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Old 06-02-2009, 09:01 AM   #1
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


My wife and I just purchase a house built in 1969 that has Aluminum wiring. We hired an electrician to replace the old almond color toggle switches and sockets with white decorative switches and white sockets (71 in all) to match the painted trim in the house and modernize the look. I asked several times about a permit and was told we did not need one and it would be a bigger issue for him (the electrician) than me, if we did. After the job was done, I found out that he installed copper only switches, outlets and GFI's throughout the house. After some research on the web, it looks like this is a dangerous situation and needs to be fixed. I called the electrician and "discussed this". He dismissed it as an oversight on his part. He is licensed and has 29 years in the business (something he mentioned several times during the install). Said he would not charge me labor to fix the problem. But I don't want him back in the house, if he made this kind of mistake the first time. Fool me once...fool me twice....

My questions are
1) how dangerous is this really?
2) how do I remedy this and how soon do I need to do it?

Thanks,

JohnKn
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:01 AM   #2
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


You have to decide if you want him to come back and replace the devices to match the AL wiring, do it yourself, or hire someone else to do it.
The permit issue varies from location to location, but I would be wary of a a 29 year veteran in this industry that forgets to put AL rated switches and receptacles on AL wiring.
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Old 06-02-2009, 01:47 PM   #3
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Is it dangerous, yes.
Should it be corrected , yes.
The preferred method is either to crimp connect a copper wire pigtail to the aluminum with a special co/al connector and special crimp tool or with an alumicon connector that way any switch or receptacle can be used.
If it were me I would file a complaint with the building department, this is not an oversight, this is a critical error.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:03 PM   #4
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Make sure there's some deox on the connections
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:52 PM   #5
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Quote:
Originally Posted by hayewe farm View Post
Is it dangerous, yes.
Should it be corrected , yes.
The preferred method is either to crimp connect a copper wire pigtail to the aluminum with a special co/al connector and special crimp tool or with an alumicon connector that way any switch or receptacle can be used.
If it were me I would file a complaint with the building department, this is not an oversight, this is a critical error.

ditto.


the guy owes you all the costs of the material and labor for the wrong devices.

while you have the building department on the phone, ask them if a permit is needed for the type of work he did. Just replacing devices does not require a permit in my area but in some areas, it seems they need permits to look at things so they can determine if the need a permit to do work

kidding with the last part but there are areas of the country that have some pretty stiff requirements. Some are simply based on dollar value of the work even so ask.

Quote:
Said he would not charge me labor to fix the problem.
Gotta love it. The guy screws up and tries to make you feel like you are getting a great deal when he won't charge you labor to fix his screw up.
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Old 06-03-2009, 07:11 AM   #6
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Thanks for the input, everyone.
I had another electrician give me a quote to
1) yank 'em all out and put in the correct type (CO/ALR).
2) do the pigtailing ( he said really not recommended anymore)
3) He gave me a number for a certified electrician to do the crimping. I spoke with that electrician and the cost was about 3/4 of rewiring. Noting that chances are that alot of the boxes are going to be too small to cram wiring back in to, so will need to replace them as well...which means drywall repair. He said the ideal solution was to rewire, but the cost was too big for my pockets right now.

The solution I settled on was to
1) replace with CO/ALR devices
2) rewire for the GFI's (no CO/ALR GFI's available)
3) rewire the kitchen because we are doing a remodel in there.

As time and $ afford, I will rewire a circuit at a time.

As for the original electrician, I have asked for the refund, but he says that he should be allowed to fix the problem himself and would not provide a refund. When I get more input from the current electrician, I am going to sitdown and write a letter to the city about the whole fiasco. The current electrician made a comment about this possibly being done in other houses in the area (if he has done it once....), since a lot of the house in the area were built in 60's and 70's.

I understand that there are no CO/ALR decorative switches available, only the toggle?


Again, thanks for the input.

JohnKn

Last edited by johnkn; 06-03-2009 at 07:40 AM. Reason: forgot the question about decorative switches
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:35 AM   #7
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


For the GFI, I believe there are CO/ALR GFI Circuit Breakers.... you can use those instead of outlets.

The original guy surely just wants to pigtail them with the purple wire nuts, that's why he didn't mention any additional parts cost. Like you found out that's not particularly recommended because even the purple wirenuts have been catching on fire.

Oh there is another option that is new... Alumiconn... it's like a split bolt splice... the wires never touch. Look into that. Expensive but not as expensive as COPALUM.

