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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello. I’m hoping for some expert advice.

We have found al/cu arc-faults in the panel box and in a bathroom receptacle. About 1/3 of our branch circuits are aluminum wire.

For now I have replaced the rec and a circuit breaker using spliced copper wire on the aluminum branch circuit hot and neutrals using the purple Ideal al/cu twist connectors.

1. Now that we have found this, how urgent is it that we address and repair the aluminum circuits? We are on a tight budget.

2. Where do you get ALUMICONN al/cu connectors in Canada? I want to permanently repair al/cu/device/switch connections and splices throughout the home. I think that I need ALUMICONN (2 port and 3 port) connectors but can't find them locally in Canada. Amazon wants $220 CDN for 25.

3. My understanding is that the ALUMICONN connectors (and COPALUM) are the only approved permanent solutions besides full rewiring. Is that correct?

4. Should I / could I install ACFI breakers and/or rec's on the aluminum circuits to mitigate the risk until I can repair all the connections?

5. We have a Schneider Electric Stab-loc panel 100 amp with about 25 branch circuits. Apparently stab-loc breakers are at risk of failure. How bad is this and do we need to replace the whole panel??



Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
BTW, I have read some threads on topic and done some research. I’m pretty sure the hazard is serious and real.

My wife doesn’t think it’s a big deal and doesn’t want to spend the money.

Is she right?

Thanks!
 

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Hello. I’m hoping for some expert advice.

We have found al/cu arc-faults in the panel box and in a bathroom receptacle. About 1/3 of our branch circuits are aluminum wire.
Not the end of the world. Aluminum is an excellent conductor. It had some problems working with *legacy* copper terminations made for copper wires only, and wrongly cross-rated for Al. However aluminum terminations cheerfully support both aluminum and copper. The lugs in your panel are aluminum, as are Polaris, Mac Block and Alumiconn lugs.

For now I have replaced the rec and a circuit breaker using spliced copper wire on the aluminum branch circuit hot and neutrals using the purple Ideal al/cu twist connectors.
Oh, those aren't good. I love Ideal but the Web is thick with pictures of those things burning up.

2. Where do you get ALUMICONN al/cu connectors in Canada? I want to permanently repair al/cu/device/switch connections and splices throughout the home. I think that I need ALUMICONN (2 port and 3 port) connectors but can't find them locally in Canada. Amazon wants $220 CDN for 25.
Smuggle them? LOL. Certainly, don't buy any electrical gear online if you can avoid it. Electrical gear, as a rule, is low value and heavy, and a typical load of what I get at the electrical supply would cost more to ship than the actual sale price. As such, few people trade online, and those that do charge "gotcha" / "I don't wanna ship it" pricing. Certainly anything from Amazon will have the Prime tax on it (Amazon charges vendors a fortune to be in Amazon Marketplace and to warehouse their items with Amazon so it ships with Prime. This is reflected in the online price.)

3. My understanding is that the ALUMICONN connectors (and COPALUM) are the only approved permanent solutions besides full rewiring. Is that correct?
I don't know if Canada is lagging behind the US. But there should also be CO-ALR rated receptacles and switches which have *actually correct* terminations for aluminum wire (and copper too). I would think there would also be MAC Block connectors (which allow joining 1-4 aluminum wires to 1-4 copper wires),

4. Should I / could I install ACFI breakers and/or rec's on the aluminum circuits to mitigate the risk until I can repair all the connections?
Oh, absolutely! I would do that first. AFCI is excellent at catching many types of problems you have with older wiring. They're demanding it on new wiring, but older wiring is where it's needed the most.

