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allseason

Aluminum Wiring

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I had a townhouse built in mid 1970's, post 1972, with 90% aluminum branch circuit wiring. The panel is laleled cu al. What's the deal with retrofit. Is the cu to al crimp method the only fix? Are some receptacles or fixtures (newer)capable of handling the al? If so you would have to pull each one to check. The buyers friend is a sparky and he's probaly there already, as I had advised.

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allseason: Is the cu to al crimp method the only fix?

DH: No - it's a method least likely to afford any improvement. Best are the Alumiconn connectors.

allseason: Are some receptacles or fixtures (newer)capable of handling the al?

DH: Yes - those which are rated CO/ALR. They are a specialty item seldom found in the real world.

Allseaon: The buyers friend is a sparky and he's probaly there already, as I had advised.

DH: Advising a sparky and advising the buyer bring in his friend are two separate things, with the latter likely to result in other issues.

Please remember when you recommend "further evaluation" by an electrician or electrical contractor that such evaluation is NOT a part of their training. It is part of a home inspector's training. I have run into very few electricians who have the slightest idea what to do with an aluminum wire system, or with most of the problems we find in older equipment.

There are some other problems shown in your photo, with the low-hanging fruit being the doubling up of conductors in that terminal bar. The white flecks of material on top of the upper left breaker are also interesting. Is it drywall dust, or is it aluminum oxide that has flaked off and landed there? Hard to say from a photo, and 99% of the time, it is just dust. That 1% of the time that it is aluminum oxide is important.

Let's see if client's sparky friend recommends another terminal bar, torquing the connections, and any kind of evaluation of the terminations at the receptacles, switches, and lights.

Douglas Hansen

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The friend is a licensed electrician, I didn't tell him to call his friend. I told him to call a lic. electrician familiar with al wiring. He said he knows someone, that someone is his elec. friend. I did let them know about the possible remedies, cual recep. and fixt. and the proper connection methods, no pigtailing.

The crimping is the cold weld connection of the wires, this is the method I've seen used as a remedy.

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. . . I did let them know about the possible remedies, cual recep. and fixt. and the proper connection methods, no pigtailing. . . .

Just to be clear, CU/AL receptacles and CO/ALR receptacles are two different things. The CU/AL 15- and 20-amp receptacles are not a good thing to recommend.

The cold-weld crimping solution is a mess. Alumiconn connectors are much better.

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The friend is a licensed electrician, I didn't tell him to call his friend. I told him to call a lic. electrician familiar with al wiring. He said he knows someone, that someone is his elec. friend. I did let them know about the possible remedies, cual recep. and fixt. and the proper connection methods, no pigtailing.

The crimping is the cold weld connection of the wires, this is the method I've seen used as a remedy.

Chris - I didn't mean to imply that you had recommended he use his friend. I'm sorry to have come off sounding that way. My point was more that it decreases the likelihood of him really finding someone that will be able to tell him any more than what you already told him. Unless your client is in the trades himself, his own personal friends and acquaintances are unlikely to include someone familiar with aluminum wire remedies. It brings up the old question of whether inspectors should give specific answers to the "who can fix this?" question.

The "cu/al" designation Jim is referring to was a failed speed bump between devices that were non-specific about conductor material (pre-1970's) and the later "CO/ALR" designation. We do still see "Al/Cu" used on breakers and in panels, but not on switches and receptacles.

Thanks

Douglas Hansen

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Douglas,

I understand where you're coming from. This is the second inspection I've done for these folks and they mentioned their friend as he had looked at issues at the other house they had contracted on (That deal failed as a result of association issues). This is the first time I've encountered AL wiring in several years and all of the input is a big help in keeping my clients safe.

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