Last edited by Gigs; 06-03-2009 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:13 AM   #8
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


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Originally Posted by nap View Post
ditto.


the guy owes you all the costs of the material and labor for the wrong devices.

while you have the building department on the phone, ask them if a permit is needed for the type of work he did. Just replacing devices does not require a permit in my area but in some areas, it seems they need permits to look at things so they can determine if the need a permit to do work

kidding with the last part but there are areas of the country that have some pretty stiff requirements. Some are simply based on dollar value of the work even so ask.

Gotta love it. The guy screws up and tries to make you feel like you are getting a great deal when he won't charge you labor to fix his screw up.
I disagree. The electrician made a simple mistake that everyone here could have made. He should get the first opportunity to replace the devices. Just let him replace all the devices that are not rated for dual duty (AL/CU). Why spend money on a new electrician when you can get it corrected for no additional charge.
I would not use wire nuts in this case. I would daisy chain the recepts. This way every connection possible is a pressure connection. Make sure he does not back stab either. Especially when dealing AL conductors.

I have been in this trade for a long time. I cannot ever remember a time I checked the receptacles for a AL/CU rating. Who knows how many I have installed that may have been for copper only. I will look from now on though.
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:21 AM   #9
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Thanks J.V., but all of the GFI's are backstabbed and some of the other sockets are, as-well. I think this was a matter of space in the boxes, he had to really work at the GFI's to get it back in the box.

JohnKn
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:33 AM   #10
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Quote:
Originally Posted by johnkn View Post
Thanks J.V., but all of the GFI's are backstabbed and some of the other sockets are, as-well. I think this was a matter of space in the boxes, he had to really work at the GFI's to get it back in the box.

JohnKn
That should be his problem. When your house was built it was not required to use any special receptacles. If I am correct, this AL/CU issue was not introduced until 1973. I would even go as far as to say you could still possibly use the devices he installed. Of course he must address the way he made the connections.
I think we need some additional input from our experts on this one. I would not do anything yet.

Ps.....By not pigtailing, you will have more room in the boxes.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:47 PM   #11
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


If he backstabbed Aluminum then this is more than just forgetting to check for dual ratings. You never backstab aluminum, ever.
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:18 PM   #12
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


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Originally Posted by J. V. View Post
That should be his problem. When your house was built it was not required to use any special receptacles. If I am correct, this AL/CU issue was not introduced until 1973. I would even go as far as to say you could still possibly use the devices he installed. Of course he must address the way he made the connections.
I think we need some additional input from our experts on this one. I would not do anything yet.

Ps.....By not pigtailing, you will have more room in the boxes.
The AL/CU "issue" was a number of houses burning down due to electrical caused fires.

The reason pigtailing is preferred is because you are making a proper connection from the AL to a copper pigtail. That way if a homeowner decides to change a receptacle or switch there is no issue to deal with AL connections. Connections at light fixtures is another issue that should be checked out.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:20 PM   #13
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Quote:
Originally Posted by johnkn View Post
Thanks J.V., but all of the GFI's are backstabbed and some of the other sockets are, as-well. I think this was a matter of space in the boxes, he had to really work at the GFI's to get it back in the box.
Are the GFIs connected using screwless backstabs, or are they rear wired using screw clamps? AFAIK screw clamp rear connections are OK, and very solid. Most GFIs use this, and not screwless backstabs.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:32 PM   #14
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


Quote:
Originally Posted by hayewe farm View Post
The AL/CU "issue" was a number of houses burning down due to electrical caused fires.

The reason pigtailing is preferred is because you are making a proper connection from the AL to a copper pigtail. That way if a homeowner decides to change a receptacle or switch there is no issue to deal with AL connections. Connections at light fixtures is another issue that should be checked out.
Your telling me that putting a CU wire and an AL wire together is better than putting the AL wire under a screw?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottR View Post
Are the GFIs connected using screwless backstabs, or are they rear wired using screw clamps? AFAIK screw clamp rear connections are OK, and very solid. Most GFIs use this, and not screwless backstabs.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that.
Yes, your right Scott. I have not seen any GFCI's with back stabs, only pressure plate terminals. They look like their back stabbed, but they are not. This is the best possible connection on a receptacle.
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Old 06-03-2009, 02:38 PM   #15
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Aluminum wiring, copper only devices


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Your telling me that putting a CU wire and an AL wire together is better than putting the AL wire under a screw? .
Yes, provided the propper connector and installation is used. Plus it eliminates the need to use AL/CU recepticles and switches.
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