Aluminum Wiring Repairs

 

Aluminum Wiring can be safe if properly installed and cared for. 

 Signs of trouble in aluminum wire systems include warm-to-the- touch face plates, flickering lights, circuits that don't work, or the smell of burning plastic at outlets or switches.  Unfortunately, not all failing aluminum wired connections provide such easily detected warning signs; aluminum wired connections have been reported to fail without any prior indications or problems.  Most all of my pictures below and in the photo album to the left, the burning wires were undetectable to the homeowner.

Basically there are 2 APPROVED ways to properly terminate Aluminun wiring.  

1) Is the COPALUM method.  {THE BEST} and very expensive, almost as expensive as rewiring your house.  Tyco, the manufacturer of these connectors will only lease the tools, and sell the connectors to a licensed contractor that has been to the TYCO factory class & been certified.  This is cost prohibitive to small contractors and there is only one contractor in Houston that has this certification and they are very proud of this and charge accordingly. 

2) Plugs & Switches rated for Aluminum wires.  {2nd Best} Called Co/Alr (pronounced Co Lar)  This type of device is designed specifically for Aluminum connections.  This method is approved and an inexpensive alternative to COPALUM.  

Let me try to explain what happened.  The co-mingling of copper and Aluminum is especially dangerous, as was revealed in the past when Aluminum conductors were attached to wiring devices(e.g.,toggle switches and receptacles) that were equipped with copper terminating screws.( original devices, from the original install in the '70's)  The expansion and contraction rate of these two metals is quite different.  What happened during thermal cycling was a phenomenon know as "creep and cold flow" which resulted in a high impedance connection.  These high impedance terminations became excessively hot during normal use and resulted in a number of fires.  So Co/Alr devices were manufactured and UL Listed to solve this problem.  The question is do you already have Co/Alr devices or the original devices that are a fire hazard?

 

First picture is of a Copalum splice, but this is a very bad installation.  Notice how the new copper wire is not properly under the attachment screw.  Also the installer reused the old existing receptacle that should have been replaced at the time.


 Here's a picture of a pigtail that is not an approved method of pig tailing.  This is just a piece of copper wire sliced with the aluminun under a regular wire nut, Basically this does nothing for the problem associated with aluminum wiring and should only be done as a temporary method.  NOTICE one wirenut has overheated & melted completely off the wires and the other has visible signs of melting too.

 

Here's a picture of another Pigtail.  A Buttsplice connector, again "not approved" for Copper to Aluminum connections.  It also appears that the splice connector was not properly crimped with the appropriate tool.  Notice the overheating on the Aluminum side of the connector is worse than on the copper side.  Sad things is some Electrical contractor fraudulently sold this method to an unknowing homeowner.