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Old 12-03-2009, 08:23 AM   #1
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Marrettes too small, box getting crowded


Hello,

I installed a GFCI receptacle and a new switch in the bathroom. I have aluminum wiring in the house so I was planning to use #63 marrettes with the anti-oxidant paste to pigtail copper leads to the aluminum wires. However, the #63 marrettes are only rated for a maximum of two #12 gauge wires. I need to have one pigtail with three wires and another pigtail with four wires. There isn't enough space to use as many #63 marrettes as it
looks like I would need to keep it at two wires per pigtail.

So, after thinking about this for too long, I ran out of time because I had to return power to the circuit because the fridge is also on the circuit. So I used the larger red (copper-only) connectors, and made them as tight as I could. Everything works fine right now but I know the connectors have to be changed at some point and my question (finally) is this: how long do I have to figure this out? The connections are good and tight, but will the red marrette on the aluminum/copper connection be a problem immediately? Or do problems develop over time?

Another question, the box is already getting crowded, everything fits, but at what point would this become an issue? What exactly is it about the crowding that causes a safety issue?

Thanks
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Old 12-03-2009, 08:30 AM   #2
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I'd run a dedicated circuit for the fridge & get it off that circuit
In the US a bathroom requires a dedicated 20a circuit

There are only so many wires you are supposed to have in a box
Pigtails don't count towards box fill...but they do takle up room
The more wires the harder it is to get everything back into the box
If you have to cram them in there is more chance of damaging a wire/connection in forcing them into the box



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Old 12-03-2009, 08:31 AM   #3
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Consequences of overcrowding in the box:

1. Heat buildup. The wires do warm up when you approach the maximum load (15 amps for a 14 gauge circuit in copper.

2. Difficulty stuffing the wires into the box.

You'll probably have no problems for at least a year with the aluminum and copper not officially correctly connected together.

Psst! You may want to run a separate 20 amp. circuit directly to the bathroom some day. New code requirements require one 20 amp circuit for each bathroom's receptacles and lights and fa, or one 20 amp circuit for just the receptacles in one or more bathrooms. In the latter case just one GFCI unit is needed.
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Old 12-03-2009, 08:36 AM   #4
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Suggestion to deal with some of the issues. Install a GFI breaker and be done with it. Breakers can have the AL terminated to them so no need for all the expensive AL wire nuts nor the difficulty of trying to fit too much in the box.

Like others I would consider running new circuits for the bathroom and refrigerator.
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Old 12-03-2009, 08:49 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. Yes, the house is older (hence the aluminum wiring) so many current codes weren't in place when the house was built. I will definitely consider the dedicated circuit for the fridge and bathroom when my skills and/or budget is up to it.

Same goes for the GFI breaker. The electrical panel is all fuses (except for the main), so I'd have to see what's involved there before tackling that kind of upgrade.

But with regards to the heat build-up, how do I calculate if I'm approaching that limit (15 amps for 14 gauge wire)? Does that limit apply to everything on the circuit or just the devices in that box?
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:00 PM   #6
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Nobody these days calculates the heat buildup for so many amperes flowing through so many inches of such and such a gauge wire when wiring up outlet boxes.

Instead they just go by the box fill calculations and not having the box look or feel uncomfortably full.

Granted, a GFCI receptacle takes up a lot more space than an ordinary single pole switch but the present day box fill calculations count them the same way.
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Old 12-03-2009, 12:30 PM   #7
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Thanks AllanJ, I'll take a look at a box fill calculator and go from there.
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Old 12-03-2009, 06:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
will the red marrette on the aluminum/copper connection be a problem immediately?
They will last forever if they are properly installed.
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