Aluminum Wire

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by johnjh2o1, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    I'm looking at some older homes to purchase for investments. Can you tell me about what year they stopped using aluminum wire? Insurance companies in my area will not insure homes with this type of wire. (for good reasons) This will help me to eliminate some of the many homes for sale in my area.

    Thanks John
  2. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Aluminum conductors are still used today.

    What is the good reason why an insurance company would refuse to insure a house wired in aluminum wiring methods.
  3. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    I couldn't tell you I'm a plumber. But they will not insure homes with aluminum wiring.

    John
  4. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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  5. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Well that is strange as the thousands of homeowners here in NC are not having this problem.
    Most every service in this nation is aluminum does this mean that no one will be able to get insurance?
  6. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    I'm not talking about the service. I'm aware that the services are aluminum. I was referring to the wiring beyond the service.

    John
  7. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    NEMA is aware of this problem ( the insurer-gone-wacko problem). Here is a podcast from May, 2011 http://podcast.nema.org/index.php?id=75
    So despite the fact that done correctly by qualified electrician, there is not a problem with aluminum, you have the problem of dealing with the insurance company. Until NEMA gets the laws fixed , try showing this podcast to the insurer and see what they say.
  8. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    jimbo Thanks for your reply. There may not be any problem with aluminum wiring today, but I'm looking to buy some older homes for rental investments. I just don't need the added hassle of trying to insure them. I'm a retired plumber and I haven't seen any homes wired with aluminum in the past 30 years. When I was in the north east in the early sixty's there were some fires in my area that were attributed to aluminum wire. Not to long after that it was no longer used up there.

    John
  9. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Although the wiring of a structure seems to get the blame for many fires the truth of the matter is it is not the material that starts the fire but the installation practices that is the culprit.

    Aluminum is widely used today for larger installations such as range, electric heat air handlers, feeders, and services. For some idiot to say that aluminum is a dangerous wiring method is ridiculous. For someone to say that the installation practice of any wiring method is dangerous is a founded statement that does cause fires on a daily basis.

    Aluminum is a lot less forgiving than copper. Nicks in the conductor (not the insulation) causes the conductor to heat more than in copper, loose connections heat more and the list goes on and on.
    The biggest downfall to aluminum wiring is the type of devices used. The device must be listed for use with aluminum. This is something that the inspector should have looked at but most electrical and home owner inspectors do not know the differences.

    Here in Asheboro, NC there is one whole housing development that has nothing but aluminum wiring methods. Most of these homes were wired by the same electrician and there has not been one documented incident reported in any of these homes over the past 40 years. I know there are more than 40 homes in this project.
  10. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    I'm not trying to debate you about the safety of aluminum wire. I'm sure your trade has just as many hackers working it as mine. I,m also sure poor insulation is the reason why aluminum is getting a bad rap. But the facts are still the same I can,t get insurance on homes wired with it. The fear that I also have is that the lawyers will some day get hold of this and it will go the way Poly pipe did in my trade. To this day homes with Poly pipe have a black mark against them. Even though there a many still in service after 30 years with no problems. (including mine)

    John
  11. Jim Port

    Jim Port Electrical Contractor

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    Try another insurance company.

    Using the illogic that AL wiring causes fires maybe they should not insure anything wired with copper either. As others have said, poor connections can be problematic. but this is with any wiring method.
  12. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

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    Jim your not reading my posts. I don't disagree with the use of aluminum wire. If there were two homes that were identical, one with aluminum and one with copper and you would have a problem insuring the one with aluminum which one would you buy for investment?

    John
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    The problem with aluminum wire is with the small conductors for outlets and lighting, NOT for major items such as ranges, water heaters and air conditioners. The problem is that the smaller wires "heat" up and expand, then shrink when the load is turned off. This causes them to eventually "loosen" creating a high resistance connection which will then overheat and cause combustion. When you have aluminum wire, the connections have to be checked periodically to insure tightness, and the "box covers" felt to be sure the wiring is not getting hot.
  14. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Aluminum wire is aluminum wire no matter the size. The terminal for a 4/0 will suffer the same as one for #12.
    The reason we see more incidents with the smaller conductors is mostly due to damage to the conductor during the removal of the insulation then having this damaged conductor wrapped around a screw which stretches the aluminum until it is no longer what it is supposed to be. This weakened conductor then fails.

    AA8800 aluminum conductors is just as reliable as copper when installed properly.

    I think of this idiotic idea of aluminum conductors and insurance companies as being the same with fuses. There are some insurance companies that will not issue insurance for a home that has a fuse panel instead of breakers.
    Technology has proven time and time again that a properly installed fuse is ten times safer than an inverse time breaker. Under fault conditions a fuse should open in about .008 seconds and a breaker can take as long as 2 full seconds but should open in .03 seconds. This doesn’t sound like much time but the reality of the fact is a lot, and I mean a lot more damage can be done in this short time.

    Another of these idiotic trains or thought has to do with Federal Pacific and Zenco panels. The Consumer Product Safety Commission could find no more danger in these panels than in other panels but the hype has sent these companies into a tail spin.

    Hang around for 50 or so years and listen while people then talk about how dangerous some of the installations and methods of today is going to burn you alive while you sleep. Insurance companies that will not insure our homes because of the out dated wiring methods used way back in the 2000s.

    My sister has been living in the same mobile home for several years now and she was going to change insurance companies but they wouldn’t insure her home because of its age.
  15. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    So am I. I can go into the supply house in the morning and buy #12 aluminum wire and go install this wire in a home and it pass inspection. It will be just as safe as copper.
  16. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

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    When the apprentice 'electrician' pushes the outlet into the box with his foot with # 14 aluminum wire, I would say all bets are off on a proper installation, unless you hire an armed guard for your workers.

    I cannot imagine comparing the phyics of 4/0 to 12 or 14 guage aluminum. Bend a small aluminum wire 3 times and you have 3 pieces.

    You need a vice to bend 4/0

    Then you have years of possible maintenance when a a real moron comes along and finishes off your house. Oh well, we have arc fault breakers now....

    And there are as many grades of aluminum as plastic.

    Pulled a roll of 2/0 aluminum like pulling soft rope. Another spool was like pulling rebar.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    quote; I can go into the supply house in the morning and buy #12 aluminum wire and go install this wire in a home and it pass inspection

    1. You mean your supply house still stocks #12 aluminum wire?
    2. How old is their stock since I did not think small aluminim wire has been made since the 70s, at least I have not seen any ANYWHERE.
    3. Our inspectors would reject an installation IMMEDIATELY if they saw "small" aluminum wires.
  18. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    #14 AWG aluminum??????????

    Where are you finding this stuff???????????????

    The smallest I have ever been able to find is #12 and it is only good for 15 amps and #10 good for 20 amps.

    By the way, all aluminum conductors are grade AA8800 no matter the size and the makeup is the same for 4/0 that is used for #12 so the expansion of the material during use would be the same per area.

    I have been bending 4/0 in the field for years now with my bare hands, why do you need a vise?
  19. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  20. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    Why? What code section would they quote?

    Look at the wiring tables of 310 and you will see aluminum as small as #12 still listed there. Do the inspectors make up their own rules in Arizona?
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