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Copper clad aluminum wiring


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I nearly missed this today, and would have if I hadn't noticed a cable jacket in the attic. In the panel--a dusty, spider-webby Pushmatic--all of the wires appeared to be solid copper. But while I was in the attic, I noticed that the sheathing on most of the wires described them as copper cladded aluminum.

I phoned an electrician friend and he said I should report and treat the stuff as if it were solid aluminum. But he also conceded that he didn't know a lot about copper clad aluminum.

Any insights or advice? Especially when it comes to identifying copper-clad aluminum inside a panel? The wire gauges vis a vis the breakers were consistent with copper wiring, not aluminum, so that wouldn't have helped.

I'm not a big fan of punting, but I told my buyers they needed an electrician to check out the panel and further advise them.

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I have seldom seen c.c.a. and it should be treated the same as solid aluminum. C.c.a. is still susceptible to heat generated by current and therefore expansion/contraction of the wire is still a concern.

As for catching it in the panel - I think that it's quite likely that it could be missed by any inspector. You caught it because you were on your toes and perhaps had a bit of luck on your side. Nice job! I hope the client paid you well for that inspection, it was certainly deserved.

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Originally posted by Eric B

I have seldom seen c.c.a. and it should be treated the same as solid aluminum. C.c.a. is still susceptible to heat generated by current and therefore expansion/contraction of the wire is still a concern.

As for catching it in the panel - I think that it's quite likely that it could be missed by any inspector. You caught it because you were on your toes and perhaps had a bit of luck on your side. Nice job! I hope the client paid you well for that inspection, it was certainly deserved.

Thanks for the kind words, but I have to admit I was simply lucky. If the attic had been better insulated, I likely never would have realized the wiring was aluminum.

The upside, is that stuff like this serves as a reminder that it's easy to overlook something and keeps me alert.

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In those older homes, I usually try to get a look at the end of the wires in the neutral terminal bar to see if I can detect this along with examining the sheathing on any visible wire, though it's not always visible. May not always work, but it gives me a shot. I've found it several times around here.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had my first CCA yesterday in a 1976 home. Here's a photo of some of the ends at the neutral/ground bar.

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif 081228J046x.jpg

114.62 KB

Aside from the doubled neutrals, everything else was OK, the conductors sized correctly (10s & 12s instead of 12s & 14s).

I had read some about the stuff but, in digging deeper, I came across this at the Inspect-NY site.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.pdf The relevant section below...

K. HOMES WITH COPPER-CLAD ALUMINUM WIRE

Copper-clad aluminum wire has a thin copper outer skin and a core of aluminum. Therefore it looks like copper, except on close examination of a cut end. Markings on the cable jacket would include "Al" or "Aluminum". There is no known history of connection overheating problems associated with copper-clad aluminum wire. No corrective actions are required for copper-clad aluminum wire. (my bold)

So now I'm confused! I've seen plenty of HIs "suggest" it should be treated just like regular solid Al but this seems to be a rare, actually definitive, statement about the stuff.

This is what I ended up putting in the report...

INVESTIGATE FURTHER: It was noted that many of the circuits within the panel were wired with copper clad solid aluminum conductors. Due to problems with expansion and overheating the use of plain solid aluminum was generally discontinued in 1973. The copper cladding was an effort to improve this type of wiring but it did not find widespread use and, by the end of the 70’s, all solid aluminum wiring was discontinued. Unfortunately, there seems to be disagreement on whether the copper clad version should be treated the same as the original. Further information on solid aluminum wiring can be found at the following web-sites: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf and http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm . That mostly deals with the original, pre-73 wire. One article that appears to have some authority, and was updated in 2007, is entitled “REDUCING THE FIRE HAZARD IN ALUMINUM-WIRED HOMESâ€
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Originally posted by Richard Moore

I had my first CCA yesterday in a 1976 home. Here's a photo of some of the ends at the neutral/ground bar.

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif 081228J046x.jpg

114.62 KB

Aside from the doubled neutrals, everything else was OK, the conductors sized correctly (10s & 12s instead of 12s & 14s).

