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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire

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[#1] Posted: 10/16/2004 - 8:50:44 PM
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Any one have an opinion on how to deal with aluminum clad wire in lower branch circuits (120V, 15 or 20amp)?
I usually treat it like unclad aluminum wire, recommending correcting with Copalum spliced pigtails. But rereading the CPSC bulletin (http://www.inspect-ny.com/alum...pair.htm) on the subject, I'm not so sure. They refer to "old technology aluminum wire", but this is a 1978 house. The seller has a bid from an electrician to correct the problem with UL wire nuts.
Any opinions?
Thanks, Terry


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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#2] Posted: 10/16/2004 - 10:52:11 PM
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Quote:Originally posted by Peacock

Any one have an opinion on how to deal with aluminum clad wire in lower branch circuits (120V, 15 or 20amp)?
I usually treat it like unclad aluminum wire, recommending correcting with Copalum spliced pigtails. But rereading the CPSC bulletin (http://www.inspect-ny.com/alum...pair.htm) on the subject, I'm not so sure. They refer to "old technology aluminum wire", but this is a 1978 house. The seller has a bid from an electrician to correct the problem with UL wire nuts.
Any opinions?
Thanks, Terry



Terry,

I don't have any experience with copper-clad aluminum, but I have a deep distrust of aluminum wiring in general, be it old or new alloy. One of my wife's co-workers recently had his house burn to the ground. The fire was traced to the home's aluminum wiring.

I think that if I were to find a house with it, I'd say something like: The house is wired with copper-clad aluminum wire. This is an obsolete product and a possible fire hazard. Find an electrician who's experienced in working with it and pay him whatever it takes to ensure that the home's wiring is safe.

My favorite oral comment upon finding aluminum wiring: Wow! This house has aluminum wiring. Y'know, you don't see too many of these, they've mostly burned down by now.

- Jim in Oregon

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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#3] Posted: 10/17/2004 - 09:05:43 AM
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Terry,

I have homes in my neighborhood that have copper clad aluminum. It is sometimes difficult to spot. One sign is that the outside sheath is a different color than the normal romex of the time. The problem comes in when the connector screws are tightened to the wire. In some cases (not always) the copper cladding is cut and the aluminum is in contact with the screw that was not designed for aluminum use. Then the same thing happens that would if the copper was never there. Corrosion and over heat.

We have had no fires that I know of (I’m a volunteer fireman) caused by this wire but I wouldn’t risk my family on it and I wouldn’t ask anyone else to either.

The reason it came about is because of the copper prices of that era. The manufacturers were trying to provide a product that was as good at a lower price. It didn’t work out as planned.

To answer your question, I treat it just the same as aluminum branch circuits. Write it up just like Mike said.

Hope that helps

Bruce
:)

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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#4] Posted: 10/17/2004 - 12:37:07 PM
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Here's a brief statement about the Ideal Purple Wire Nut. This is the only wire nut I am aware suitable for copper/aluminum use.

"Ideal Purple Wire-nuts:

Some of the test info includes this abstract from a paper presented at the IEEE Holm Conference on Electrical Contacts, Jan 1997:

Abstract: A new type of twist-on splicing component for use with aluminum and copper wire combinations is tested to determine initial resistance, peformance in a zero-current environment test, performance in a heat-cycle test, and portion of current carried by the connector's steel spring. The splices tested consist of two aluminum wires and one copper wire. The aluminum wire samples used for the test are of the types actually installed in aluminum-wired homes. Initial resistance is found to be relatively high, and there is a significant sample-to-sample variation. This reflects failure to consistently establish low-resistance wire-to-wire contact through the insulating oxide film on the wire. Results of the environmental and heat-cycle tests show deterioration of a significant portion of the samples. The splices made with this connector are also found to be sensitive to mechanical disturbance, such as applied in normal installation when the completed splice is pushed back in to the junction box. Based on the test results, it is concluded that this connector has not overcome the fundamental deficiency of twist-on connectors for use with aluminum wire applications."

Also the CPSC considers the Ideal Purple Wire Nut good for only temporary repairs, not permanent repairs.


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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#5] Posted: 10/17/2004 - 12:45:55 PM
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A couple of web sites:

Aluminum Wiring in Residential Properties -- http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm
“Repairing Aluminum Wiring” (Booklet from CPSC) -- http://63.74.109.29/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf

Paul in Austin
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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#6] Posted: 10/18/2004 - 11:32:14 AM
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Hello everyone,
We have an inspector here in western PA that did a house with copper clad aluminum. The house burnt down about 9 months after the inspection. This inspector is one of the old dogs in the area and considered as one of the best.
Copper clad aluminum is very hard to spot. The easiest way to spot it is to see the end of the wire. This is not alway possible. The diameter of the wire will also be somewhat larger because of the properties of aluminum.
This was not the most common type of wire but it will be something that you will come across once in a while.

