Aluminum wiring concerns

dave_mnDecember 19, 2012

Doing some minor remodeling in my dads 1970 built house. It does have aluminum wiring run in flex conduit. I plan to move some outlets but havent removed the sheetrock yet to really see what I am in for. I am exxperienced in basic wiring/ciruits. I know when I am in over my head. Any suggestions on things I should be concerned with? Code requirements? Mixing copper and aluminum wiring?

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Ron Natalie

I suspect you are way over your head in addition to acting illegally. Are you sure you have "flex conduit" and "aluminum wiing?" What do you base your deductions here on? 1970 is right on the tail end of the aluminum branch circuit craze.

Your choices if you DO have aluminum wiring you have to use devices approved for aluminum. That is switches and receptacles approved for aluminum OR you have to connect copper to the aluminum. Many people and the CPSC think that some of the easier ones of those (Purple WireNuts) are NOT acceptable for such.

If you have aluminum wiring, you need professional help. This is NOT a DIY job even for those with

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 5:27PM
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Aluminum in flex? Is this a 240v circuit to a range or dryer? Most aluminum branch circuit wiring I have encountered has been 14 and 12 awg in the form of N.M. cable (romex). Be sure it is not simply tinned copper. That would look like aluminum on the outside but clearly be copper when you cut it and look at the exposed end.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 5:27PM
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Yes the ciruits are in flex conduit. It looks like aluminum but it may be tinned. I will look closer tomorrow.
The house was built in 1972 in Minnesota. I have never heard of tinned wiring. Is this possible?
When I am over my head I will admit it. Maybe tomorrow I will admit it.
Thanks guys.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 6:16PM
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Ron, I am NOT acting illegally...I havent done anything yet.
It IS aluminum. Its clearly marked AL on the insulation. Thats what I based my deductons on Ron. Yes, its in flex conduit. I wont be adding new work, just moving 2 boxes and reconnecting.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 8:14PM
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Ron Natalie

And since you are not a licensed electrician nor the homeowner, you are acting illegally.

In fact, what I told you before is even wrong given the age of your wiring.
Your only option is to use one of the two procedures for joining copper to aluminum, neither of which is likely available to you as a duffer. You need to call in a pro on this UNLESS you want to replace the Al branch circuit with copper (then we're just back to illegal rather than unsafe).

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Purple wire nuts are listed and approved for this project. I would like to see CPSC's "NOT acceptable" position on this method.

The OP is showing his due caution by inquiring before he makes any adjustments to his wiring, but someone here should have told him of the possible need for a breaker upgrade (Arc fault) if he is extending the circuits and the prohibition against burying boxes or splices if he is lengthening the run. He should be commended not scolded. He has done nothing illegal. Further, he does not say that he is not a licensed electrician or that he is a duffer.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 7:50AM
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Thank you Ron. The house IS in my name, and has been for 10 years. I will be consulting with a pro in the next few days.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 7:51AM
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Ron Natalie

CPSC has determined the Purple Wire nuts NOT ACCEPTABLE for permanent installation.

It was pretty clear that in the first post he didn't have any practical experience than electrical worker would have. Many jurisdictions allow you to hack your own single family home wiring, but he said he was doing it for a relative. If he is an owner of the house (and it is a single family home), I'll retract the comments on it being illegal.

However, given that he has properly determined that he has an aluminum branch circuit, my advice remains. He really has only TWO options.

Pull new copper cabling to the relocated outlets -OR-
bring in a professional that can do one of the listed copper to aluminum connections. Purple wire nuts neither I nor the CPSC recommends for this situation. Technically they are legal if you 100% make sure you follow the instructions in installing them. However, I'd not have them in my home or any home my friends or relatives lived in.

As for the rest, I restricted my comments to the aluminum wiring because that's all he asked about. I assumed that his "basic understanding of wiring" knew that he couldn't leave inaccessible junctions and that he'd find out if the AHJ was going to require him to upgrade to AFCI.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 9:04AM
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