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Old 11-28-2011, 10:31 PM   #1
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


I am trying to replace a dimmer switch that is ancient and quit working. It is going to control a hanging chandelier with 10 arms &10-40 watt bulbs. Unfortunately, I don't know how the prior dimmer connected, and I was too dumb to tag the wires. My ex-husband used to do this stuff, so I'm trying!
The problem is in the junction box which is blue plastic, has aluminum wire. There are three black wires and three white wires. All the black wire are live. Every wiring diagram I find has only two blacks wires. This is a single pole, not a 3-way I think. There are no red wires, just black and white. I don't know what to do with the extra black, and after following instructions from my ex, I blew out the main breaker and the popping nose just about gave me a heart attack. Think he's trying to tell me something? Did I mention it does not have a ground wire?
In the bottom of the junction box on opposite sides there is one black and one white wire, for a total of two black & two white. Above those two wires is another black and white wire coming down. Which two black wires do I connect?
I bought a little bag of grounding clips at Home Depot, and I need to know where on the box to slide it.
The dimmer I was told to purchase at Home Depot is a Lutron, 600W, incandescent/halogen 120 V, item # CT-600PR. It was the only one that said single pole and had 2 black wire and a ground. The guy that worked in electrical had no idea what I was asking, so instead of beating my head on the wall, I thought I'd see if anyone knows how I do this.
Thanking you in advance. Melody

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Old 11-28-2011, 10:35 PM   #2
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


P.S. If anyone wants to email me directly, my email is Melchristensen2@msn.com
Thanks,
Mel-RN

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Old 11-28-2011, 10:41 PM   #3
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


hi melody...sounds like you have a problem with switch leg and there is hot and nuetral in your box ..have to find switch leg to light....pictures would help...ben
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Old 11-28-2011, 10:42 PM   #4
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


The 3 black wires should be:

Feed power in
Feed power out
Switched power to light

You need to identify the feed in and feed out wires, and connect them together with ONE of the leads to your dimmer.

The switched power to the light connects to the other lead on the dimmer.

The black wires coming in from the bottom are likely to be the ones to connect together.

All the white wires connect together by themselves, with no connection to the dimmer.

You say you have aluminum wiring, but no ground wires? Are you sure they are aluminum? How old is your house?

If you have a plastic box, you do not need any grounding clips. Waste of money. Take `em back and get a refund.

Care to upload a picture of your open box, with the wires plainly showing?
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Old 11-29-2011, 08:20 AM   #5
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Mel, I would start with assuming the power in and power out are the bottom cables and the one out of the top goes to the fixture.

Aluminum NM should have had a ground.

You will also need special connectors for the connections.
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Old 11-29-2011, 09:38 AM   #6
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Probably not aluminum but tinned copper. Look at a cut end to see if you have a copper color. As has been pointed out, Al NM wiring had a ground wire.

Pictures would help, and you will need some type of test light to help ID your wires. Or you could call an electrician .
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Old 11-29-2011, 11:29 AM   #7
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Put grease on all your connections with aluminum wires
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:10 AM   #8
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Wow, thank you for the quick responses! I worked a 12 hr shift today in the ER, so just now reading all your responses.

I will try tomorrow to take a pic, and post it. I was lost at switch-leg!
I will take another look at the wires tomorrow to determine if they are aluminum or copper. Would the dimmer switch I purchased still work either way?

I don't know an electrician, perhaps my ex does, but I really wanted to do this by myself, trying to become self-sufficient here.

I guess I'm not allowed to mention stores names here, sorry about that.

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Old 11-30-2011, 05:01 AM   #9
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Hi Mel. Aluminum (AL) wires are very dangerous. Even licensed electricians screw them up all the time. Listed and code compliant are the two things that make a safe install. Wire nuts are not listed for AL.
What is listed? Either special crimps and a special crimping tool or special connectors and a torque screwdriver. And jimmy21's "grease" has to be listed too, noalox is one listed brand. If this scares you, find an electrician who will use one of these two methods. If you're not scared yet, good for you! Learn to do it the right way, because every connection in every box in your house probably needs to be redone.

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Old 11-30-2011, 07:25 AM   #10
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Whoops, I should have said "normal" wire nuts are not listed for AL. Like the ones that came with your dimmer. The company Ideal has AL listed wire nuts #30-065, 30-765, 30-165, 30-265 or 30-365. Sorry for the mistake. That makes three listed methods.
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Old 11-30-2011, 11:39 PM   #11
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


I have been trying to upload a pic for an hour, but it keeps saying the kilobytes are to high, only allows 100kb. Any suggestions? Can I email it to someone?

Thanks,

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Old 12-01-2011, 01:39 AM   #12
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Picture must be too great of a size in resolution. Needs to resized to something like 800x600
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Old 12-01-2011, 08:42 PM   #13
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Wiring dimmer to aluminum wiring


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mel-RN View Post
I have been trying to upload a pic for an hour, but it keeps saying the kilobytes are to high, only allows 100kb. Any suggestions? Can I email it to someone?

Thanks,

Mel-RN
Open it in PC Paintbrush, and then resize it to about 50%. Then try to upload it again.

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