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  1. #1
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    Default Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    For the past 2 or 3 years, Florida insurance carriers would no longer provide coverage on a building that had electrical conductors for the 120 volt branch wiring. To receive coverage, the property owner or buyer was required to have all the 120 branch wiring replaced with copper wiring. The average cost is approximately $10,000 to 25,000. Recently, our state owned carrier has begun to accept 2 altenative retrofits,

    1) Copper Pigtailing using the COPALUM Connector, average cost $5,000
    2) AlumiConn, aluminum to copper lug connectors, average cost $1,000-2,000

    Also, Florida Building Commission and Citizens Property Insurance(state owned carrier) are considering the potential for CO/ALR connectors to be considered as a third insurable alternative method. This method will require the electrician to make sure each receptacle, switch and fixture is rated for aluminum wiring, make sure the connection is secure and apply anti oxidation paste. This retrofit will average from a few hundred dollars to $1,000.

    The state will encourage other insurance carriers to consider these alternatives, with the intent of lower insurance cost.

    Are insurance carriers, that are doing business in other states, refusing coverage due to aluminum wiring?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Jack,

    Please help me out here.

    When installed properly, Al. conductors are as reliable as copper conductors that are installed properly. I am at a loss to understand why the insurance industry in FL can make such a demand.

    Granted, I live in Virginia now, but I did live in Boca Raton, FL. for 4 yrs. and I never heard of such a requirement, then or now.

    Even today, the NEC allows the use of AL conductors in residential environments. The grade of AL has changed over the years but regardless the NEC has allowed the use. (I believe it is series 8000 AL but I can easily be incorrect on that)

    The problem with Al. conductors was not really the conductors as much as the mismatch of copper and AL. devices.

    I guess I just don't understand what is going on. Please educate me.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Farrell View Post
    Jack,

    Please help me out here.

    When installed properly, Al. conductors are as reliable as copper conductors that are installed properly. I am at a loss to understand why the insurance industry in FL can make such a demand.

    The problem with Al. conductors was not really the conductors as much as the mismatch of copper and AL. devices.

    I guess I just don't understand what is going on. Please educate me.
    Hi Donald,
    I'm not Jack but I have to point out a few points of disagreement here.

    It may be that "When properly installed, aluminum CONDUCTORS are reliable as copper.

    BUT and this is a big BUT, aluminum installed as designed during its heyday was burning houses down (and still is).

    Now the retrofits to fix the problems with bad connections can make things better... but I have NEVER, not once seen a properly done retrofit.

    Most of the retrofit jobs I have seen have actually made the problem worse since they wrap copper and aluminum together in the same unapproved wire nut.

    But using "purple" wire nuts that were once approved (at least by the manufacturer of the wire nuts) but now have fallen on disfavor is not much better since they work on a faulty premise.

    I would not have a house with branch circuit aluminum wire.
    This means I will also call it out to my clients.

    In my opinion, the only intelligent course is a rewire to copper if you want the house to be safer and have a resale value.

    As far as why insurance companies can demand a risk be reduced, the same reason they can NOT cover people with bad driving records.

    They reduce risks in order to make money.

    Houses with aluminum wiring are at higher risk for house fires.

    If it were not backed up by the statistical evidence there would be no demand.
    Insurance companies may be the biggest scam on the block but they know their statistics.

    Last edited by Jim Luttrall; 03-25-2011 at 04:32 PM.
    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    JACK

    around here,COLORADO, the cost is $25 a cover {cover meaning receptacle and switch plates or coverhead cover} with the purple wire nut. and $40-$45 for the cop/alum crimp. but not many sparkys have the crimp device --it is expensive to rent. insurance companies will insure but higher rate, some won't, some don't care, kinda like banks.
    but i write it up like a red headed step son. i put in my report this web site and recommend letting the client or licensed electrician make the next step. The Aluminum Wiring Repair Website - How to Identify and Repair Aluminum Wiring in Buildings or go to google and pick out any website.