Aaron Flook
A-Z Tech Home Inspections

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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#7] Posted: 01/23/2005 - 6:52:12 PM
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I thought that I'd throw some new found knowledge in from my recent experience:

I found out that State Farm will not issue a policy on a house that is 30+ years old with aluminum wiring. I was also told by my State Farm agent that copper-aluminum alloy is considered the same as straight aluminum.

Apparently, a house 29 years old w/ alum wiring will get a policy, but the rates will rise the next year: the policy will stay in effect. 30 years is State Farm's line in the sand.

My agent is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas and I was inquiring on a house in Houston, so I assume that this goes for the rest of the state, I have no idea on the rest of the country.

A

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[#8] Posted: 01/23/2005 - 10:58:37 PM
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Quote:Originally posted by Amn

I thought that I'd throw some new found knowledge in from my recent experience:

I found out that State Farm will not issue a policy on a house that is 30+ years old with aluminum wiring. I was also told by my State Farm agent that copper-aluminum alloy is considered the same as straight aluminum.

Apparently, a house 29 years old w/ alum wiring will get a policy, but the rates will rise the next year: the policy will stay in effect. 30 years is State Farm's line in the sand.

My agent is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas and I was inquiring on a house in Houston, so I assume that this goes for the rest of the state, I have no idea on the rest of the country.

A


I've also heard that State Farm isn't the only one. Several insurance companies limit coverage on homes with aluminum wiring. Sometimes they also refuse to insure homes with fuse boxes and galvanized plumbing supply pipes.

The most restrictive company I've dealt with is USAA. They once told me they wouldn't insure a house with wooden posts under it. Aren't they down your way?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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[#9] Posted: 01/24/2005 - 07:21:03 AM
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Some of these restrictions have to do w/"throttling", where the insurance company has to limit growth.

I have a neighbor who is a "higher up" in State Farm. He said that State Farm has experienced growth along the lines of 20-30% annually in the past, & in order to reign in the (nearly out of control) growth, they apply various restrictions from time to time. Galvanized pipe & fuse boxes are a couple; sometimes they ask, sometimes they don't. Depending on the state, they may not even write policies @ specific times.

It's also about laying off risk on underwriters & all sorts of arcane actuarial statistical analyis that I don't even begin to understand. It may, or may not, have anything to do w/the actual material conditions in a property.

Either way, I write up aluminum wiring, fuse boxes, old galvanized pipes, or wood posts in the dirt in a conservative manner.

Kurt in Chicago

"If I smell it, it goes in the report".............Phillip Smith...2012


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[#10] Posted: 01/24/2005 - 10:26:00 AM
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Our local SF agent has a restriction on how many home policies he can write, period.
Chris Prickett
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[#11] Posted: 04/19/2005 - 08:09:37 AM
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I apologize for resurrecting this thread, but I would really like to know more about this subject.

I would really like to understand any technical disadvantages to using copper-clad aluminum wiring. So far, the only thing I have learned is from Bruce Thomas when he wrote:

Quote: I have homes in my neighborhood that have copper clad aluminum. It is sometimes difficult to spot. One sign is that the outside sheath is a different color than the normal romex of the time. The problem comes in when the connector screws are tightened to the wire. In some cases (not always) the copper cladding is cut and the aluminum is in contact with the screw that was not designed for aluminum use. Then the same thing happens that would if the copper was never there. Corrosion and over heat.
Are there any other reasons? What about the creep problem (a.k.a. cold creep) that plagued pure aluminum wiring? Has any documented testing been done that addresses this issue?

Believe it or not, the reason I'm asking is because I'm working on a project where a commercial aircraft manufacturer wants to use copper-clad aluminum wiring in the aircraft. (It provides a weight reduction when compared to pure copper.) This is making a government organization nervous. This government organization is now inquiring about the safety aspects of using copper-clad aluminum wiring onboard an aircraft. It should be kept in mind that an aircraft can induce moderate levels of vibration in wiring & connectors. Furthermore, condensation of water may form on wiring and connectors.

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[#12] Posted: 04/19/2005 - 09:10:14 AM
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Hi,

The aluminum wiring that folks freak out about is the mid-60's to mid-70's stuff, which was very brittle. It's my understanding that in the mid-70's the makers of aluminum wiring changed the manufacturing process to produce aluminum wiring that was less brittle and wouldn't corrode as rapidly. Unfortunately, they reacted too late - the public and insurance companies were already spooked by the stuff - and it didn't catch on. Cladding it with copper was a way to try and sell the idea, but it too didn't catch on either.

In reality, I don't think using copper-clad aluminum wiring and creep are an issue anymore, as long as the devices that it is connected to are made from alloys that are approved for use with both copper and aluminum.

