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Old 05-02-2005, 09:04 PM   #1
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Aluminum-wired house, questions

Hi everyone. First off, I am not an electrician, and have no desire to do any of this work myself; I merely want an education so I know what I may be facing and know what questions to ask my electrician. Hopefully some of you can help me. I realize this is a dyi forum, so I am hoping some of you have diy-d something like this before.

I will try to give as many details as I can. Better too many details than too few I guess?

I have a condo, built in 1972, with aluminum wiring. When I bought it two years ago the home inspector told me I had aluminum wiring with pigtails.

The main power source breaker is for four attached units and I have an electrical panel in my unit that contains the breakers for inside my condo only.

The panel in my condo has Bryant Type BR breakers with CU-AL labeling. I cannot see the wiring in the panel to see if there are copper pigtails or not.

All switches and receptacles (including 240 for my A/C unit) have copper wiring in them, but again, I cannot see past the boxes to see if or how they are pigtailed (COPALUM or wire nut or Ideal).

My baseboard heaters are still aluminum. From what I could see without disturbing too much, they are fed with Type NM two-wire bare ground.

I have had no problems at all with warm/burnt boxes or any sign of other problems. The boxes for the pig-tailed switches and receptacles and panel look relatively new, probably less than 10 years old?

Now, like I said, I just want to be informed, not do the work myself, so here are my questions:

If an outlet is an aluminum-copper pigtail, can I buy items (air conditioner to be specific) that are marked "use copper wire only," or does the entire wire all the way to the panel need to be copper? In addition, if they are already pig-tailed, would I still need CO/ALR receptacles or will standard (cheap) ones be fine?

And secondly, regarding the baseboard heaters still being aluminum wiring, I was advised by someone at the electrical-supply store (not home depot, an actual, honest-to-goodness store)that in order to replace them with newer ones, I would need to buy split-bolt connectors to do a pig-tail. Is that a good option?

I would sincerely appreciate any information any of you could provide. In addition, if there are any other concerns or questions, please let me know.

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Old 05-24-2009, 02:53 AM   #2
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I will share only what I have eperienced with alluminum wiring. It was the type used in a house my Father built in 1968. Only as as the main breaker lines up to the roof drop lines The rest of the house was copper romex wire. The inside supanel had short aluminum connected to the outside main breaker. We had ongoing problems of these large wires getting loose and was were finally forced to repace the whole box as they would never torque tight. We had purchased the sub panel and new breakers and was planning to replace them at a special time of the advent of my Fathers only sisters daughter was having the first grand child. Well the actual anouncement of the babies arrival occured in the middle of a shower that ran out of hot water I wass taking. That cold water also anounced that the power to the whole house was off due to the main panel breaker behind the power meter had arced on those large allumium wires destroying the outside box. If you have large alluminum wires going up to the main drop lines they are much fatter then typical copper. We had never suspected any issues with this outside box even though the inner box was so troublesome. Having the meter blocking our access to these wires with no warning on the meter THAT YOU ARE RESPOSIBLE FOR WHAT THE POWER COMPANY HAS MADE IT HARD FOR YOU TO MAINTAIN. This likely helped to keep us from maintaing these hidden retorquable wires. As it worked out the new subpanel was able to be returned and a combination panel that had the main on it was purchased for even less then the first sub panel. I was also able to utilize a enclosed electrical cabinet that has a door to be opened from the outside to read the meter. This helps shield whole box from the elements that can so easily cool and heat up the connects that are so vital to keep tight. Ihad a most helpfull discusion with an experieced electrician that had discovered that the main bolts behind the meter can be progressively torqued to the proper tightness tighter and tighter with 1/2 hour intervals at least three times. The mutistrand wire being torqued on seems to readjust so as to keep the 1st and 2nd torques from being maintained. I also changed the lead in wires to a gauge thicker of copper wire than was requied by code so as to have o larger wire to torqe on. OF course that final inspection that said everthing was now safe to turn the power on DID NOT INCLUDE ANY CHECKING OF THESE ABOUT TO BE HIDDEN TORQED BOLTS OF COURSE IF THEY DID THEY WOULD ALWAYS FIND THEM LOOSE AND HAVE CHANGE THE RULES TO SAY 3 TORQUE CHECKS ARE NEEDED.
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Old 05-24-2009, 03:06 AM   #3
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In my experience, most of the AL wiring issues are cause by installing the wrong devices.

If you install something with screw terminals that say "copper only" a pigtail is required.

I still use the same wirenuts on AL and AL/CU as we used in the early/mid 70's.

AL wiring, like mold, has been over hyped. There are problems but how do you account for all the stock installations that have never shown any signs of distress?
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