House re-wire from aluminum to copper

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Old 04-21-06, 07:24 AM
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House re-wire from aluminum to copper

My house was built in 1968 with aluminum wiring, and I have decided to replace it with copper. There were additions built onto the house using copper wiring, but I am not going to touch those rooms. All the work is in the process of being done by fishing wiring through the walls - I am fortunate because I have access to an attic above the second floor, and a basement below the first floor. I will be submitting plans for a permit soon (a bit late, but better late than never).

Here is what I have and was wondering if anyone sees any issues:

Upstairs branch circuits:

1. Master bedroom receptacle circuit that has 7 duplex receptacles. 14/2 wiring. 15A AFCI breaker.

2. Guest bedrooms receptacle circuit that has 10 duplex receptacles. 12/2 wiring. 15A AFCI breaker.

3. Bedroom/bathroom lighting circuit that has 4 65W recessed lights, 1 25W flourescent light in closet (above door) controlled by switch in closet, 2 sets of vanity lights each having 4 60W bulbs, 1 light/exhaust fan combo in toilet room, 1 enclosed light above shower stall, 1 ceiling fixture having 4 60W bulbs, and 1 60W recessed/enclosed light for closet. 1365W total. 12/2 wiring. 15A AFCI breaker.

4. Bedroom lighting circuit that has 11 65W recessed lights, two 150W outdoor flood lights (controlled by switch in bedroom), 1 recessed/enclosed 60W closet light, and 1 hallway light having 5 60W bulbs. 1375W total. 14/2 wiring. 15A AFCI breaker. [Note: The hallway light is controlled by switches at the top and bottom of the stairs that have 14/3 AL wiring between them. I could not access that wiring to replace it, but made copper pigtails in both switch boxes using the purple Ideal connectors.]

5. Master bathroom receptacle circuit that has two GFCI duplex receptacles. 12/2 wiring. 20A breaker.

6. Guest bathroom receptacle circuit that has 1 GFCI duplex receptacle that then feeds a light/exhaust fan combo over a tub. 12/2 wiring. 20A breaker.

7. Jacuzzi circuit that runs to a timer switch and then to the motor. 12/2 wiring. 15A GFCI breaker.

Downstairs branch circuits:

8. Living room circuit that has 4 90W recessed lights, 2 60W wall sconces, 1 dining room chandelier having 5 60W bulbs, and 5 duplex receptacles (all in living room). 12/2 wiring. 15A breaker. [Note: I could not get to the 12/2 AL wire that runs from the dining room wall switch to the chandelier, so I left it and made copper pigtails in the switch box and at the chandelier using the purple Ideal connectors.]

9. Kitchen light circuit that has 9 65W recessed lights controlled from three switch locations, another 8 65W recessed lights controlled from three switch locations, 2 60W hanging lights, and 1 60W over-sink light. 1285W total. Mostly 12/2 wiring, but had to use 14/3 wiring to meet box fill limitations. 15A breaker.

10. Kitchen appliance circuit 1 that has 3 countertop duplex GFCI receptacles, and 4 other receptacles. 12/2 wiring. 20A breaker.

11. Kitchen appliance circuit 2 that has 3 countertop duplex GFCI receptacles, 3 dining room receptacles, and 2 GFCI island receptacles (one above countertop at end of island where there is a second level to the island, and one below countertop at other end of island where there is no second level to island; island is 8' long). 12/2 wiring. 20A breaker.

12. Separate circuits for each of the following: refrigerator, gas stove, exhaust hood, dishwasher, sink disposal (single receptacle below sink; switch above sink). 12/2 wiring. 15A breakers.

13. Foyer/den circuit that has 8 duplex receptacles, 1 ceiling light with 5 50W bulbs, 1 enclosed 60W bulb in coat closet (switch inside closet), 1 outdoor duplex GFCI receptacle, 1 outdoor post lamp with 3 60W bulbs, and 1 hallway light with 3 60W bulbs. 12/2 wiring. 15A breaker. [Note: The hallway light is controlled by switches at the top and bottom of the stairs that have 14/3 AL wiring between them. I could not access that wiring to replace it, but made copper pigtails in both switch boxes using the purple Ideal connectors.]

14. One bathroom circuit having 1 duplex GFCI receptacle feeding 1 set of vanity lights with 3 60W bulbs and 1 exhaust fan. 12/2 wiring. 20A breaker.

That's it. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. As a separate issue, I was thinking of installing two subpanels, one in an upstairs closet for the upstairs circuits and one in the basement for the downstairs circuits. As it stands down, all the wiring feeds back to the main panel in the garage (some of the runs are about 100', but I don't seem to have any voltage drop). If I install the two subpanels for the above circuits, what kind of wiring would I need to feed the service panel and what kind of breaker?

Thanks!