Of course, I could be talking out of my a** - Electricity isn't really my strong suit and I'm not remembering stuff that I read as clearly as I used to. It's times like that I regret talking out of my a** a couple of years ago and pissing Douglas Hansen off so badly that he left TIJ. I should have been drawn and quartered for that.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

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[#13] Posted: 04/20/2005 - 03:11:37 AM
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It's never to late for a heart felt apology.
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Erby Crofutt
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[#14] Posted: 07/03/2007 - 08:26:01 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by MDC

I apologize for resurrecting this thread, but I would really like to know more about this subject.

I would really like to understand any technical disadvantages to using copper-clad aluminum wiring. So far, the only thing I have learned is from Bruce Thomas when he wrote:

Quote: I have homes in my neighborhood that have copper clad aluminum. It is sometimes difficult to spot. One sign is that the outside sheath is a different color than the normal romex of the time. The problem comes in when the connector screws are tightened to the wire. In some cases (not always) the copper cladding is cut and the aluminum is in contact with the screw that was not designed for aluminum use. Then the same thing happens that would if the copper was never there. Corrosion and over heat.
Are there any other reasons? What about the creep problem (a.k.a. cold creep) that plagued pure aluminum wiring? Has any documented testing been done that addresses this issue?

Believe it or not, the reason I'm asking is because I'm working on a project where a commercial aircraft manufacturer wants to use copper-clad aluminum wiring in the aircraft. (It provides a weight reduction when compared to pure copper.) This is making a government organization nervous. This government organization is now inquiring about the safety aspects of using copper-clad aluminum wiring onboard an aircraft. It should be kept in mind that an aircraft can induce moderate levels of vibration in wiring & connectors. Furthermore, condensation of water may form on wiring and connectors.

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[#15] Posted: 07/03/2007 - 08:52:29 AM
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So, Mr. qweasdzxc, did you have a comment or a question? I didn't realize that Pennsylvania was in Afghanistan, guess I'll have to refresh my passport for the next time I visit Philadelphia.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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[#16] Posted: 07/03/2007 - 1:51:39 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

So, Mr. qweasdzxc, did you have a comment or a question? I didn't realize that Pennsylvania was in Afghanistan, guess I'll have to refresh my passport for the next time I visit Philadelphia.

OT - OF!!!

M.
Maybe it's right next to Lebanon PA...


Since the thread was resurected... It seems there is to be another method of repair for pigtailing. I've actually seen these at Lowes already. Looks like one of those "I should have thought of that" things. Basically a mini bus bar in a plastic case.

http://www.kinginnovation.com/...onn.html

Kyle Kubs
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Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
[#17] Posted: 07/03/2007 - 4:10:19 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Jim Katen

My favorite oral comment upon finding aluminum wiring: Wow! This house has aluminum wiring. Y'know, you don't see too many of these, they've mostly burned down by now.

- Jim in Oregon


Any info to substantiate the claim?

Neal Lewis
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[#18] Posted: 07/03/2007 - 9:46:20 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Neal Lewis

Quote: Originally posted by Jim Katen

My favorite oral comment upon finding aluminum wiring: Wow! This house has aluminum wiring. Y'know, you don't see too many of these, they've mostly burned down by now.

- Jim in Oregon


Any info to substantiate the claim?


None at all. The comment is designed purely to harass the RE agents.

The fact is that, in my area, I know of two homes that have burned to the ground because of flaws in their aluminum wiring. (My wife's co-worker's home being one.) On the other hand, as Douglas Hansen has pointed out to me, lots of homes burn down because of flaws in their copper wiring.

If I weren't such a layabout, I'd go forth and find out exactly how many aluminum wired homes have caught fire, how many copper-wired homes have caught fire and work out the percentages.

Sadly, I *am* a layabout.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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[#19] Posted: 07/04/2007 - 05:10:47 AM
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Quote: If I weren't such a layabout, I'd go forth and find out exactly how many aluminum wired homes have caught fire, how many copper-wired homes have caught fire and work out the percentages.

Sadly, I *am* a layabout.


I'd be willing to bet that there isn't any reliable data anyway. True forensic methodology is hardly ever used to determine the cause of a fire unless the insurance companies suspect foul play.

If the occupants don't smoke and and weren't cooking then the cause is electrical.

Chad Fabry
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[#20] Posted: 07/04/2007 - 4:57:58 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Chad Fabry

Quote: If I weren't such a layabout, I'd go forth and find out exactly how many aluminum wired homes have caught fire, how many copper-wired homes have caught fire and work out the percentages.

Sadly, I *am* a layabout.


I'd be willing to bet that there isn't any reliable data anyway. True forensic methodology is hardly ever used to determine the cause of a fire unless the insurance companies suspect foul play.

If the occupants don't smoke and and weren't cooking then the cause is electrical.


Oh, good. In that case, not only won't I bother, but I won't feel guilty for not bothering.

Whew! That was a close one.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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