Mobile home with aluminum wiring

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Old 11-08-05, 03:16 PM
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Mobile home with aluminum wiring

First off. Let me introduce myself. I am new to the forum as of this minute. I am a builder, remodeler and mostly these days...have gravitated up to be a rental housing maintenance man, so I am well rounded in many fields of construction and repair. From building to working on high efficiency furnaces, I have experience.

I also own mobile homes. One of them has the dreaded aluminum wiring. (There were about 2 million places this was put into between 1965 and 1973) When yu read internet sites about this, you get anything from...'you want to get rid of it', to...'don't over-react...it can be fixed'. Well, I don't know about you, but I have seen enough with my own eyes to be scared of it. I am not going to get into all the technical reasons *why* the connections can lead to problems. But to make it simple...let's just say that when contact is not sufficient between an outlet terminal screw and the aluminum wiring, it can cause intense heat and melt the outlet and melt the insulation around the wire for several inches back and cause the aluminum wire to be brittle.

Outlets are the main culprit. There is only one *approved* way to remedy this and that is to use a special crimp connector, where new copper is crimped to the aluminum. That is the only approved way. However some electricians have used non-recommended quick-fixes by using wire nuts and oxguard where they pig-tail new copper wire to the aluminum, back at some point where the aluminum wire is still supple.

*I* have made a few repairs in the trailer myself. But, the tenants got scared and moved out. I don't blame them. The internet is full of sites that bring up specific cases where people have *died* in aluminum wiring fires.

Even though that one site said it is safe when repaired in the proper mannor...*I* do not trust it. I don't think they are thinking every possible scenario thru. For example; even if you take down and inspect all light fixtures, look at every switch and every outlet, and you have made the appropriate repairs...how do you not know that there are other problems that have gone on in the ceiling and walls, undetected, like: in manufacture, those stapling the trailer together missed and nicked a wire, and it is a ticking time bomb. Or, condensation or backed up gutters caused water to leak in a wall where there is this wiring, and it starts to oxidize and it too becomes a ticking time bomb?

No thank you.

I have been in contact with the mobile home manufacturer over this issue along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission...and so far I have not got anywhere for learning about a 'recall' or if there are any class-action lawsuits already existing out there. I have been told that this should fall under the federal auspices of H.U.D., and I wil probably get ahold of them next. I have spent a lot of time on this issue now, trying to see if someone will make good on this problems so that I don't have to sell this trailer at a great loss.

I can't believe that there are class-action lawsuits out there for masonite siding, and that poly water supply line tubing...both of which pose no *safety* issues. Yet, I am having a hard time finding ways to collect on some issue where it has become known and proven that aluminum wiring is dangerous and has caused many people to die! You'd think the government itself would have stepped in and made the manufacturers make god on this and issue recalls, if nothing else.

If you have anything at all to share, please do so.
 
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Old 11-09-05, 07:25 AM
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Everything I have heard about legal action surrounding aluminum wiring is that it is over. Basically, the only people who could collect already have and the class-action suits have been settled.

Usually, there is a stipulation in these sort of suits where only the original owner can collect anyway. If the property has been sold at any point, the new owner is not eligible to participate in the suit.

I too would be fearful of aluminum wiring in a mobile home; especially since you have said there are already arcing problems. I would trust the aluminum wiring if you had an electrician install the Copalum crimps, but this can be very expensive. It may be worth your time to do a re-wire; you could fish new romex up into the walls from underneath. The light fixtures could be a little tricky, but it would be do-able.
 
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Old 11-09-05, 07:53 AM
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I think you have a very good grasp of the situation and provide an excellent summery! Unfortunately, I don't think you'll get anywhere with the mobile home manufacturer or CPSC without investing a great deal of time and money, but more power to you for trying . Masonite siding and Poly water pipe both have a definite failure rate. Nearly every Poly installation failed (and if you've ever seen one, you might retract your statement that it poses no *safety* issues) while many homes with aluminum wiring have had little or no reported problems and, with proper maintenance, could be considered, in the CPSC's mind, to be as safe as a home with copper.

I lived with aluminum wiring for a year, when I was young, single and probably somewhat foolish and had no trouble sleeping at night, but I wouldn't put my children in there. Keeping in mind that the purple wire nut with oxguard solution was once an approved fix and it often ended up creating a bigger hazard than was there before, I understand your skepticism about the current crimp solution, but, so far, the crimp has had no reported failure. Stapled wires and condensation are dangers with any type of wire. In a 50 year old mobile home, there are many possible "time bombs" lurking behind the walls. Wiring is only one of them.

Were I in your situation, I would have all the wiring in the mobile home crimp pig tailed with the approved method, keep it long enough to recoup the expense and sell giving full disclosure of the wiring and documentation of the repair. Perhaps the market is different where you are, but here, mobile homes depreciate in value so I would have a hard time attributing any loss to the wiring.

Good luck.

Doug M.
 
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Old 11-09-05, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks
Everything I have heard about legal action surrounding aluminum wiring is that it is over. Basically, the only people who could collect already have and the class-action suits have been settled.

Usually, there is a stipulation in these sort of suits where only the original owner can collect anyway. If the property has been sold at any point, the new owner is not eligible to participate in the suit.

I too would be fearful of aluminum wiring in a mobile home; especially since you have said there are already arcing problems. I would trust the aluminum wiring if you had an electrician install the Copalum crimps, but this can be very expensive. It may be worth your time to do a re-wire; you could fish new romex up into the walls from underneath. The light fixtures could be a little tricky, but it would be do-able.
The Copalum crimp is the only approved repair method. Some people think they can do it with a Home Depot (etc.) crimping tool. Not so. Dangerous. The Copalum exerts several thousand pounds per square inch of pressure, I understand, which practically welds the aluminum to the copper splice.