Don
 
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Old 04-21-06, 07:40 AM
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Here are my comments:

1. If you haven't already run this, I recommend a 20 amp circuit using 12-2 cable.

2. Why would you use a 15 amp breaker with 12-2 cable? Use a 20 amp breaker.

3. Why would you use a 15 amp breaker with 12-2 cable? Use a 20 amp breaker.

4. I would replace the aluminum wire. Drywall repair is not that hard.

7. Why a 15 amp breaker with 12 gage cable? Does the tub call for 15 amps? If allowed, switch to a 20 amp breaker.

8. Make sure you not on the panel chart that there is 15 amp rated wire ion the circuit so as not to confuse someone later on. Better yet, remove the aluminum wire and put in copper wire then use a 20 amp breaker.

9. Make sure that you mark the panel to indicate 14 gage wire on the circuit. Better yet, replace the boxers with larger ones so that 12-3 can be used, then switch to a 20 amp breaker.

10. Where are these four other receptacles?

11.

12. Use 20 amp breakers.

13. Replace aluminum wire. Then switch to 20 amp breaker.

14.


Are you seeing a theme? Bite the bullet and eliminate ALL the aluminum wiring. Use 20 amp circuits everywhere. In the long run, you'll be glad you did.
 
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Old 04-21-06, 08:11 AM
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Thanks for the quick response racraft!

Here are some answers to your questions:

1. Yes, already ran the 14/2 when I started the project before I decided to do everything else in 12/2.

2 and 3 and 7. I used 15A breakers because that is what I already had in the service panel.

4. The problem is that the aluminum wiring goes from the attic down through an inaccessible wall (behind an enclosed shower stall), and then down to the first floor. If I just disconnected the wiring at both ends and ran new wiring, I don't know how I would get the wiring from one switch location to the other switch location.

9. I couldn't find remodel boxes that would fit two four-way switches and four 12/3 wires. So I used 14/3 to meet the box fill limits of the boxes I did have and kept the breaker at 15A.

10. The four other receptacles are on the walls of the kitchen at the end opposite all the counters and appliance. The kitchen is 14' x 25' with countertops, island, sinks and appliances at one end and open space (with a breakfast table) at the other end.

Don
 
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Old 04-21-06, 08:33 AM
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2 3 and 7. Buy new breakers.

4. Abandon the old wiring and find a way to rout a new wire. It can be done. Cut out drywall, run the wire and replace the drywall, if necessary.

9. Go with new boxes that are large enough and repair the drywall.
 
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Old 04-21-06, 09:44 AM
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Thanks. I will go ahead and make the recommended changes. I see I am in for a little more work than expected.

What about the last paragraph of my original post - any thoughts on subpanel sizing based on my circuit descriptions?

Don
 
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Old 04-21-06, 10:03 AM
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> two subpanels, one in an upstairs closet
Do you mean wiring closet?


> all the wiring feeds back to the main panel in the garage
> (some of the runs are about 100', but I don't seem to have any voltage drop).

How would you know?


> If I install the two subpanels for the above circuits,
> what kind of wiring would I need to feed [from] the service panel
> and what kind of breaker?

50A or 60A upstairs and 100A basement.

Does "kind of wiring" mean the wiring method?
Conduit is nice, but you can use 4-wire cables in many cases.

If it is shorter or more convenient for you, you can feed the upstairs panel from the basement subpanel.
 
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Old 04-21-06, 11:34 AM
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bolide,

Here are some answers to the questions you asked:

The subpanel would be in a wiring closet inside a large clothes closet. Is that allowed?

As for the 100' foot runs, I didn't measure their length but am guessing. As for voltage drop, I checked that with my multimeter.

By kind of wiring, I meant wire size/gauge for the suggested subpanel. I suppose I could skip the subpanels and run the wiring all back to the main service panel, but the panel will start getting full.

Thanks.

Don
 
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Old 04-21-06, 12:15 PM
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> The subpanel would be in a wiring closet inside a large clothes closet.
> Is that allowed?
Depends on the specifics. If the wiring closet opens directly to the hallway, it is probably okay. If you have to go through the closet to get to it, it is not readily accessible to say the least.


> As for voltage drop, I checked that with my multimeter.

That's interesting. I figure voltage drop with a calculator.
How much load was on the circuit.


> I meant wire size/gauge for the suggested subpanel.

1. Figure load.
2. Figure breaker.
3. Figure wire size.

You might have skipped some necessary steps in the above list.


> I suppose I could skip the subpanels and run the wiring all back to the
> main service panel, but the panel will start getting full.

Subpanels are preferable if they shorten enough branch runs to justify their existence. If the panel will be full, you need a subpanel somewhere.
 
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Old 04-21-06, 01:31 PM
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Thanks, Bolide. The advice is appreciated.

The wiring closet would not open to a hallway. It would open to a walk-in closet, so I will just go ahead and not put in a subpanel.

The current draw at the time of testing with the multimeter was only about 2 amps.

In your earlier response you referred to a 100A subpanel in the basement - what size wire would I need to feed that subpanel?

Don
 
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Old 04-21-06, 06:03 PM
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> The current draw at the time of testing with the multimeter was only about 2 amps.


I wouldn't expect to see much drop. The real drop comes when you pull 20A.

Doubling the current gives four times the drop.
So you'll have 256 times as much voltage drop at 16A compared to 2A.


> what size wire would I need to feed that subpanel?
#4 Cu according to the service and feeder table or #3 Cu according to the insulated conductor table.
 
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