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Question for Canadian (ON) electrician - Aluminum Wiring issues

Question for Canadian (ON) electrician - Aluminum Wiring issues

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  #1  
Old 03-17-07, 02:59 PM
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Unhappy Question for Canadian (ON) electrician - Aluminum Wiring issues

I tried to replace two receptacles that weren't working in our laundry room of our newly purchased home today only to find that they were both aluminum wired special receptacles. We had assumed that we'd find "pig-tailed" ones to which I could attach a CU receptacle. In the second receptacle even though I thought I had the breaker for that room off... the edge of the box touched one of the aluminum wires attached to the receptacle and ....ZAP... melted the wire lead right off the receptacle, leaving me very surprised and thankful I hadn't gotten shocked!

I spoke to the electrician friend of the previous owner of our home this week about the ESA report (all we got out of previous owner was this ESA report regarding the safety of the wiring) and the work he had done for his friend. Apparently, he just went through and checked the work the homeowner had done and then the homeowner had an ESA inspector come in and inspect. And that was the ESA report we got.

From what I can tell, that ESA says nothing about what actually was checked or what the status is on each of the terminations in our house. From what we can tell, the home owner did some of his own work and those may be pigtailed now (I checked one new switch here in my office in the basement and it looks like in MAY be pig-tailed). However, as the laundry room proved, it looks like there could be plenty of the old AL receptacles in the house (there is at least one other receptacle that we have found not working).

I just left the damaged wire receptacle in the laundry room as it was and backed right off. We're thinking it may be time to have a construction electrician with experience in older aluminum wire installations at least chat with us. Our insurance company DID approve us for insurance with the ESA report but wants a detailed letter of inspection by an Electrician before they will reduce our rates from about $570 a year to closer to $500. We have no idea what an inspection letter like that is going to cost us, but we are guessing it won't be under $400 if he has to check every termination in our home, etc.

I'm a little "gun-shy" playing with the receptacle changes after my experience today.

I'll take all the advice I can get on any or all of the issues above.
 
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  #2  
Old 03-17-07, 03:14 PM
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Your unsettling experience of today was not due to aluminum wiring, but due to the fact the you violated the cardinal rule to test every wire before you touch it. I'm sure that lesson is now well learned.

With regard to your aluminum wiring, I would suggest that you consult with an electrician. There are a number of ways to mitigate the dangers, and not everybody agrees as to which is sufficiently safe. The US CSPC believes that only COPALUM connectors are sufficient, but not everybody agrees that you have to go that far.

If you feel up to it, you could replace all your receptacles and switches with CO/ALR ones, and any copper-to-aluminum wire nuts with the special purple ones. Not everybody would agree that this is good enough, but I think everybody would agree that it's better than what you have now, and cheaper than having an electrician redo everything with COPALUM.

In the US, home inspectors always note aluminum wiring, and it is always a big concern for potential buyers.

There is a mountain of further information available on the web if you'd like to learn more.
 
  #3  
Old 03-17-07, 04:04 PM
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Thanks John

"...you violated the cardinal rule to test every wire before you touch it."

What tool do I need to test the wires?

"With regard to your aluminum wiring, I would suggest that you consult with an electrician."

We are looking up an Electrician...
 
  #4  
Old 03-17-07, 04:12 PM
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I suggest you have four tools. (1) a plug-in outlet tester, the kind with three prongs and three lamps (about $6 US), (2) a simple neon circuit tester (about $2), (3) a simple multimeter (about $15), and (4) a non-contact voltage detector (about $15). Of these four, the multimeter is the least useful (nevertheless, that is the tool many people unfortunately start with).

For a receptacle, start with the outlet tester. If that shows it dead, then gently pull out the device (receptacle or switch) and use the non-contact tester against every wire and screw. If that also shows dead, then use the neon tester to test each wire/screw to ground.
 
  #5  
Old 03-17-07, 05:44 PM
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ESA is just the government inspector. They do not inspect every single connection on every device. Aluminum wire is not against code. Copper pigtails are not required if you use AL rate devices. You can still buy them at Canadian Tire last time I checked. The report you got from the ESA was probably just the certificate that they passed the inspection. It probably took the inspector all of ten minutes time for the inspection.
 
  #6  
Old 03-20-07, 12:34 PM
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Thanks John & Joed

John: I'll go out and get those tools and see if I can do the job safely!

Joed: from the reading I've done here on this site, it sounds like you are a licensed electrician, correct?

I can give another go at replacing the receptacles that are not working with new AL rated ones. I still have the issue of really knowing what shape my house's electrical system is in. See quote below from my 1st post. Do you agree that we should get an electrician in to inspect and write a detailed report of his findings for the insurance co.?

