Aluminum Wire Safety Idea/Question ?


Old 02-10-05, 09:04 AM
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Aluminum Wire Safety Idea/Question ?

I currently own a home with aluminum wiring through-out. When first moved in the wiring was in terrible shape. So I went in and replaced all recepticles and switches with COLAR rated and used De-Ox when connecting them. Used the screw terminal on the switches/recepticals and not the push in connections on the back and made sure the wire was wrapped at least 3/4 around the screw.

Now, I know this is a step in the right direction but I also know that light fixture/appliance etc. connections are still an issue. I feel what I've done is good but not a perminate fix and I could have problems in the future.

To rewire the home is cost prohibitive because it's a two story with no attic access through-out most of it. COPALUM is an option but is very expensive and I have to rely on a contractor to do the work because the equipment isn't available to non-professionals.

My idea for my own peice of mind is to purchase a voltage drop tester and record the results at each receptical once every year. If I see any trends ie. the voltage drop starts to creep up or goes up drastically at a receptical then I know something is working loose within that circuit and I can find and fix the loose connection. Unless there is something I don't understand this will detect all aluminum related problems before they become unsafe. Is there something that this test would miss?

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Old 02-10-05, 11:42 AM
scott e.'s Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Anderson, IN
Posts: 412
I think that you have done well. You might open up the ceiling boxes and make sure you are using cu/al connectors. Otherwise, you should be safe. There is nothing inherently wrong or dangerous with al wiring. The only issue was that it has different rates of thermal expansion and contraction than copper. When the two materials are connected together without an approved cu/al connector, the differing expansion coefficients can causee the connection to loosen and become intermittant, thereby generating more heat. More heat, more expansion...and so on. As long as all devices and connections are rated for al wiring, I would not worry about testing the connections, they should stay as tight as any copper ones. Just my $0.02 (probably not even worth that! )

PS Appliances are connected using aluminum wiring all the time, just like services.
Old 02-11-05, 08:29 AM
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Ok thanks for the advice. When you read about aluminum wiring on the internet they make it look like your house will burn down unless you replace or use the COPALUM fix so I figured the voltage drop testing would catch things before they became dangerous.

Old 02-11-05, 11:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Fayetteville, NY, USA
Posts: 1,052
Your home was built in the early '70s, wasn't it? I used to be a maintenance supervisor at a large apartment complex that was built right around that time and it was all aluminum NM cable and 100% back-stab receptacles. I mean 100%. The receptacles & switches they used were so cheap they didn't even have screw terminals at all! You have done well to use only the screw terminals and to use no-ox. Every single week for the 7 years I was there we had at least one call from a resident who's receptacle circuits or lights went dead due to back stabbers.

The only problem we had that could be attributed to aluminum wire was stupidity. The population at this complex was about 1/3 college students, most of them rich. (I'm not saying all college students are stupid, but I'm talking abut 18 and 19 year olds in their first apartment ever, who had mommy or daddy do everything for them up till then, including screwing in a light bulb.) They would often put 100 watt bulbs in the light fixtures (daddy pays the electric bill), ignoring the manufacturer's sticker that plainly said "60 watt maximum". The heat would bake the insulation on the aluminum wire and the expansion and contraction of the aluminum would crack the insulation right off and the wires would short-circuit. If safety is your mission, you may want to drop your ceiling fixtures and visually inspect the wiring with a flashlight. If it looks good and you see no cracking or discoloration (white wire looks dark tan), then your wiring should be safe. One hint if you do this: lower the fixture slowly and not too far. If your insulation is slightly baked but you don't stretch or bend it much, it probably won't crack. If it's not cracked it should be OK.

Otherwise, in 7 years, in 250+ apartments, I never had a single fire due to aluminum wiring.

Hope that helps.


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