I had read some about the stuff but, in digging deeper, I came across this at the Inspect-NY site.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.pdf The relevant section below...

K. HOMES WITH COPPER-CLAD ALUMINUM WIRE

Copper-clad aluminum wire has a thin copper outer skin and a core of aluminum. Therefore it looks like copper, except on close examination of a cut end. Markings on the cable jacket would include "Al" or "Aluminum". There is no known history of connection overheating problems associated with copper-clad aluminum wire. No corrective actions are required for copper-clad aluminum wire. (my bold)

So now I'm confused! I've seen plenty of HIs "suggest" it should be treated just like regular solid Al but this seems to be a rare, actually definitive, statement about the stuff.

This is what I ended up putting in the report...

INVESTIGATE FURTHER: It was noted that many of the circuits within the panel were wired with copper clad solid aluminum conductors. Due to problems with expansion and overheating the use of plain solid aluminum was generally discontinued in 1973. The copper cladding was an effort to improve this type of wiring but it did not find widespread use and, by the end of the 70’s, all solid aluminum wiring was discontinued. Unfortunately, there seems to be disagreement on whether the copper clad version should be treated the same as the original. Further information on solid aluminum wiring can be found at the following web-sites: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf and http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm . That mostly deals with the original, pre-73 wire. One article that appears to have some authority, and was updated in 2007, is entitled “REDUCING THE FIRE HAZARD IN ALUMINUM-WIRED HOMESâ€
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Originally posted by Richard Moore

"I punted, as well, so maybe I"m biased--but I think you handled the situation correctly."

Yep, but I just wish I had more confidence that whatever sparky they end up with will actually have any better knowledge of CCA and be able and willing to give them an objective opinion. Oh well!

The guy I called is bright, responsible, and has 30 years of experience. He's also forthcoming and honest, and admitted he didn't have a lot of experience with CCA.

The conundrum, as I saw it, was if there was any problem in the future--caused by CCA or not--an electrician might be summoned who would say, "Ma'am, this entire house is wired with solid aluminum. Do you know how dangerous that is?"

"Well, no."

"Did you have the house inspected?"

"Yes, the guy said the coating rendered the wiring safe."

"Well, he's crazy as a sh*thouse rat. This entire house needs to be rewired."

And then I would get the call.

I shouldn't have had to do it, but I told the buyer to have her electrician look at my photos of the cable jackets so he would understand what the issue was. I didn't want him to look in the panel only to say, "There's nothing wrong in here."

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was told that there are no issues with Cu clad Al wire. And to me that makes sense: This wire was designed to eliminate the issues of solid Al wires.

And the breakers have to be approved for both CU and Al use, correct?

Also, on a similar note, only SOLID Al wires have/had problems. Stranded wire should be ok.

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Originally posted by Acorn Home

I was told that there are no issues with Cu clad Al wire.

That might be true and it might be false. Who told you that and what reason do you have to believe them? I was told that dragonflys can sew my mouth shut.

And to me that makes sense: This wire was designed to eliminate the issues of solid Al wires.

The Titanic was designed to be unsinkable and its design made sense. If copper coating aluminum wire was a successful fix, where has it gone? Why is it no longer in use?

And the breakers have to be approved for both CU and Al use, correct?

Yes. But most are.

Also, on a similar note, only SOLID Al wires have/had problems. Stranded wire should be ok.

Yes. I can't recall any large scale problems having been reported with stranded aluminum wire.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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  • 4 months later...

Can copper-only rated receptacles be connected to copper clad aluminum wiring?

Thanks,

The only thing I can find is "406.2© Receptacles for Aluminum Conductors. Receptacles rated 20-amperes or less and designed for the direct connection of aluminum conductors shall be marked CO/ALR."

Based on that I'd say, no. Copper-only rated receptacles should be used with copper-only wire. I'd change my opinion if someone could show me instructions with the receptacles that specifically allowed copper-clad aluminum.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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