["Our insurance company DID approve us for insurance with the ESA report but wants a detailed letter of inspection by an Electrician before they will reduce our rates from about $570 a year to closer to $500. We have no idea what an inspection letter like that is going to cost us, but we are guessing it won't be under $400 if he has to check every termination in our home, etc."]
 
  #7  
Old 03-20-07, 05:40 PM
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No Not licenced or electrician. Work in building maintenace.

I have no idea what a licensed electrician will cost or what the insurance company will say to the report.
 
  #8  
Old 03-21-07, 07:08 PM
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Thanks for clarifying, Joed

Appreciate your help, regardless on not being an electrician!
 
  #9  
Old 03-21-07, 09:32 PM
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Angry update after talking to an Electrician

The Electrician says the kind of receptacles I found in the laundry room are the ones that need to be replaced as well as the "push-in" switches. He estimated around $800 to do the the replacing of needed switches and receptacles and preparing a detailed letter of inspection.

I'm seriously wondering if I can do some of this work... The Electrician said he would be willing to come in and inspect my work and redo anything not up to code... Oh joy! More work!

Did I mention the plumbing in the bathroom on the 2nd floor is leaking through the 1st floor ceiling? Arrrrggghhhh! I keep telling myself I love owning a house!
P
 
  #10  
Old 03-25-07, 01:01 PM
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Dave, hold in there,you will love owning a house once you get all the bugs worked out of it. Did your electrician give you an estimate of the cost of inspecting anything you have done and preparing the letter?

I agree with John when he says " If you feel up to it, you could replace all your receptacles and switches with CO/ALR ones, and any copper-to-aluminum wire nuts with the special purple ones. Not everybody would agree that this is good enough, but I think everybody would agree that it's better than what you have now, and cheaper than having an electrician redo everything with COPALUM." If you are not sure what COPALUM is check this link:
http://www.alwirerepair.com/copalum_crimp_method.htm


Here in Canada we are not required by the CEC (Canadian Electrical Code) to use the COPALUM method of connecting copper to aluminum but the local inspection authority where I live (Nova Scotia) does require that we use the special purple wire nuts for all splices not just copper to aluminum and that all devices (plugs, switches, etc) be rated for Aluminum wiring and approved by CSA for such use. This is usually designated somewhere on the device by the letters CU\AL. I think you can probably save yourself some money by swapping out these devices and wire nuts on your own and having the electrician do an inspection and writing your report for you, but always follows John's advice and test all wires before you work on them.
If you dont feel comfortable with doing this job yourself then certainly get a qualified electrician in to take care of it, but if you are going to do it yourself, do yourself a favor and talk to the local inspection authority (your power company should be able give you contact info) and see exactly what is required to meet code in Ontario. I can advise as to the CEC but local inspection authority are allowed to have stricter requirements.The CEC is a minimum. Good luck!!!!!!!!
 
  #11  
Old 04-06-07, 09:40 AM
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Smile Yes, I'm doing it

Oh, I forgot to mention, I still have a 1/12 share in an 18-unit 3-storey apt. bldg. too, that I lived in with my family of 6 for 21 years! ) We just moved out in February!

Yes, I am familiar with the COPALUM fix. The Electrician will come in and inspect if I do the work, too. So, I have a reasonable deal, but a LOT of work a head of me! I already gave the "pig-tailing" a try on the one receptacle in the laundry room. It worked fine! I am a work-at-home psychotherapist, in private practice, so I will putter away at these, a day at a time!

Thanks for all the help!

Enjoying the "adventure" of new/used home ownership,

Dave
 
  #12  
Old 04-06-07, 09:54 AM
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As John would say, "Not everything that works is safe." Please be very careful with aluminum branch circuit wiring.
 
  #13  
Old 04-06-07, 06:58 PM
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racraft ----"As John would say, "Not everything that works is safe." Please be very careful with aluminum branch circuit wiring."


100% in agreement Bob. Aluminum wiring can be tricky .
 
  #14  
Old 04-07-07, 12:22 AM
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Smile Duly noted!

I have a friend who is an electrical technician and a neighbour who is an industrial electrician, they'll keep me strait and un-shocked! I learned my lesson and went out and got the right tools!

[QUOTE=John Nelson;1143979]I suggest you have four tools. (1) a plug-in outlet tester, the kind with three prongs and three lamps (about $6 US), (2) a simple neon circuit tester (about $2), (3) a simple multimeter (about $15), and (4) a non-contact voltage detector (about $15). Of these four, the multimeter is the least useful (nevertheless, that is the tool many people unfortunately start with).

I REALLY appreciate you guys!
 
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