage of lever nuts is if you want to undo it, you can easily. Just flip up the lever and out comes the wire,” said Allen.
The other advantage of using a Wago lever nut is the wires that are connected don’t become twisted or mangled. However, when using wire nuts, the wires come apart twisted and they and sometimes mangled. When that happens the safest method is to cut the wires off and strip new bare wire. But if you don’t have enough wire in the wall box, it’s not always easy to strip more fresh wire.
And for a homeowner, it also takes a little time. When you use lever nuts, the same wire can be used over and over again, which is helpful if you make a mistake or if you are changing out light switches and fixtures frequently.
The manufacturer of the lever nuts says it’s easy and secure to mix solid wires with stranded wires. I’ve tried this myself, and the lever nuts hold down stranded wire, just like they do for solid wires.
You can find lever nuts for 2, 3 and 5 wire connections, from 12 to 24 gauge. I bought a combo box of Wago connectors off Amazon. They have a variety of options, although Menards actually had a competitive, if not better price. Most connections in your home will involve two or three wires.
Stranded wire is more common with new fixtures and switches that use WiFi and Bluetooth, which homeowners are changing out more often. There is also a new kind of Wago that is transparent which means you can see the wire going into the lever nut and you know it’s seated all the way in and connected. That’s a change from the previous solid grey colored bigger version. The older version is also harder to open and close, but they are very solid connecting. The newer transparent ones are also smaller so they take up less space in an electrical box.
The final question is, are lever nuts safe?
“They are safe and they are UL approved. And they will stay connected,” said Allen.
Some electricians on my Facebook page said they prefer the wire nuts because they are easy to use and they are inexpensive. But if you are a homeowner, there’s now another option that’s also safe to use and is more user friendly if you’re not an expert.
If you have a Home Zone idea YOU have done and want to share with our viewers, email me at SJONES@FOX59.COM.