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Old 04-30-2013, 11:28 AM   #1
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Case-histories of aluminum-caused fires??


In a previous job I worked for 2 large property management companies, and as luck would have it, I had direct electrical experience with 5 large buildings, lets call it about 1,000 rental units in total.

All were built in the early 70's and used AL wiring almost exclusively throughout.
One of my typical refit jobs included all new outlets, switches, and fixtures, and in many cases, an upgrade to breakers from fuses, or new panels from old. I estimate that I rewired/installed/changed out literally hundreds of each item,and was present when dozens of panels were changed out by electricians, and neither I nor they ever came across AL oxidation problems, or problems caused by torque loss due to expansion/contraction.

I found out quickly that it IS easier to break or damage AL wire, but I never saw any problems related to that condition. The only problems I ever saw with aluminum wiring was in installation technique, just like copper.

I only ever saw oxidation/galvanisation problems on one copper/aluminum connection, and in that case the copper in the marrette had turned to oxide completely, just greenish dust, leaving the aluminum unmarked. I rarely saw any previous use of Noalox, although I used it extensively as a precaution. I only rarely saw the use of AL or Al/Cu outlets or switches, but again throughout all these hundreds of supposedly dangerous connections I didn't see any corrosion, oxidation, or signs of heat damage at any joints.

I'm always hearing about how the use of aluminum was banned in the 70's due to assorted dangers of its' use. I have never personally seen where aluminum as a material was the cause of wire damage or a fire, I've only heard stories like "Oh yeah, aluminum burnt a bunch of people in the 70's so they banned it "... or " Yeah aluminum comes loose all the time"

If the case histories of aluminum-caused fires are out there, I simply can't find them, and would appreciate any help in doing so.

In Canada, there are literally a million aluminum wired homes and businesses, so if aluminum is so faulty, why aren't all these homes lighting up regularly? I'm sure if aluminum as a material was proven to be the cause of any of the thousands of house fires in Canada each year, I would hear about it. I know that there are a TON of aluminum 200 amp service conductors out there, and I'm not hearing about problems related to that practice either. What am I missing in my search?

Can anybody point me to any specific cases where the use of aluminum has been proven to be the cause of an electrical fire? I am in no position to deny the dangers, but in the absence of apparent (to me) proof, I am getting really curious as to the real truth of the matter, and how much influence the copper industry may have had on the public perception of safety.

Also any personal hands-on experience with aluminum-caused dangerous conditions would be greatly appreciated. This is just for my own benefit, no professional interest at all.

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Old 04-30-2013, 06:45 PM   #2
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Case-histories of aluminum-caused fires??


Your description is complete regarding why fires involving aluminum wiring happen.

Excessive resistance such as occurs in a loose connection leads to heat production.

If the connections involving aluminum wire are correctly made (using Co-Alr approved connectors and/or insulating jelly etc.), they don't become loose or develop oxide between where conductors or other metal parts must make contact with one another.

I am led to believe that when a fire occurs and when the fire examiners determine the fire started in an electrical junction box or outlet box, they stop there and don't figure out whether a specific connection was faulty and why.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 04-30-2013 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:37 AM   #3
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Case-histories of aluminum-caused fires??


Quote:
Originally Posted by ChantryOntario View Post
In Canada, there are literally a million aluminum wired homes and businesses, ... I know that there are a TON of aluminum 200 amp service conductors out there,
Don't forget that a new 8000-series aluminum alloy was developed in the early 70's that solved many of the problems with the old 1350 alloy. So the modern wire you buy today isn't the same thing as the old stuff.
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Old 05-02-2013, 07:07 AM   #4
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Case-histories of aluminum-caused fires??


Thanks for the replies guys. I am a total conspiracy theorist, and I've often wondered whether the copper industry had something to do with all the panic surrounding aluminum wiring. Wiring IS, after all, the leading use of copper worldwide, and they stood to lose gazillions if aluminum was adapted on a big scale.
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Old 05-03-2013, 03:20 PM   #5
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Case-histories of aluminum-caused fires??


An electrical supervisor at a nationwide contractor where I worked in the mid-70s told me that AL wiring was safe if installed properly. I believed him.
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