5. We have a Schneider Electric Stab-loc panel 100 amp with about 25 branch circuits. Apparently stab-loc breakers are at risk of failure. How bad is this and do we need to replace the whole panel??
No need. The operative word here is CANADA. The two product lines diverged sharply. In the US, Federal Pacific got caught in a VW-diesel style scandal of rigging tests, and the whole outfit crashed and burned, until we are down to the redoubtable Connecticut Electric (Chinese) making the breakers. They are even worse than the originals. Meanwhile, in Canada, Federal PIONEER got folded into Schneider Electric (known for their SQUARE D brand of superb QO and dull-but-safe Homeline panel lines). Schneider took good care of the brand and as a result, it didn't have the problems the US lines had.

The gotcha with Federal Pioneer is the stupid high cost of the breakers. You'll go broke equipping a Federal Pioneer panel. You are better off feeding into a subpanel, and putting your AFCIs there. The gotcha is that in Canada, you are not allowed to use your main panel as a junction box, so you can't just extend the circuits into the second panel via the first. You must reroute the Romex to the subpanel.
 

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The gotcha is that in Canada, you are not allowed to use your main panel as a junction box, so you can't just extend the circuits into the second panel via the first. You must reroute the Romex to the subpanel.

thats easy enough to do,


if the romex wont reach the new sub panel, just mount a 4x4 junction box and extend it
 

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Hello. I’m hoping for some expert advice.

We have found al/cu arc-faults in the panel box and in a bathroom receptacle. About 1/3 of our branch circuits are aluminum wire.

For now I have replaced the rec and a circuit breaker using spliced copper wire on the aluminum branch circuit hot and neutrals using the purple Ideal al/cu twist connectors.

1. Now that we have found this, how urgent is it that we address and repair the aluminum circuits? We are on a tight budget.

2. Where do you get ALUMICONN al/cu connectors in Canada? I want to permanently repair al/cu/device/switch connections and splices throughout the home. I think that I need ALUMICONN (2 port and 3 port) connectors but can't find them locally in Canada. Amazon wants $220 CDN for 25.

3. My understanding is that the ALUMICONN connectors (and COPALUM) are the only approved permanent solutions besides full rewiring. Is that correct?

4. Should I / could I install ACFI breakers and/or rec's on the aluminum circuits to mitigate the risk until I can repair all the connections?

5. We have a Schneider Electric Stab-loc panel 100 amp with about 25 branch circuits. Apparently stab-loc breakers are at risk of failure. How bad is this and do we need to replace the whole panel??



Thank you.
1) older aluminum wiring can be quite safe when installed properly, with the proper wire connectors or devices. Issues arise when it isn't installed correctly. I have quite a few burnt up receptacles I've taken out from homes with aluminum wiring. All of those jobs, we kept the aluminum wiring and copper pigtailed all the devices with approved Marrettes.

2/3) I have never heard of those connectors before, so they certainly are not the only choice of approved connectors. Every single company i have worked for has used strictly Marrette 63 and 65 wirenuts. They are approved for copper-to-copper, copper-to-aluminum, and aluminum-to-aluminium connections. They are quite expensive (usually 1$ a piece, so a box of 50 will run you 50$). If you're doing all the circuits in your house, I'd buy both. 63's are quite small and only work with a few wires (the max conductor count is marked on the box). I'd buy them from an electrical wholesaler, and I'd suggest you do too, because even as a cash sale, they're your best bet for getting them cheaper.

4) you could install arc fault breakers if you wish. The breakers and panel itself is dual rated for copper or aluminum, so there is no need to splice on copper in there, unless you need to extend the wiring. HOWEVER, you mentioned that you have an FPE panel.... I don't know where in Canada you are, but here in Ontario, the arc fault breakers that are made and sold for an FPE panel is not a combination arc fault, which means it doesn't meet current code for arc fault protection... but considering you have existing circuits, I don't believe there would be an issue with using those overpriced arc fault breakers.

If you want to install arc fault protection, I'd do as others have mentioned and install a subpanel to install arc fault breakers in... then you'd also be able to install new wiring to code with proper arc fault breakers rather than the FPE models that are sold as replacements.

