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Aluminum wiring - debating between new Co/Alr divices, or pigtaling all recepticals/switches.

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Posted by: from London
8/19/2016 at 12:39:40 PM

We are looking to update the aluminum wiring in our home. We cannot decide between replacing them all with new Co/Alr receptacles/switches - with 10yr warranty (labour and materials), or to pigtail them - with only a 2 yr warranty.

I am thinking pig tailing is better then you are able to use whatever coper switches/receptacle's you want in the future. If we go with Co/Alr we really aren't updating' anything. We would still have to buy expensive/hard to find aluminum compatible items in the future.

Either way they are going to give us an ESA certificate. And it isn't going to make a difference in our house insurance rates (which is why we are updating in the first place - $190/month is ridiculous)

I am also debating on the warranty. Obviously 10 years is better than 2, but if something goes wrong in the future isn't that why we have house insurance??

Any professional electrician or contractors opinions would be appreciated.

REPLIES (8)
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Mirek from Mirek Electric in Mississauga
Date/Time8/19/2016 at 1:11:40 PM

Hi Rachel

Copper tailing is better way to go for all the reasons you mentioned.

Aluminum is too soft to be attached to any electrical devise in residential applications except main service feeders.

Mirek Electric

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time8/19/2016 at 3:58:37 PM

My honest opinion I've been doing residential wiring since 1986 and I have found that using devices manufactured for aluminum wiring is a far better solution than copper pigtailing. Looking at most homes that were wired with aluminum wiring in the 70s on aluminum approved devices were manufactured and installed safely during that time period. The idea of pigtailing aluminum to copper has only become useful in the past 20 years where a solution to joining new copper wires to old aluminum wires needed to be satisfied. I have seen far more copper aluminum joints fail then aluminum approved devices failing. The extra expense of the aluminum devices I feel is the better solution providing every connection is done new and every connection has paste used on the connection point. A highly trained electrical contractor should be able to have the installation done properly and safely.

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Dave from Nemco in Cambridge
Date/Time8/19/2016 at 6:09:05 PM

My opinion on CU/AL conversions has more to do with the device rather than the wire itself. Using proper connectors, AL wire is just as good as copper. Pigtailing is my preferred method since the CU/AL connection is isolated away from the device. In a standard house circuit the devices are "daisy chained" with the first device in the circuit takes the load from all devices down line. In pigtailing, each device in a circuit is isolated and only carries the current from the appliance that is plugged in to it and transfers it to the wire through your CU/AL certified connector. In most cases, for under $2000 You'll have all new copper devices(sw,rec's) and covers. You would also replace those bathroom receptacles with GFCI type, if that applies in your case(wasn't code then).

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Alan from Electrix in Belleville
Date/Time8/19/2016 at 8:04:17 PM

You have some interesting choices.. First of all, I would be interested in just exactly what a warranty would cover, a $2.00 device and $20. labour charge (.25 labour unit) is very little consequence if you have a major loss due to a poor connection or faulty device. IMO, the warranty issue is not an issue if you deal with a quality LEC/.

Regarding pigtailing or AL devices; Pigtailing, if done correctly is an acceptable method of using copper devices but beware, in many cases the boxes from the 70's where not physically large enough to support the additional connection and device, they usually drove the nails holding the boxes through the boxes. you have to be careful of box capacity and If you have to start replacing boxes you may have to bring all the wiring up to the 2015 standard introduced May 5 2016. Also, it's another point of failure on an old system.

Using alluminium devices: Not saying they don't exist, but I have not seen receptacles that are TR (tamper resistant)approved for AL. As well, many of the fixtures have tinned copper leads which means that to do a complete job, you will have to do all the fixtures by pigtailing any ways.

TR (tamper resistant) receptacles may not necessarily be required if they do not exist currently, but they are certainly a much safer standard. In the future I believe it will be very difficult to get any AL approved devices.

Really IMO, the best way for you to deal with alluminium is to be rid of it all together. It was fine in the 70,s but it is no longer as as acceptable. Look at your property value loss with alluminium wire.

I am wondering what your insurance rates would be if you replaced all the wire with copper/ it may pay for itself in a few years to bite the bullet and replace it all with copper.

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Date/Time8/19/2016 at 9:15:16 PM

I would go with the pigtails. Aluminum wiring is a tough go with any device no matter what it's rated for. A good job on splicing with the proper marrettes and de-ox to a copper/aluminum device has been solid for me when i do renos/upgrades to older housing. The nice thing is that if the splice was done properly you never need to worry about changing devices again or any "cold flow" that the aluminum wire will create at the device.

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Rachel in London
Date/Time8/22/2016 at 8:52:20 AM

First, thank you everyone for you thoughts.

I guess I should have mentioned that they are going to put GFCI in the bathroom and kitchen (which I think are copper so they will be pigtailed.

A couple people have mentioned that aluminum fails when the wire is nicked or bend, there for Co/Alr is the way to go as you could cause more damage when pig tailing - and that makes sense to me.

Regarding insurance - the price is not going to be any better if we pigtail, Co/Alr, or replace all wiring in the home. All they want is a certificate from the electrician saying the wiring is safe. Then they will consider it 'updated'.

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Date/Time8/28/2016 at 9:44:30 AM

Hi Rachel,

The truth is that you will get professionals in both camps (pig-tail or AL devices) and all are valid opinions.

There are a couple of things that I would like to comment on however, one of them being that AL devices are readily available. They are considerably more expensive but available.

The second is the future plan; meaning what are your future plans? There are valid augments for the tamer-resistant and GFCI as well and the "look" of Decora, but electrically they do not make the "system" more safe. When used properly the AL device is just as safe as the new decora receptacle.

By comparison the tamper-resistant and GFCI receptacle is new technology. If you have small children / grandchildren then those are worth considering. If you are looking at renovating, you may want to wait until the walls are open to put CU wire in.

I believe the most cost-effective (hassle-free) solution is using the AL devices install by a qualified LEC.

Not sure if you have read this or not; https://trustedpros.ca/articles/electrical/aluminum-wire---whats-all-the-hype

Cheers,

John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Anne in London
Date/Time10/21/2016 at 10:50:44 AM

Hi Rachel,

I know you have probably already gotten this work done. I live in London and am an LEC. Lots of myths with Aluminum wiring but key to remember with any electrical is if it is care for and repairs/additions done by an LEC then there should never be an issue.

Any type of wire can be nicked and cause problems, aluminum is just softer. Using proper devices and connections are also key.

I always present clients with options or Co/Alr or copper. Really is comes down to your preference both are approved methods by the OESC (Ontario Code) & Cdn Code. The warranty seems more like a scare tactic of the electrician installing. There are pros and cons to each like mentioned above by others.

It is MOST likely anyone else replacing a receptacle in the future may not hire an electrician and just buy the cheapest device (when will we as society learn cheap is not the best). Pigtailing would be the most convenient for anything in the future. I have seen far too many wrong installations of aluminum wiring to copper devices and in all situations, they have been lucky the fuse/breaker tripped by the dead short from the melting and burning receptacle. The fire damage was small but it could have been devastating.

Most insurance companies that cover aluminum wiring only do so for 10yrs before they require home owner for another inspection.

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