Aluminum wire

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Old 08-26-07, 08:43 PM
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Aluminum wire

I'm interested in getting opinions about aluminum wire. I used to own a duplex that was built in 1971 and was completely wired with aluminum wiring. We had no problems for the year and a half that we owned it, but I've heard many horror stories about aluminum wiring causing fires etc.
My electrician gave me a bid for a sub panel (100A) and he told me that he plans to use aluminum wiring for the project. I've been told by a few people (including my dad) that aluminum wiring is dangerous and I should not allow it in my home. my garage is attached, and the job would require about 85 feet of it.
Thanks for your feedback
 
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Old 08-26-07, 10:16 PM
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I'm not an electrician, but I didn't know they still sold aluminum romex. Is this a main feeder cable between buildings or subpanels. I think that stuff is still aluminum. Maybe one of the elec's will fill us in, and we'll learn something.
 
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Old 08-27-07, 04:14 AM
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Aluminum wiring was used for 15 and 20 amp circuits in the early 1970s. The practice was discontinued when it became apparent that the wiring was not suitable for use on these circuits.

The problem is that the connections (at receptacles, switches and elsewhere) heat up as current flows. As the connections heat up, the metal expands. As the connections cool down, the metal contracts. Under the right circumstances, these expansions and contractions can lead to weak connections overheating. The overheating can lead to a fire.

Because of this, some insurance companies won't insure a residence with aluminum wiring, while others will require that the aluminum wiring be removed. Regardless, if aluminum wiring for branch circuits is still in place, it requires an annual inspection by a qualified electrician.

However, all of the above applies to aluminum branch circuit wiring. It does not apply to aluminum wiring used for service drops or for feeding sub panels. Aluminum wiring is still used for these situations and is quite safe, as long as it is properly installed.

Bottom line: The aluminum wiuring for the sub panel is fine and will save you money.
 
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Old 08-27-07, 05:43 AM
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Thanks for the reply. That's basically what my electrician said. I don't get why the concern was it heating up....contracting & expanding, but it's ok for large draws such as a 100A subpanel. It seems to me that the larger the draw/load, the more dangerous it would be.
 
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Old 08-27-07, 06:15 AM
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A wire that make a single run and single connection is better than a run that makes a connection at each switch, receptacle, light, etc.

The larger wire size makes the connection less sensitive to expansion and contraction. The connection at the main panel is made once and is not altered on a regular basis. Wire nuts are not used, and the connection can be tightened with proper equipment. The connection is not subject to the vibration of plugs being inserted and removed, or switched being thrown, etc.
 
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Old 08-27-07, 07:59 AM
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The other significant difference is that modern aluminum wire is manufactured from a completely different alloy formula than the aluminum wire of the 1970s which makes it less susceptible to oxidization. Aluminum wire, when installed properly, is as safe and legal as copper for a subpanel feeder.

If you look closely at panels and breakers, there will be a "Cu/Al" rating stamped or printed which means that wire lugs on the product are listed to hold both aluminum and copper wires safely.
 
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Old 08-27-07, 12:43 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.
 
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