5) FPE panels do have a bad reputation, but I have yet to see one fail here in Canada... and I've worked in tons of them. That being said, if we have a reason to change the panel, we will. A great example would be a rewire on a house. With new arc fault rules, it makes more sense to change the main panel than to install a sub panel for 12 circuits (which can end up being almost the whole house)... but this is where you get into other issues with the POCO or inspection department, as sometimes just to change a panel you can be looking at doing the whole service.

Oh, and MAKE SURE TO GET A PERMIT AND HAVE IT INSPECTED! This is very important for insurance. Insurance companies don't screw around with aluminum wiring... but then that brings up a totally separate issue of, does your insurance company even know there's aluminum wiring on the premises... but I digress...

Oh, and one more thing... if you're taking the time and effort to copper pigtail all of the aluminum wiring, CHANGE THE DEVICES! you're already going to have the old ones removed, so you might as well install new plugs and switches.


Sent from my new phone. Autocorrect may have changed stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you, Kevin, for your reply. I am in Ontario, so I appreciate the input from an electrician familiar with Ontario code.

1) older aluminum wiring can be quite safe when installed properly, with the proper wire connectors or devices. Issues arise when it isn't installed correctly. I have quite a few burnt up receptacles I've taken out from homes with aluminum wiring. All of those jobs, we kept the aluminum wiring and copper pigtailed all the devices with approved Marrettes.
I’m sure it was all installed correctly when it was done. That was almost 50 years ago for some of the circuits. We had a receptacle sparking in the bathroom about a year ago - the al wire arc-faulted at the screw terminal on the rec. It was enough to melt the marrettes and some of the insulation. I replaced the rec with GFCI - there wasn’t one beside the sink. I need to go back and pigtail the al/cu connections properly.

I have never heard of those connectors before, so they certainly are not the only choice of approved connectors. Every single company i have worked for has used strictly Marrette 63 and 65 wirenuts. They are approved for copper-to-copper, copper-to-aluminum, and aluminum-to-aluminium connections
This is very helpful information.

Part of the problem I am finding the more I research this is that there are many different opinions out there. What is approved by OESC is not necessarily recommended by consumer safety agencies based on real world data.

https://inspectapedia.com/aluminum/Aluminum_Wiring_Repair_Methods.php

The Ideal purple connectors, CO/ALUR devices, and the Marette B-cap twist on connector also apparently are not recommended, although they may be approved.

https://inspectapedia.com/aluminum/Aluminum_Wire_Repairs_Not_Recommended.php

This site seems well researched and they supply references.

I'd buy them from an electrical wholesaler
I’m in Niagara region. Any idea where I should go around here?

you could install arc fault breakers if you wish. The breakers and panel itself is dual rated for copper or aluminum, so there is no need to splice on copper in there, unless you need to extend the wiring.
See images below for why I spliced the AL to CU before connecting to the CB. You can see the installer had applied anti-ox compound to the AL hot from the CB. Despite the rating, the fault was hot enough to melt the insulation. The AL wire fell right out of the CB as soon as I removed it from the bus.
I replaced the CB, of course.

FPE panels do have a bad reputation, but I have yet to see one fail here in Canada... and I've worked in tons of them.
Apparently the issue is the breakers can fail to trip up to 60% of the time under fault conditions. Of course, until there is a fault, it seems fine. They still sell these panels, so, again, there seems to be conflicting information as to what is safe and what is allowed.

https://inspectapedia.com/fpe/Federal_Pioneer_Panel_Safety.php

Also, the damn thing is installed sideways. The bottom row of CBs are upside down - down is ON. Even the mains CB is upside down. I understand that this is a code violation. The thing is, the panel was changed about 10 years ago by an electrician, permitted and approved. *sigh*

does your insurance company even know there's aluminum wiring on the premises...
Yes, they know. They charge more. If they saw what I found I’m sure they would freak out.

