Aluminum wiring

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Old 09-12-05, 06:46 PM
Whodey2k
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Aluminum wiring

I recently purchased a home, and it has mostly aluminum wiring. I have talked with three or four different electrical contractors, who each have different advice. Some say its fine the way it is... However, all say that 'pigtailing' is the way to go if you are going to address it.

It boils down to this: seems the best route is to do the aluminum to copper pigtails; so I went our local large retail home improvement store, and found these certain connectors specially rated (and UL listed) for aluminum to copper. A simple google search provides info that says these things (this particular brand) catch fire easily and can be less safe than a normal aluminum connection. The CPSC says that this other method called "COPALUM" is the only acceptable method (other than complete replacement), but its much more expensive and has to have an electrician certified to use this special crimping tool.

I can't afford to replace the wiring, and the Copalum method will be very expensive also... I'd rather do it myself if I could. I appreciate any advice.
 
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Old 09-12-05, 08:16 PM
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We will not be able to do the copalum method yourself. Amp will only lease the tool to someone that has taken their course and is certified by them.
 
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Old 09-12-05, 09:18 PM
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Why switch to copper? Why use copper pigtails? Just make sure you wrap the wires around the screws on the device's. Don't use the stab in's on the back of the device. If you need to make a pigtail then just use aluminum.
 
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Old 09-13-05, 08:34 AM
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They do make receptacles that are rated for aluminum wire. I've seen them at the big box stores for about $3 each; granted more expensive than copper receptacles, but not too bad.

Depending on the type of panel you have, you may want to consider AFCI breakers for the circuits with aluminum wire. There has been some debate whether or not AFCI breakers will trip on an aluminum wire series fault, but I personally think it's another line of defense.

Did any of the four contractors who looked at your wiring notice any heating problems with the AL wire? How many boxes did they look in, if any? A good place to start is to open up every switch, receptacle, light fixture, and junction box and closely examine the wiring for heat damage. Your wiring may still be in good condition and you could postpone an expensive overhaul.

Finally, just pay close attention to your home's wiring. If you notice lights flickering, popping noises, hot receptacles, etc, investigate it immediately. You know there could be a problem, so don't ignore warning signs.
 
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Old 09-13-05, 08:09 PM
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If you understand how your electrical wiring system works and if you are experienced with doing your own electrical wiring, then you can take this project on.

There are lots of good books on DIY home wiring. See a recent thread.

You should do special research on the care and feeding of aluminium wiring. If installed and maintained correctly, it is relatively safe. On the other hand, it can burn your house down fairly quickly if it is *not* installed or maintained using correct methods and materials.
 
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Old 09-22-05, 09:21 PM
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My house too

I also recently bought a house that has AL wiring. I plan to eventually replace it all but that's because I am interested in learning about wiring and just plain crazy.

Seriously, I do plan to do it over time because I have excellent attic access and I love the idea of saving 20K or so because I am doing it myself. Also, I am going to go above code wherever possible, putting in smoke and CO detectors, and so on.

Keep in mind I live in a development that has just over 1000, that's right, over 1000 houses, many two story, and I have not heard of any fires from the wiring. I have only lived here one and half years but neighbors have been from the start and don't remember any fires.
 
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Old 09-22-05, 11:52 PM
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I had a house with aluminum wiring and did a lot of research about it. It is not hard or very expensive if you research it first. Many electrical contractors are giving personal opinions about aluminum wiring and have not researched the problem. Research it yourself. The best practice is to find out how to safely handle it and then follow the recommendations. The way to get around paying a licensed electrician to pigtail your house is to only use devices and recepticles rated for aluminum wiring. Granted this will limit your choice of recepticles and other devices. The only other safe way is pay a electrician to properly crimp the pigtail. You may only need the pigtail on a few connections such as where you want to attach a device which you can not find rated for aluminum wiring.

What to do:
Telephone your local Code Enforcement office and ask for advice. They are very helpful. They can tell you what is required for safe use of aluminum wiring and can probably direct you to additional information.

Go to the following websites which have good information. Stay away from contractor websites when doing research.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm
http://mb.thehartford.com/insurance...dfs/680-400.pdf
http://www.chrisdhilton.com/newslet...inum_wiring.htm
http://www.ainspect.com/CommonPages...m/aluminum.html
http://www.hsb.com/thelocomotive/St...T-FS-ALUM2.html
http://www.home-pro.com/homebook/ar...FireHazards.htm

Aluminum wire gets brittle and cracks easily after heating. Learn how to spot brittle aluminum wire. You can then cut off the bad part and remake the connection.

Use only recepticles rated CO/ALR.

Inspect your wiring once a year.

What NOT to do:
Do not assume that nothing bad will happen just because it has not happend yet.

Do not install pigtails yourself. The pigtail connection must be made using only a special connector and special crimping tool licensed by the AMP Corporation.

Do not use recepticles rated only for copper. Also do not use recepticles rated AL/CU as these were rated for aluminum in the past but later found to also be hazardous.

Do not remove any "wire-nuts", such as ceiling light connections without carefully inspecting to see if they are crimped. They may already be properly crimped.
 
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Old 09-26-05, 09:28 PM
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Once a year?

Originally Posted by Scrayen
Aluminum wire gets brittle and cracks easily after heating. Learn how to spot brittle aluminum wire. You can then cut off the bad part and remake the connection.

Use only recepticles rated CO/ALR.

Inspect your wiring once a year.

What NOT to do:
Do not assume that nothing bad will happen just because it has not happend yet.
OK, I agree with a lot of this and spent a lot of time researching AL wiring before I bought. Scrayen, you bring up some questions, and even though I am eventually going to replace all my AL wiring with copper, I have to live with AL for now, so here goes.

1. So, how do you spot brittle AL wiring?

2. Inspect your wiring once a year. How do you inspect? Do mean remove covers and examine each connection at each receptacle and switch?

3. Do people with copper wiring need to do this?
 
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Old 09-27-05, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyger52
1. So, how do you spot brittle AL wiring?
Look for insulation that is crumbling or cracking off the wire.

2. Inspect your wiring once a year. How do you inspect? Do mean remove covers and examine each connection at each receptacle and switch?
Turn off the power, pull the plates off the switches and receptacles. Pull the receptacles, switches and light fixtures out to visually inspect all of the wires, devices and connections. Look for signs of heating, burning, black marks, etc.

3. Do people with copper wiring need to do this?
No. Copper wire does not have the same heating problems as aluminum.
 
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Old 09-29-05, 05:37 PM
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Reason enough to replace AL

Ok, if those of us are supposed to inspect all of our switches, receptacles, lights, etc., once a year, that is enough reason for me to replace my AL wiring with copper. Although I seriously doubt any of the 1000 homeowners in my subdivision with AL wiring have ever done this, more or less once a year.
 
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Old 09-30-05, 10:16 AM
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It's really an issue of how much preventive maintenance and inspection a homeowner is willing to do to decrease the probability of having a house fire. I don't know what the statistics are as to the number of homes that burn down from aluminum wiring problems, but it is more than copper; and, the added risk can be mitigated by more rigourous maintenance. It's not something you're supposed to do or have to do, but it might just catch a problem before it causes a fire.

I just feel it's important for people to know that this is a known problem and there are effective preventive measures homeowners can take if they choose to put the time in.

While we're at it: clean your dryer exhaust vent, have the fireplace chimney swept, and test your furnace heat exchanger for carbon monoxide leakage. Three more things that will keep the firemen away when done annually.
 
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