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Aluminum Wiring

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Posted by: from Thunder Bay
2/16/2013 at 11:32:00 AM

Hi,

I have a question for any electricians out there!

My house was built around 1974 and has aluminum wiring. The outlets were all switched within the last year but regular outlets were used. Since then a few have burnt out (literally). After doing some research it appears that special aluminum outlets should have been used, or pig tailing normal ones should have been done (as per home depot worker) with a special connector for aluminum to copper and some sort of anti oxidizing paste.

I've asked around a bit and keep hearing different things about aluminum wiring. Do I need to replace all of it with copper?

My husband is a student and price is definitely an issue, I understand a job like this costs thousands and then you need to repair all the holes in the wall etc.

Can aluminum be safe if someone comes in and replaces all the outlets and switches properly? My house is about 1200 square feet up and same down.

Any ideas of what this may cost?

Thanks so much for any help!!!!

REPLIES (3)
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Date/Time2/17/2013 at 2:36:47 PM

The home depot guy is correct. Aluminum wiring is quite safe as long as the proper outlets and switches are used. That also includes the light fixtures, you'll need to use the proper connectors and paste.

Replaceing all the wiring with copper will be very expensive. Your best bet and more economical is to have all the outlets and switchs replaced with aluminum rated ones, all the light fixtures connected correctly.

Then have everything inspected by the ESA, they have whole house inspections of aluminum wiring for insurance and resale purposes.

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Date/Time2/22/2013 at 4:43:20 PM

The least expensive and most often used remedy is to pigtail new devices onto the wiring. You already have the new devices so all you have to do is take off the switches and receptacles. Connect copper wiring to the aluminum. Apply Noalox antioxidant compound on the connection (which must be abraided) and install the wire nuts (Marrs) rated for the connection. Install the new devices onto the copper wiring and carefully reinstall. Done!

New Co/Alr aluminum recepts are expensive. I always recommend this solution.

Good Luck!

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Date/Time2/23/2013 at 12:52:31 PM

Over the years we have done a number of these jobs. I agree that AL wire is safe as long as it is properly maintained. The issue is that there is not a 'cheap' option for mitigation of AL wire.

The total cost of mitigation is about the same regardless of how it is done. Short of rewiring your entire house, essentially there are three approved methods.

1. Install AL rated receptacle and switches. Suppliers do not carry them as stock so they are special order and are about $5.00 each. They only come in the older styles and colours and do not come in tamper-proof.

2. Install CU receptacles with pigtails. This involves using AL rated wire connectors (usually three of them) to extend the AL to CU then to you r device. Each wire is about $1.50 +/- . This is labour intensive and creates a connection (which is a possible point of failure). Often is the case, the box needs to be removed and a larger one installed because the combination of the wire connectors, extra wire and the device, the box become over capacity. So add a $2 to $5 dollars for the larger box to be installed.

3. The last option is to use an AL to CU lug. This is similar to #2, but is less labour intensive and are smaller than the wire connectors. The lugs are about $3.00 each, but you need a special screwdriver to torque them down to ensure they are installed properly. There still will be the odd box that will need to be changed out, but not as many.

In the end, I tend to recommend to my clients to convert back to the AL receptacles and switches. It has the least potential for problems. Having said that, very few ever do; they prefer the decora style devices and modern colours so are willing to spend the money to do option #2 or #3. Typically we estimate about four receptacles an hour, which includes removal, inspection, reinstallation, clean-up and testing. If you have to start changing out boxes then you usually get about two done in an hour.

In Ontario, most insurance companies will accept a `letter of opinion' (LOO) from an ESA certified contractor stating that the proper steps were taken to mitigate the AL wiring issues. If you do it yourself, you will need to get an ESA inspection most likely for your insurance company. Only once have I ever needed both an ESA and an LOO from an insurance company.

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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