Anyway, thanks again for your advice. I intend to inspect every device box on the AL branch circuits and pigtail the AL properly. I like the look of the ALUMICONN connectors, but they are expensive and, it seems, not common in Canada. Maybe I will go with the Marette 63 and 65s. At least it’s to code.

I’ll have to get AFCi somehow too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thank you, seharper for your reply.

But there should also be CO-ALR rated receptacles and switches which have *actually correct* terminations for aluminum wire (and copper too).
Apparently not all AL wire is created equal. I understand that the CO-ALR receptacles are okay with newer AL wire, which is still available today. Legacy AL wire May be different.

Also, there is the issue of the brittle metal and bending the AL in and out to inspect and repair the connection to begin with.

Check this out:

https://inspectapedia.com/aluminum/Aluminum_Wiring_Repair_COALR.php

Oh, those aren't good. I love Ideal but the Web is thick with pictures of those things burning up.
Indeed. Yet they are approved for use, as are the Marette 65 and 63s.

No need. The operative word here is CANADA. The two product lines diverged sharply...in Canada, Federal PIONEER got folded into Schneider Electric (known for their SQUARE D brand of superb QO and dull-but-safe Homeline panel lines). Schneider took good care of the brand and as a result, it didn't have the problems the US lines had.
My Canadian SEFP panel is apparently exactly the same as US versions. The CBs are very loose at the bus connection. Since the risk is a no-trip fault condition, it’s difficult to know if there is a problem until, well, there is a problem.

https://inspectapedia.com/fpe/Federal_Pioneer_Panel_Safety.php

The AFCI installs sound like a real pain in the you know what.

Thanks again.
 

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The gotcha is that in Canada, you are not allowed to use your main panel as a junction box, so you can't just extend the circuits into the second panel via the first. You must reroute the Romex to the subpanel.
Now I have a question. If the intent is to install a second box and move all the circuits to that the "main panel" isn't a main panel anymore......correct?
It technically becomes a junction box by definition.
But I would like to see how that is worded in the Canada code if you have a reference. I am not sure I get how it could be called a main panel if everything has been relocated. Would the mains be moved to the new panel?
I have done panel changes (commercial) where a new panel with an open back was placed over the old panel and the circuits were just moved forward, including the mains. The original panel became sort of a rear extension to the new panel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You must reroute the Romex to the subpanel.
BTW it’s not Romex, it’s 50 year old aluminum 12/2.

I would like to AFCI all the aluminum circuits.

Ideally, I would have the whole panel replaced, but cost is a factor. Also it’s finished with drywall and studs around the panel and there is no room.
 

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Ideally, I would have the whole panel replaced, but cost is a factor. Also it’s finished with drywall and studs around the panel and there is no room.
There IS another option. Someone may make a retro-fit bus for that panel.
Then you could just replace the "guts" and wire the new bus.
Again, this is something that I have had done in a commercial setting.
But I would check around. It may be a costly retrofit but in the scheme of things it may be a better move.
 

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Apparently not all AL wire is created equal. I understand that the CO-ALR receptacles are okay with newer AL wire, which is still available today. Legacy AL wire May be different.
They did modernize aluminum wire after the ...troubles. It changed from the AA-1350 alloy (the standard transmission line alloy) to AA-8000 (specifically formulated for house wiring 15-30A small branch circuits). However, this went over like the Microsoft Zune... nobody wants to build a new-build aluminum wire house!

As such, the CO-ALR receps have no market. The only reason they exist in the marketplace is for the older AA-1350 wires. And they are for *exactly* that.

Given the dubious performance of almost any pigtail splice, it really looks like those CO-ALR receps are the way to go.




Also, there is the issue of the brittle metal and bending the AL in and out to inspect and repair the connection to begin with.
That's always an issue.

