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Thread: Aluminium wire

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Default Aluminium wire

    Was just chatting with a friend, she has a rental house and wants two panels replaced, hooray!

    Problem is that she thinks the house is wired with aluminum and she is allergic to the idea of a full rewire.

    I've not had to work with aluminum before, that I know of.

    My reflex is to think that to assure that everything, the receptacles and switches, etc are all safe, and that all the splices are well crimped, would be so much work that one may as well tear out the old crap and put in the copper and get it all done right.

    Opinions? Who has a good protocol for working with old aluminum?

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    In order to "tear out" the old "stuff', you would have to take it apart just like you would to check the tightness of the connections so you might as well do THAT and not add the expense of rewiring. Any replacement items must be AL/CU rated.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    In order to "tear out" the old "stuff', you would have to take it apart just like you would to check the tightness of the connections so you might as well do THAT and not add the expense of rewiring. Any replacement items must be AL/CU rated.
    So, your inclination would be to keep the wire, but replace all the receptacles and switches with AL/CU rated components?

    At this point I am assuming that this is all in conduit. If not, the question is largely answered.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    At least where I live, conduit is rarely used in residential buildings except maybe in the basement or garage.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    At least where I live, conduit is rarely used in residential buildings except maybe in the basement or garage.
    It is extremely common in Southern California. Until very recently NM was not permitted in many of the 83 cities in LA. The last of them relented about 8-10 years ago because they could not get HUD grants from the Feds for more expensive wiring systems.

    I see lots of 40 or 60 year old emt with crimped couplings and connectors.

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Wow.

    Alumicon Connectors (little plastic box with a three point buss with set screws) are a bit more than three dollars each.

    Assuming that one wanted to pull out an old receptacle, bring the two hots of aluminum to the alumicon, then pig tail out with copper, time three, that's ten dollars for each switch or outlet. Average of five per room? Six assuming a ceiling light? $30 per room? And I've seen plenty of switch boxes that need a lot more than three connections. Three bedrooms, two baths, livingroom, dining room, den, kitchen, one other room. That's ten. And then each aluminum wire in the breaker panel gets a copper pig tail.....To be careful, $700 just for the little alumicons? To say nothing of installing the dratted things?

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    Electrician ActionDave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeownerinburb View Post
    So, your inclination would be to keep the wire, but replace all the receptacles and switches with AL/CU rated components?

    At this point I am assuming that this is all in conduit. If not, the question is largely answered.
    The problem with AL wire is the devices, so replacing them with AL rated ones is a option, but the cost of the rewire could be made up with lower insurance premiums and peace of mind.

    I have never seen fifteen and twenty amp AL branch circuit wiring in conduit, only Roomexx. I would be curious to know if the house is indeed in conduit.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    If the house is in pipe then a completer rewire is in order and if crimp type fittings on the pipe then an EGC is also needed.

    Those splices you describe are the only one I will use on al. wiring for replacement of devices.

    Good luck

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    If the house is in pipe then a completer rewire is in order and if crimp type fittings on the pipe then an EGC is also needed.

    Those splices you describe are the only one I will use on al. wiring for replacement of devices.

    Good luck
    Yes, thanks, and thanks for the endorsement of the alumicons. I may just pick up a box of ten to have on the truck.

    I just got an e-mail from my friend, seems the circumstances may be a bit different than what she described first time:

    She is only just now buying this house, which was built in 1938. The inspector told her that the wire was aluminum and that the two panels were of a manufacture NLA (Zinsco, almost certainly, in this area).

    Now, I certainly do not want to claim any sort of absolute knowledge, but I'm pretty sure that nobody was using aluminum wire in 1938. I have seen LOTS of work from that era, and EMT with rubber/cloth is absolutely predominant. There is a small percentage of NM without a ground, and a pain it is, too.

    The client is insistent that she cannot afford a compete rewire. Cannot force anything on her, I suppose. I certainly like to get that thhn in there....

    If it turns out to be aluminum in conduit, I'll lobby strongly for a rewire, to be sure.

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    The problem with AL wire is the devices, so replacing them with AL rated ones is a option, but the cost of the rewire could be made up with lower insurance premiums and peace of mind.

    I have never seen fifteen and twenty amp AL branch circuit wiring in conduit, only Roomexx. I would be curious to know if the house is indeed in conduit.

    It could easily be NM with aluminum. I have not seen it yet. The house was built in '38, but with an addition. It could be the inspector saw tin plated copper and thought it was aluminum.

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