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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I will be doing the work for the following. I'm looking at options for reducing chances of a problem with my aluminum house wiring. I have a total of 77 switches, outlets, and light boxes that would require AlumiConn connectors or a second option is to replace each current breaker with a dural function ARC/GFCI.

1. Cost is not a major consideration but the breaker total cost estimate is less than the estimate for adding AlumiConn connectors.
2. 14 of the outlets are blocked by heavy furniture.
3. There are 15 lights that require working from a ladder
4. My first effort to install a GFCI using Alumiconn was a failure because the box is too small. Looks like the solution is to cut out box and add a new larger one. How many more SMALL boxes do I have?
5. To AlumiConn every thing would take me a long, long, time.
6. Replacing breakers would take me 1-2 hours?

The only negative I see with using the ARC/GFCI is chasing down the connection that caused the breaker to trip. So unless there are other considerations against, I am using the breakers.

Your input is appreciated.
 

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Installing AFCIs may give you some added protection against a failure in the aluminum wiring. In my opinion, it is better than doing nothing. The question is how much better.

By installing just the AFCIs, you are not fixing or eliminating the problem, but rather placing a bet on the chance that the AFCI will detect when there is a problem. In some cases, that will work, but there are probably cases where it won't. AFCIs detect arcing, but there is no guarantee that a failure in the aluminum wire will always cause arcing. A bad connection may just heat up substantially and cause a fire without arcing.

If it were my house, I would use the Alumiconn connectors, even if it means having to cut out boxes and install larger ones to allow everything to fit.
 

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Quick story. Co-worker in NJ was sitting in his LR at night and saw a faint red glow behind the curtain behind his sofa. Upon inspection the receptacle back there was glowing red. Found the breaker and turned it off and noticed the washing machine stopped as well. Builder had picked up power for the washer off of that circuit requiring that load to pass through that receptacle. The AL wire had formed a high resistance thus the connection was getting hot. End of story.

IMO, do everything possible to eliminate this AL hazard.

Bud
 
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Big Dog
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+1 on the AlumiConn.

I installed AlumiConn as the need to change fixtures arise. This helps to ease the cost of the connectors.

Before I found the AlumiConn, I used anti-oxidant compound on everything. It was a stop-gap measure at best. I have more peace of mind with the AlumiConn.
 

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Aluminum and copper both oxidize in air. Aluminum oxidation is an insulator, copper oxidation is a conductor. Aluminum flows more than copper when heated. Aluminum oxidizes then has resistance, so it gets hot. When hot it flows away and leaves room for more oxidation. On and on till it finally gets too loose and too high resistance then it causes a bad day.
If you use devices made for aluminum, then clean and grease the connections so air is kept out, no problems occur.
Wire nuts for aluminum have grease inside and a boot to keep it there. I use grease and AL/CU devices. It costs less than pigtails to copper, works just as well, and fits in boxes easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My further search of Arc Fault breakers puts a new light on putting them in my panel. I realize that these few electricians don't speak for all--far from it, but it makes me review the direction I was headed. Putting it lightly, they think the ARC Fault breakers stink.
 

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I have found over the years that insurance companies are the ones mainly driving this “fear” of AL wiring. If your wiring was installed properly and inspected back in the 70’s and has not been modified or “stressed”, then it still should be fine today.

The issue with AL wiring is not the actual wire, but what we do to it. I am a fan of the AlumiConn connectors also, but only as a second choice. My first choice is always CO/AL devices and wire connectors. As you may have experienced, when using the connectors, your box fill grows rapidly and often in may cases a larger / deeper box is required to be installed.

Here is an article I wrote several years ago https://trustedpros.ca/articles/electrical/aluminum-wire---whats-all-the-hype ; it is related to Canada, but it is the same theories in the south.

Without a doubt, if you are opening up walls or ceilings and you have the option, I think it is wise to replace the AL wire with CU, but more importantly is the maintenance aspect of the AL wire. It is imperative that you use the correct devices and in most cases an experienced electrician is required to deal with the additional skills required to make connection with AL wire. Even a simple connection to a receptacle with AL wire has many more considerations then a connection with CU wire.

Cheers
John
 

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A "Handy Husband"
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Installation of GFCI and or AFCI breakers or receptacles is not a compliant method to correct aluminum wiring issues.
 

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The problem with aluminum conductors is that they expand and contract drastically with temperature changes which has a tendency to loosen connections. I'd go through and tighten all screws on devices and make sure that all devices are rated Al/cu.
 

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The revised devices are rated CO/ALR
 

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6. Replacing breakers would take me 1-2 hours?
Assuming you don't have any pre-existing crossed grounds, and are knowledgeable enough about MWBCs to see 'em coming and choose appropriate breakers.


Installing AFCIs may give you some added protection against a failure in the aluminum wiring. In my opinion, it is better than doing nothing. AFCIs detect arcing, but there is no guarantee that a failure in the aluminum wire will always cause arcing.
Agreed. AFCIs are a great way to head off most of the problems.

Installation of GFCI and or AFCI breakers or receptacles is not a compliant method to correct aluminum wiring issues.
It's not a permanent solution to code violations relating to aluminum wiring. However keep in mind the toxic Cu-Al receptacles *were* legal at the time they were installed. I haven't seen any emergency orders requiring their immediate removal.

So I am very comfortable with using AFCI breakers as a stop-gap until CO-ALR devices and Alumiconns can be retrofitted.


The problem with aluminum conductors is that they expand and contract drastically with temperature changes which has a tendency to loosen connections.
The issue with AL wiring is not the actual wire, but what we do to it.
Aluminum is not actually the bad actor here; but rather the copper-only terminations (screw terminals and lugs) that were too quickly approved by UL for use with aluminum wire, without doing proper testing. That is why UL had to walk back the faulty AL-CU standard and reissue it as the CO-ALR ("R"evised).

As badly as copper lugs fail, aluminum lugs are the universal donor -- working with both Al and Cu. That's why panel bars/lugs, Alumiconns, MAC Blocks, and Polaris blocks are all made of aluminum.



I am a fan of the AlumiConn connectors also, but only as a second choice. My first choice is always CO/AL devices and wire connectors. As you may have experienced, when using the connectors, your box fill grows rapidly and often in may cases a larger / deeper box is required to be installed.
Don't cut out boxes. Use box extensions. There are a variety on the market, but my favorite is the Legrand Wiremold Surface Conduit Starter Boxes. It's not intended for being a plain extension, but it's an on-label use; because you can place a surface conduit into any of its ports, and "any" includes none.


If you are opening up walls or ceilings and you have the option, I think it is wise to replace the AL wire with CU...
Only because of insurance companies. It's perfectly legal to use aluminum wiring in new work today.
 

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Big Dog
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I concur with Datawise.

I would also like to add that today's electrical products pull less current and therefore put less load on circuits than those 20-30 years ago.

My home is 47-years-old and wired in aluminum. Since I bought it in 93, all the appliances except the dryer, which came with the house, have been replaced (that dryer just won't die)

I have replaced every outlet and switch in the house using CO/ALR components where possible and AlumiConn connectors and anti oxidant compound when not.

I had the Federal Pacific panel, which was a serious fire hazard, replaced with a modern 200 amp GE panel.

Light bulbs are all either CF or LEDs.

Despite having a computer that in on 24/7 and a 7.1 surround sound A/V system that is used daily, my electric bill is as low as about $50 in the winter (I have gas heat and hot water) and peaks at about $140 in the summer during the hottest days.
 
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