Check this out:

https://inspectapedia.com/aluminum/Aluminum_Wiring_Repair_COALR.php

Indeed. Yet they are approved for use, as are the Marette 65 and 63s.
Yeah, InspectAPedia can be "a little bit paranoid" at times. I kinda get the impression it's one guy who is a ranter. It's SOP for Inspectapedia to speak very negatively of something, and then admit there's no real evidence to support that. Like the way they recorded "many" failures of AL-Cu receps, but "one" of a CO-ALR, and that was probably a problem of not using a torque screwdriver, and that's a problem for any fastener of any kind, including Alumiconns.

The site does the same thing with Pushmatic panels, but says they're nothing worse than obsolete.

My Canadian SEFP panel is apparently exactly the same as US versions. The CBs are very loose at the bus connection. Since the risk is a no-trip fault condition, it’s difficult to know if there is a problem until, well, there is a problem.
Yeah again I wouldn't take insepectapedia as a single source. They hate everything.

I'm pretty sure there's a page on Chex cereal somewhere in the site :)
 

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Given the dubious performance of almost any pigtail splice, it really looks like those CO-ALR receps are the way to go.
CO/ALR devices are proven to fail by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC considers them safe only for temporary, emergency repairs.

Alumiconn and COPALUM crimp connectors are the only methods they have found to provide a reliable repair. Since COPALUM is beyond the capabilities of the DIY arena, that leaves just the Alumiconns as a solution.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
As such, the CO-ALR receps have no market. The only reason they exist in the marketplace is for the older AA-1350 wires. And they are for *exactly* that.
Makes sense. That’s good news, thanks.

I'm pretty sure there's a page on Chex cereal somewhere in the site
Lol. Yeah, they do go on and on a bit.

Now I just have to figure out how to AFCI all the AL branch circuits. What if I put a bunch of deadfront AFCI recs in a box beside the panel as the first device on each AL circuit? Would that meet code (since the FP stabLok AFCI CP does not and also is way too expensive)? Do they even make CO-ALR AFCI recs?

Thanks again for the help. :vs_cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Alumiconn and COPALUM crimp connectors are the only methods they have found to provide a reliable repair. Since COPALUM is beyond the capabilities of the DIY arena, that leaves just the Alumiconns as a solution.
Well, this is the information I had started with. So, it’s back to square one?

It meets code to use the Marette #65 and #63 as well as the Ideal purple AL-CU twist on connectors. Kevin is a local electrician and his company uses the Marettes exclusively. However, consumer safety advocates agree with RAL238 and say the ALUMICONN connectors are the only safe option.

I can’t find the ALUMICONN connectors here anywhere. I have no idea if they even meet local code here in Ontario. Kevin has never heard of them!

No wonder I am confused as to what to do here. Lol :wink2:
 

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You said about 1/3 of the circuits are aluminum.
Maybe it's time to abandon them and rewire those with copper.
Something to do when you change out the panel.
You didn't' think you were going to get off cheaply did you?
 

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I can’t find the ALUMICONN connectors here anywhere. I have no idea if they even meet local code here in Ontario. Kevin has never heard of them!

No wonder I am confused as to what to do here. Lol :wink2:
The Alumiconn spec sheet says they are cUL listed, which means they are approved for use in Canada.

Alumiconn has a dealer locator map on their web page.

If nothing else pans out, found this seller on ebay.ca. He is in the US, but ships to Canada. Prices look very reasonable. Says he bought a box of 2500 for a job and these are leftovers.

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/King-Innovation-95025-2-Port-AlumiConn-Connector-NIB/264598323576

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/King-Innovation-95025-3-Port-AlumiConn-Connector-NIB/264598326154?
 

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@Driver256 I am not sure what you mean by “arc-faults”… Aluminum (AL) wire is very common in houses built in the late 60’s to early 80’s.

