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Old 07-28-2009, 01:42 PM
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home aluminium wiring - danger

I think my house might be trying to kill me. The place was built in 1975 when aluminium wiring was the trend. Unfortunately so was 2x4 construction, but that's a gripe for another time. When my wife and I moved in three years ago, we decided to swap the dishwasher in the house we just bought with the newer, quieter dishwasher in our old house, which we were about to put on the market.

When I undid the wiring for the dishwasher in our "new" home, I saw that the insulation for the two wires was fused together, but apparently not completely through to cause a short. I found this disturbing. The real estate agent who showed us this house had assured us that aluminium wiring was quite safe and that we should not worry about it. After seeing the wires from the dishwasher, I decided the wire's coming out. I bought a lenghth of copper and wired it directly from the dishwasher to the breaker panel.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. I was welding outside with my 110V mig welder. It's the first time I had it plugged in the outside outlet. I had the amps turned up pretty high. Soon the power started fluttering on and off. I checked to see if it was the welder, but it worked fine with the inside plug.

I turned off the breaker and opened up the outlet and this is what I found.



In the kitchen we have a stovetop on the counter separate from a wall oven. It was new when we bought the house. It's hard wired. Last week it stopped working. Turned off the power, took it apart, and this is what I found.



Apparently aluminium wiring isn't as safe as some people say it is. There's a reason why builders returned to copper wiring. Aluminium is much more resistant to current than copper and this translates into high heat. But wow, I never would have thought the draw would be so high on a stove top to melt a marette.

I've been told to dip all copper/aluminium connections in an antioxdant paste and replace marrettes with special ones made for these types of connections.

I am going to change the wiring in areas of high draw, e.g. stove, oven,
Where else? I'm starting to worry about plugging in the toaster.

Just thought I'd pass on this info in case it might be helpful to one of yas. I love my new place, but a bit bummed about this problem.
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Old 07-28-2009, 02:13 PM
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Your fortunate you found those. Aluminum wiring is safe in specific applications and when it is sized properly. Aluminum wiring also requires special connectors as you know. Connections made with aluminum unless they are done correctly loosen over time due to expansion and contraction. That is the primary reason it has been outlawed for residential construction. Aluminum is still used in the power industry for high tension wires, but that is a "free air" application.

Vince
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Old 07-28-2009, 03:33 PM
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This is old, but important, news. Aluminum has significantly higher resistance than copper, and significantly greater coefffcient of expansion, which loosens connections over time. The correct connectors for aluminum are spring loaded, to accomodate the expansion and contraction.

My advice to you is to replace all the aluminum wire in your residence with copper, and replace all the old devices too; the devices have most likely been exposed to excessive heat/cool cycles. Now is your opportunity to bring your wiring up to code with GFCI devices.

Aluminum wire has caused a whole lot of house fires.
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:30 PM
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of course the realitor says its safe,they are all experts,unfortunetly its at the making lots of money for doing nothing but bullsheeting you can always tell when their lying,their lips move.We also had a similar incident in our 70's built house,we couldnt afford to rewire the house so we called a friend who's an electrition.He cut off the ends of all the wire at the outlets as far as he could then the ceiling lights and replaced all the outlets and light fixtures, then went to the breaker box and did the same and really cranked down on the connections but before he did he showed me how loose they got,I was shocked,I mean ...very surprized,he showed me how to retighten the connections periodicly,it obviously worked ,that was twenty years ago and the house is still there,we found an expert realitor to sell that house two years later,now I inspect everything myself before I even think of buying.I've learned the hard way. roofs are another problem thats ez to cover up,get up there and jump a little or even better get a roofer friend to do it just be ready inside to catch him,look closely at an old house with new shingles very close
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:28 PM
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Aluminum wiring is perfectly safe when done properly and has been used in many applications without problems.


Plain and simple whoever built you house was too cheap to buy the spring loaded connectors as aluminum creeps and has thermal expansion much different than copper.


The reason they wouldn't use the right connectors. They are about double the price.
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:40 PM
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It should also be noted that outlets for alum. wiring must be used as well.

In a pinch outlets and fixtures for copper only can be used with pigtails to the alum. feeds.

Your range should be okay with the aluminum----just make sure the connections are good, you have the correct breaker and outlet.

The dryer ----- I would change to copper
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:57 PM
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those look like regular old connectors and outlets to me,how can you tell if you have the proper ones? does'nt all wiring have to be inspected? I dont understand how people can get away with crap like that.thats dangerous and totaly preventable.....get the rope.....

Last edited by deadbodyman; 07-29-2009 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 07-29-2009, 10:49 PM
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One of our old shops had aluminum wiring, and when we set up shop we were running new circuits for stuff, so we had the faceplate of the main breaker box off...we had to do some welding and when we'd fire up the welder, or when teh compressor fired off, and draw current through the box, sparks would shoot about 10' out the front of the box...So we pulled the main breaker box off and tried to rebuild it, the buss bars and lugs were so loose, corroded from arcing and messed up that we had to pitch the whole thing and replace the box. The landlord was not replacing the AL wire, so we weren't going to either..how it lies is how it flies...we figured it lasted from '77 till 98, so we had another 20 years. every once in a while we'd check the torque on the lugs and breakers...it's not the aluminum that's all to blame.., it's when the lugs get loose and start arcing that you have problems...

But who is going to check every connection in a house periodically?...well, besides DBM..hahhahh

If I were selling the house, I'd fix what's broke..check the connections....and move on...you'll never get your money back from a rewire...unles you have to bring it up to code for a sale. I don't know how things work in Canada, but if you lived here I'd say to make sure you put "AS IS" in your disclosures and agreements with the realitor.

Later, mikey
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Old 07-30-2009, 05:44 AM
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Where ya been Mikey? ....BTW...I resemble that remark...but old wiring scares the crap outta me,If I ever saw sparks shoot out of my box like that I'd sheet myself...until that time with the aluminum wiring I had never had the cover of a breaker box and forget about changing a breaker but it inspired me to learn ,now I can run my own circuts and breakers.I live in a 50 year old house and every time the lights flickerd I'd check the connections at the box and the lights or outlets,it makes for a good piece of mind...one other problem I've run into is these old houses where designed with just lights in the ceiling when people put ceiling fans in every room and have the lights on it gets overloaded and hot at the ends of the wire just like the aluminum,the insulation gets black and brittle.So when I remodeled,I rewired my whole house with help from my brother in law a comercial electrition. Old wiring scares the crap outta me...copper or aluminum it dont matter but hiring an electrical contractor was out of the question so thank god I knew someone,theres a lot of little things you just got to know like how many ceiling fans per circuit how many outlets per circuit etc...I still wouldn't do it myself without someone watching over me,to many lives depend on a quality job.I just wish everything wasnt made in China now...

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Old 07-30-2009, 09:58 PM
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Aluminum Connectors are usually spring loaded so they take up the "slack" at all times. If I owned a house with aluminum wiring I'd get the proper outlets etc and make sure they all had the proper connectors. Also there are newer alloys of aluminum that are better but the old stuff should be okay if you have a qualified copetent electriction familiar with aluminum wiring redo all the connections. Or you could study alot on your own.
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