I ran this job past a licensed electrician and he asked ME (after he found out my knowldedge of electricity) what *I* thought the job would be worth to totally rewire, and I said, " in the vicinity of about $2500." He went, "Pfffftpt...um, you can about double that!" I said, "What?!. The trailert is hardly worth that much." He said, "Just how long you think a job like that would take? I said, "Oh..a few days." He went, "Pfffffpt...try a week or better. You have to have two guys, crawling under the trailer, bellying around, running conduit and trying to attach it ...trying to find walls going through the belly. Then...there is the issue fo the lights. Trailers don't have attics. (Etc., he went on)" We both contemplated the possibility of wire molding the entire thing. Or, a combination of the two by doing conduit for each circuit, let's say, and then forking off from there via junctions. You could take off all the paneling, but I'm not too ambitious for something like that, and trying to be careful not to wreck it.

As of this writing, I still am dismayed. I would like to keep the trailer. It looks nice. It's been a good money maker. Even has been Western Dairyland weatherized and has a new furnace and refrigerator. If *I* did the work...well, I don't think they'd let me no matter WHAT I know. You can do it if you are a homeowner and live in the house, but you can't do it as landlord if you rent it out to somebody else.

I called up CSCP and they said basically like you, that there isn't much anybody can do about this stuff, legally anymore. I called up the mobile home manufacturer that bought out the company that made it and he feels my plight, he said, but since no 'recall' was issued that are not bound legally to this. I called up UL Labs and talked to a guy a long time. He said all the same stuff, but told me something I can't believe: He said that I am in no way obligated to tell anyone that it has aluminum wiring. I said, "What?!" He said you do for lead paint...but not for aluminum wiring. But, Wisconsin has this big thing now in real estate transactions where you have to revveal all known hidden defects...and this SURELY is one. I concluded my conversation saying there is no way I would ever even want to keep this a secret from anyone. My good conscience won't let me. If any body burned, because I didn't tell them, I could never live with myself.

I told him also that I could have the proper crimping done..yadda, yadda...but I said, ..."would YOU still live in it? How do you not know that perhaps condensation at outside wall boxes has caused oxidation..or an ice dam at the ceiling wall line got into the wall cavity and caused moisture in the wall somewhere and is slowly oxidizing the wire where there isn't a box... or what if an assembler of the mobile home missed with his staple gun and nicked a wire here or there...so that the place is like a ticking time bomb?" He said, "yes..I know what you mean. No..I probably wouldn't want to live in it either. " Ha!

With copper, you can have similar problems occur...BUT...it's not near to the severity, nor does it works it's way down the wire/insulation the distance that the aluminum does. And that is what is scary.

The shame about the whole thing is that it is all an unknown. By proper repairs the trailer may not EVER burn. But..it might.
 
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Old 11-10-05, 04:37 AM
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I had a trailer with copper wiring but my neighbor had the aluminum stuff. I was working as a electrician back then and boy that stuff was real scary. My suggestions to anyone having the stuff is to replace all the heavy circuits like kitchen recepticals,range,refrigerator with copper and use the approved devices on lighter stuff like the lighting. I wonder sometimes how many people were hurt by that mess.

Larry
 
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Old 11-10-05, 04:42 AM
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I had another thought about it also. They have a new device out that trips the circuit from arcs not load or faults. Might be something to think about for trailers with aluminum. Works similar to GFCI except works from arcs.

Larry
 
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Old 11-10-05, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by idmason60
I had a trailer with copper wiring but my neighbor had the aluminum stuff. I was working as a electrician back then and boy that stuff was real scary. My suggestions to anyone having the stuff is to replace all the heavy circuits like kitchen recepticals,range,refrigerator with copper and use the approved devices on lighter stuff like the lighting. I wonder sometimes how many people were hurt by that mess.

Larry
Answer: Many, many deaths!

You are right about the high amp draw circuits. Those are what really get picked on. That is what is being picked on in MY trailer. Refrigerator outlet plus the appliance outlets. A couple in the living room also. (Suprisingly, the dryer recepticle (220) and the washer outlet are okay)

Now get THIS one: An outlet that was never used, that was hiding under the drapes, had melted also! Why? Because even though nobody plugged anything into the outlet, it still had to have current pas through the outlets jumper terminals, and since there was corrosion, it too became hot.

I took down every light fixture and these look okay.

But what scares me is the unknown scenarios like I pointed out in my post above. I feel like Murphy's Law is just waiting to strilke, if you were to think you repaired everything properly. I just don't trust it.
 
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Old 11-10-05, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by idmason60
I had another thought about it also. They have a new device out that trips the circuit from arcs not load or faults. Might be something to think about for trailers with aluminum. Works similar to GFCI except works from arcs.

Larry
I have never heard of this. Anyone else?

But even if that is true, I think I would rather trust a small nano-chip device that could sense heat, that would be preset at some temp above say 100-120 degrees, and then sound an alarm.
 
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Old 11-10-05, 02:02 PM
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Don't know how much room there is the outlet boxes, but this product (first one in the list) might work. It's only 1-3/8" long. You could splice the existing aluminum conductor in one end of the splicer/reducer and a copper wire that would connect to the switch, receptacle in the other end. Then use electrician's tape to cover the splicer/reducer. Make sure the existing switches and outlets are rated for copper wire. If they aren't, buy new ones. You may be better off to buy new ones anyway.

http://www.panduit.com/products/Prod...=553&ig_id=632
 
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