To answer some of your questions:

1. Assuming that the AL wire was properly installed and not stressed, there is no reason to worry about replacing it. Having said that it might need some maintemnance.
2. The ALUMICONN connectors are the best for doing the AL to copper (CU) transisition if that is required. Having said that, I often will recommend that AL devices be used instead of doing the “pig tailing”.
3. That is not correct. There are other approved methods, but like anything else there are degrees of cost effectiveness and potential for damage if not done properly.
4. You would have to use breakers as AFCI receptacles are not rated for AL wire in Canada.
5. The issues with stab-loc in Canada are not the same as there were in the USA. There were no issues with them in general, although like every other manufacturer they have had breaker recalls. I have an FPE panel in my house and have not intent on changing it anytime soon. The main issue is that there are no modern breakers for the FPE panel and standard breakers are becoming expensive.

It is probably fair to say that you need an AL wire inspection; most insurance companies will want once to maintain insurance. The inspection and repair of AL wire is not typically a DIY job.

In your additional posts, you show a picture of a burnt up wire, that is do to an improper connection to the breaker and has nothing to do with the AL wire per se. Mounting a panel sideways in Canada is perfectly fine. In your research you need to ensure you are reading Canadian codes and not USA or other country codes.

My first recommendation to clients is to replace the devices with the AL rated ones and NOT do the transistors. My school of thought is that first of all once you start adding in the wire connectors you have to start considering box fill calculations and replacing boxes to meet code. Secondly, you are not adding numerous connections; and every connection is a potential point of failure.

In all honesty, the cost of putting in AFCI deadfronts (considering all the labour and additional material) it would be more cost effective to do a panel change.

You may find this helpful…

https://trustedpros.ca/articles/electrical/aluminum-wire---whats-all-the-hype

Cheers
John
 

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CO/ALR devices are proven to fail by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC considers them safe only for temporary, emergency repairs.

Alumiconn and COPALUM crimp connectors are the only methods they have found to provide a reliable repair. Since COPALUM is beyond the capabilities of the DIY arena, that leaves just the Alumiconns as a solution.
I have not read this report, but have linked to it so I can in the future, but lets be reminded that it is a USA report. Devices / products are different here in Canada and I would argue that AL devices are the better option then completing the splicing.

I do agree that the Alumiconn connectors are superior to wire connectors, but with box fill considerations, they lead to more potential problems.

Cheers
John
 

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CO/ALR devices are proven to fail by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC considers them safe only for temporary, emergency repairs.
So what? They aren't the decider of that.

It's downright peculiar to hear the CPSC's name mentioned in connection with electrical safety. That bailiwick is well-covered by other entities, many of whom have skin in the game: UL is, after all, UNDERWRITER's Laboratories, and the model Code is written by the National FIRE PREVENTION Association.

They ought to get off their ass, and get UL to revise the White Book and delist all CO-ALR devices. UL has refused to do this. UL is an NRTL. CPSC is not. One has to presume CPSC has tried, and utterly failed to make their case to UL.. And so they're "pulling a Captain Crozier" and jumping outside the normal flow and taking their case to the public directly.

I have to follow NEC 110.2 just like everybody else, which says NRTLs, not CPSC, decides what is approved.

CPSC can't even properly condemn FPE and Zinsco, they just throw popcorn from the peanut gallery. They can't even contain the Alibaba junkstream pouring in through Amazon warehouses. CPSC sucks at electrical safety.

Alumiconn and COPALUM crimp connectors are the only methods they have found to provide a reliable repair. Since COPALUM is beyond the capabilities of the DIY arena, that leaves just the Alumiconns as a solution.
"have found"? FOUND!!?? *checks list* Nope, still, not an NRTL. Too many opinions in the field already!

I am skeptical that this oft-repeated message doesn't have anything to do with the people on the supplier list. Notably, COPALUM, which already has a weird business model where they lease, not sell, their special magic tools, and so naturally needs to shake the trees for business for their lessee's. Spreading the word that only their tool will work (besides expensive Alumiconns that don't fit in most boxes) is good for business.
 
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