Aluminum Wiring

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Old 01-08-20, 09:31 PM
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Aluminum Wiring

I didn't know aluminum wires were a thing until the surveyor said we have them in our new place. It's a 70s era building, and although our condo was fully renovated by the last owner, the wiring is apparently still original.

I want to install Lutron Caseta wireless dimmer switches, so tonight I pulled an existing dimmer switch to see what was behind it. Basically there's no copper pigtail or anything, there's just a thicker gauge aluminum wire bundled up with what appears to be a small braided tinned-copper wire under an orange wire nut. You can see it in the attached pic.

The thick wire is original, while the thin one is part of the existing dimmer and won't be reused. Because they're so different, they don't twist together neatly. The brand new Lutron switch also has tinned copper wires, but the tips aren't braided, so at least they're tidier.

Question is can I just go ahead and twist different gauges together? And do I need to use a special Al/Cu wire nut to secure them?

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Old 01-09-20, 03:36 PM
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there's no copper pigtail or anything, there's just a thicker gauge aluminum wire bundled up with what appears to be a small braided tinned-copper wire under an orange wire nut. You can see it in the attached pic.
That is a definite issue, NO twist-on connector is approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for use with aluminum wire. You should check other boxes in your home for twist-on connectors too. Any you find need to be replaced.


Question is can I just go ahead and twist different gauges together?
No!


And do I need to use a special Al/Cu wire nut to secure them?
Yes, the only approved connector for use with aluminum branch circuit wiring you are dealing with is the AlumiConn connector. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Alumiconn-3...hoCB3MQAvD_BwE


I didn't know aluminum wires were a thing until the surveyor said we have them in our new place.
By surveyor, did you mean home inspector? Were you warned of the dangers? Here is something you should print and keep for future reference. CPSC publication 516.

https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/516.pdf
 
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Old 01-09-20, 09:12 PM
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I'm Canadian so the rules are slightly different I think. And those Alumiconn connectors do look terrific, but they don't sell them here for some reason. Maybe I'll take a drive south and get some.
 
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Old 01-10-20, 09:24 AM
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The rules may be different in Canada than in the U.S., but unsafe is unsafe no matter what country you are in. Fire hazards don't follow rules.

I assume you can order from Amazon up there.

https://www.amazon.com/King-Innovati.../dp/B00KX8NCIQ
 
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Old 01-10-20, 02:06 PM
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Aluminum is scaring me, that is not equal to dangerous, but it is not allowed here in Norway except for heavy sized wires. The first electrician I met in USA told me he did only use copper, because houses with aluminum wires tended to burn down.
When the scaring text has ended, I believe it is OK if you use the right terminations, and do not bend to much on the aluminum.
 
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Old 01-10-20, 03:01 PM
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Alumiconns sound like the most ideal diy fix, but I'm having a devil of a time locating some. Amazon.ca only seems to have them in bulk, and even the American Lowes and HD seem to mostly have the 3-port version.
 
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Old 01-10-20, 06:55 PM
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Aluminum is scaring me, that is not equal to dangerous, but it is not allowed here in Norway except for heavy sized wires.
It scares me too, but aluminum NM cables haven't been manufactured or allowed to be used in the U.S. for roughly 40 years. Many homes were originally wired with aluminum wiring between about 1965 and 1975. The latest I can recall ever seeing was a home built in 1979 that had been wired with aluminum wiring.

Heavy service entrance cable, large MC cables and tray cables are still available with aluminum conductors in the U.S. and are safe if installed correctly. Large THHN and XHHW conductors are also still available in aluminum.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 08:27 PM
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It seems like in Canada, they don't have issue with using Cu/Al wire nuts and Cu/Al devices.
https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/ho...luminum-wiring

I'm sure it's mostly safe, especially if the government says so.... but I would probably still try to consider replacement, and I would likely do the screw terminal method and never worry about it again.
 
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Old 01-16-20, 10:20 AM
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In the USA we have Cu/Al wirenuts too, the Ideal purple # 65 Twister. They are even UL Listed although UL has never tested them. But, there are also many documented cases of the #65 purple Twister failing.

As far as wiring devices, the AL/CU marking hasn't been used in many years and even when it was used it was at the direction of UL in 1966 who admitted there were not yet any wiring devices tested and listed specifically for use with aluminum wire. The marking of wiring devices with the AL/CU marking was done on the typical device designed for use with copper wire and has since found to not be safe. The newer CO/ALR marked wiring devices are the safest wiring device that can be used with aluminum wire, but they are not perfect either. There are still the variables concerning proper installation.
 
 

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