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Receptacles and Aluminum Wiring
Asked Apr 9, 2007, 12:13 PM
I wish to add GFCI outlets to make my kitchen outlets safer for me and my family. I have aluminum wiring in my house, but I couldn't find CU/AL rated GFCI outlets at the store.
I'd like to know which is a safer option: reguler outlets in the kitchen that are CU/AL rated or GFCI outlets that are not for AL?
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Apr 9, 2007, 01:45 PM
You're posing the devil's alternative - would you rather be electrocuted or burn up in a fire?
How about another idea - assuming that you are not considering replacing the entire branch circuit with copper (which would be the best solution), then the second best solution may be to splice copper pigtails to the aluminum wire, so that you can then use the non CO/ALR rated GFI. Of course, if you do this be sure to use an CO/ALR splice.
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Home Repair & Remodeling Expert
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Apr 9, 2007, 01:53 PM
The splice will work. Kitchens and any plumbed area should be GFI. Bedrooms should have arc faults. Don't cook or get shocked.
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Apr 9, 2007, 04:06 PM
Thanks for the helpful info.
I hesitate with the splice because a few years ago I found a special al/cu wire nut, special because it contained a goo to minimize cu/al burn up. After researching then, it seemed like the effectiveness of this wire nut was highly doubted, suggesting that a professional electrician with a cu/al pig-tailing gadget was the only way to cu/al pigtail. Some suggested that I simply checked the connections at the receptacles and outlets every now and then to ensure their being tight.
I'd be curious to hear your opinions, but I sense you'll suggest that I pigtale a splice.
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Apr 18, 2007, 06:18 AM
I am in a similar situation with existing AL wiring. There are some switches I want to replace and/or add with new fixtures. I don't really want to pigtail anything, rather I want to use CO/ALR switches. Can anyone tell me where I can find (or provide a brand name) CO/ALR switches and recepticals? I am specifically interested in 3-ways, dimmers, double (stacked) switches, and GFCI outlets. I've been searching and only found standard single pole and 3-way switch - surely these exist (?). Any help most appreciated! DrJ
Originally Posted by The Willing Beginner
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Senior Electrical & Lighting Expert
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Apr 18, 2007, 06:36 AM
Devices rated for direct connection of aluminum wire will be limited to the standard devices, there is not enough demand for any others. Pigtailing is the only method.
While the splice connectors for CU/AL are sufficient, crimping is a much better connection.
I do not recommend checking the connections as a method of eliminating proper connections.
The "goo" is an anti-oxidant, bare aluminum will oxidize , which is not a good conducotr, and heat will be created. Be sure to coat any bare aluminum with this compound.
Aluminum rated devices may not mention the application of anti-oxidant compound, this will be per the wire manufacturers instructions.
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Oct 29, 2011, 05:04 AM
Please check the wiring to you kitchen wall plugs to see if they are copper or not.
Reason: My house too has aluminum wiring however the kitchen wall plugs (all 3) are all copper wired and are original.
It's worth a second look. Also I posted knowing you may have no further need for this info as it's an old question, but it may help someone else sometime.
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Dec 4, 2013, 06:40 PM
For outlets and switches and similar electrical devices to be ALR rated, basically they will have special screws and metal under the screws that minimize corrosion by dissimilar metals.
Whereas the connections on Regular outlets, switches, etc. are designed for use with copper.
You can make pigtails 3 ways:
- COPALUM crimp is the best, but the most expensive.
- Alumiconn have appeared since the original post in 2007
They already have antioxidant "goop" inside, and you put 1 wire per set screw.
Just buy a (certified) torque driver that can do 10 and 15 inch pounds (in. lbs.)
- Wire nuts are the worst of the three and with the more affordable Alumiconns,
Many states are legislating that wire nuts are not safe for alum. Wire.
Because wire nuts always cause metal fatigue, and have a bad track record
Of not being properly secured, or coating the wire with A.O. Paste properly
There is a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation, about aluminum wiring.
Often people over-state corrosion, and yes it is a problem.
But metal fatigue is more often an underlying factor.
Because Aluminum wire is much more brittle then copper be sure to:
- Move/bend alum. Wire in receptacle/junction boxes slowly & as little as possible
- Always, Always, Always, Cut off the original (bare alum. Wire) connecting tips
- Simply cut off wire nuts, plus 1-2 inches of alum. Wire. Strip and pigtail.
- If you absolutely must reuse the original (bare alum.) connecting tips use
Fine sandpaper on the alum. Wire to remove corrosion/oils/etc.
- Curl connectors as little as possible to put under (ALR-Rated) screws
(Personally I always pigtail, but have put ~30 degree bend and wired directly)
- ALWAYS use anti-oxidant paste on alum. Wire and device's (ALR) screws
- Make sure the (ALR) screws are very-very snug/tight to grip the alum. Wire
I have seen many times where the outlet "floats" in the receptacle, and the aluminum wires have become brittle and broken, causing many problems.
Make sure your outlets do not move/sink when you plug anything into them.
Reinforce them if you have to. Even using small spacer (for example 1/8" id x 1/4" od nylon washers) on the screw between the outlet and receptacle box is much safer then letting it "float".
Yes, some people will say you can't do that (above), but time vs money plus the customer is always right, especially when they don't have much money at all.
Also, Fuse vs Breakers on Aluminum wiring.
I'd suggest you just stick with the fuses.
In USA the joint Canada Government lab tests on Aluminum residential wiring the breakers may not trip for up to 4 hours, but the fuses blow within seconds.
These tests have been duplicated by other labs in the decades since.
From these tests came the Arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers.
If you must put breakers on alum. Wiring I strongly suggest you install combination AFCI breakers.
If you install a combination AFCI breaker that keeps tripping, then call an electrician with a lot of experience with alum. Wiring.
An AFCI will trip when it detects arcing, arcing and alum. Wire often leads to a house fire. So don't grumble if this happens, instead smile because your alive, and your home is intact.
PS. The electrician might take awhile to trace the source of the arcing problem.
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