Aluminum wiring in my house

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  #1  
Old 02-14-01, 12:16 PM
Lou Wasnesky
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Unhappy

OK, I have aluminum wiring in the house my wife and I just purchased. Upon moving in, I discovered that at some point a new electrical panel was installed and all of the connections to it and in all junction boxes were pig-tailed. However, it was not done properly. Specifically, anti-oxidant was not used at all, so all of these need to be redone. I have read that the only method endorsed by the CPSC is the COPALUM connection, but a DIYer can't use that technique. So, I plan on replacing all of the outlets with aluminum rated ones and redoing all of the remaining pig-tails using anti-oxidant and wire nuts. There is a specific type of wire nut made by 3M that is supposed to be good for this, I can't remember the specific one.

The whole point with this is to prevent oxidation of the aluminum and keep resistance to a minimum at the connections. I personally believe that over time, this will need to be done again, along with periodic inspections of each connection. I want to make this repair as good as possible. Would applying a heat-shrink type of insulation to each connection help? How about soldering each connection? Any advice? Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 02-14-01, 02:13 PM
Lew Falconer
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Don't kill a fly with a bazooka

You have the right plan for your wiring except for shrink wrap and solder. Don't do either. There are purple wirenuts for aluminum wiring that has an antioxidant in them. You achieve the same thing by coating the wires and using a normal spring screw wirenut. I have a house built in 1971 with aluminum wire and ever since I replaced the receptacles years ago I have had no problem at all. I don't even bother to put antioxident on connections for light fixtures etc. There is a website someone may suggest to you that tells all the terrible things about aluminum wiring. Pay no attention to it, they are just trying to sell their brand of hardware. Take it from one who worked in the electrical transmission industry for 35 years, once you have the correct hardware installed you will not have any problems. There has never been a fire directly attributed to aluminum wire. There have been problems with circuits opening up due to improper hardware. Be careful when you screw the wire down to the receptacles not to put a notch in the wire. Just screw it firmly and directly under the screwhead.
Have a good day.
 
  #3  
Old 02-15-01, 03:16 PM
Wgoodrich
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Lew, I question your statement of never having a fire with aluminum wiring involved. There has been fires over the years. I do agree that aluminum wiring can be utilized in a safe manner if properly installed. Aluminum wiring as small as 12 ga is still approved by the NEC to be installed wiring a house even today.

The problem with the bad rap on aluminum wiring is when it was first introduced in smaller conductors and was installed in dwellings there were problems that arose. These problems were usually due to a lack of knowledge of inspectors and electricians.

It was not mentioned that you must not mix copper and aluminum wiring and touching each other. There are connectors made of alloys that keep the to metals separated and connected by the same connector. Copper and aluminum will fight each other causing a deteriation in the connection. Aluminum wiring must also have a method to ensure moisture does not cause oxidizing of the connections.

The history of causes of failure due to aluminum wiring in the past decades were the mixing of the two metals causing the reaction between the two metals and causing a loose connection. The devices also did not have a compatable metallic makeup to aluminum wiring. These two situations seem to have been the source of problems in the past.

If you have a dwelling that was wired more than 8 or so years ago then you might want to try the following to make you dwelling more reliable and safe.

Change all devices [switches and receptacles] to new style receptacles as switches. The receptacles and switches are marked al / cu if compatible to aluminum wiring. These devices are made to be more compatible to aluminum than the older devices used in the 70s. The alloy mix is better allowing a more reliable connection at these devices.

Also go through all junctions and eliminate any connection that has aluminum and copper under the same wire nut. Cut back to new wire in the box and make a connection with a split bolt ect. that is an allow approved for al/cu with a divider between the copper wires and the aluminum wires. Most of the wire nuts on the market today are compatible with aluminum and copper with a better alloy mix in the wire nut. Just make sure to not let aluminum and copper touch each other in your connection.

Replacing all the devices to new ones made today, and correcting all connections to proper installations with new style wire nuts, and ensuring the separation of copper and aluminum in those connection should make your house reliable for years to come.

You spoke of antioxidation inhibitor grease on connections and using heat shrink on the connections. The proper installation of the wire nuts are your best connections. Forget the heat shrink idea as not desirable or needed. The antioxidation inhibitor is required on all connections where the manufacturer recommends that inhibitor to be used. Most devices will not require the inhibitor to be used on their connections. Wire nuts that do not have inhibitor inserted by the manufacturer will require field installation of the inhibitor in using these wire nuts. Just be sure to read the manufacturer's recommendation as to whether an inhibitor should be used or not.

Relax, ensure proper connections and new devices and utilize inhibitors if manufacturer recommends it, and you should be fine.

Lew didn't mean to say aluminum is unsafe, just that fires were recorded that were related to aluminum connections cooking due to connections of devices unknown at the time not to be as compatible as needed for aluminum wiring use, and improper installation by unskilled electricians in the 70's.

I also support a statement that the United States has been powered for many years by the Utility companies using ALUMINUM POWER LINE WIRING ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Good Luck

Wg
 
  #4  
Old 02-27-01, 09:10 PM
Guest
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Lightbulb Here's an Idea

If you have flex (armored cable) in your house it would be easier to replace your aluminum wiring with copper, rather than mess with all of the headaches and worries of aluminum connections. Now if you can't fish through flex because you have aluminum Romex, then you have a problem. I have flex and I fished out all of the aluminum junk with copper. Take your time, do 1 circuit a month if that's all you have time for. Aluminum receptacles are expensive and pigtailing is almost just as much work as replacing it. Unless you have Aluminum Romex of course. Good Luck !!
Scotty
 
  #5  
Old 02-27-01, 09:14 PM
Guest
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Lightbulb Here's an Idea

If you have flex (armored cable) in your house it would be easier to replace your aluminum wiring with copper, rather than mess with all of the headaches and worries of aluminum connections. Now if you can't fish through flex because you have aluminum Romex, then you have a problem. I have flex and I fished out all of the aluminum junk with copper. Take your time, do 1 circuit a month if that's all you have time for. Loop the copper onto the old aluminum and pull from the other side. Whola !!! Keep track of where all the wiring is going and make your own map. Pass it on when you sell your house. It could just raise your value by having all COPPER wire installed and a map of all the wiring. Cool Huh !!! Aluminum receptacles are expensive and pigtailing is almost just as much work as replacing it. Unless you have Aluminum Romex of course. Good Luck !!
Scotty
 
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