    Donald

    have to disagree with you on this. if you don't alarm your buyer and let them decide, you could be in trouble. agree someones aluminum branch wires could not be a problem now, but it could be later. aluminum contracts and expands. write it up as a potential safety issue.

    cvf


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    NCHILB required statement:


    Single strand aluminum wire is present on 120 volt branch circuits in this house. This single strand, branch circuit aluminum wire was used widely during the 1960s and 1970s. According to reports published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), problems due to overheating at the connections between the wire and devices such as switches, outlets, and light fixtures may have been responsible for house fires. It is recommended that the circuits using single strand aluminum wiring be evaluated and modified as may be deemed necessary by a licensed electrical contractor who is familiar with the problems inherent in this type of wiring. For more information on aluminum household wiring, refer to the National Electrical Code and the C.P.S.C. booklet "Repairing Aluminum Wiring." The toll-free hotline number for obtaining this booklet is 1-800-638-2772, or you can visit:
    http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf.



  6. #6
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    I could have worded orignial my post different. The purpose of my post, is an attempt to determine if, in other states, are insurance carriers are no longer providing coverage on houses with the aluminum wiring.

    In 2004 and 2005 Florida was hit by several hurricanes, this forced several insurance carriers out of business and many simply chose to no longer provide home insurance coverage. The carriers that remained raised their premuims in excess of 100%. In addition, they became very selective and demanding, such as not accepting houses with aluminum wiring.

    Switching gears, to inspection issues, the most common problem I see with aluminum 120 branch wiring, if the devices are not original, the replacement devices are usually not rated for aluminum conductors, the connections are missing anti oxide paste and the list goes on.

    Last edited by Jack Wingo; 03-27-2011 at 06:36 PM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    FYI
    In a subdivision on Merritt Island, FL, almost all the houses have aluminum wiring and of those houses a high percentage have Federal Pacific service panels. I try not to schedule those houses for a Monday inspections.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    First,

    Let me clarify something, please. I do not say Al wiring is the same as copper.

    I said, Al wiring installed properly is as safe as copper wiring. Just because a home was wired with Al, does not mean it is a fire trap.

    You are, the inspector, inspect. You are on site to inspect the premises. If you see the tell tale signs of conductor failure (melted insulation, dark areas around receptacles) it is your mandate to flag it and tag it.

    But to open the panel door and hey, this home is wired with Al, you need to replace it with copper is being irresponsible.

    I agree, that you would be well within your responsibilities to alert the prospective home owner that the wiring was done with AL and suggest that a more complete inspection be done by a licensed electrician because of the past history with shoddy installations, but that should be it.

    Last edited by Donald Farrell; 03-26-2011 at 10:34 AM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    But using "purple" wire nuts that were once approved (at least by the manufacturer of the wire nuts) but now have fallen on disfavor is not much better since they work on a faulty premise.
    Could you please expand on the faulty premise?

    http://www.idealindustries.com/media...compliance.pdf

    According to this link there is no flash point for the compound inside.

    http://www.idealindustries.com/media...al-cu_msds.pdf

    On a side note the CPSC does not make approvals of materials. They are not a recognized testing lab like UL.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    JIM

    Ideal will not bash there own product. remember Toyota just came out and said there is nothing wrong with their accelerator problem, yet there are dead people. and i claim to be the best golf putter in colorado, others say i stink

    cvf


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
    Could you please expand on the faulty premise?

    http://www.idealindustries.com/media...compliance.pdf

    According to this link there is no flash point for the compound inside.

    http://www.idealindustries.com/media...al-cu_msds.pdf

    On a side note the CPSC does not make approvals of materials. They are not a recognized testing lab like UL.
    The faulty premise in my mind is to twist two dissimilar metals together and cover the connection with a little goo and a wire nut is, well nuts.

    Aluminum corrodes (oxidizes) creating an insulator on the outside of the wire at the connections preventing it from maintaining a good connection.
    All a little heat and it oxidizes faster.

    Try to strap a reasonably stable metal together with one that has a great deal of movement due to expansion and cover it up with a wire nut is a faulty premise in my mind.

    I've seen lots of pictures of the purple wire nuts that are melted and charred due to overheating. I've not checked recently but it is my understanding that the manufacturer still makes them but quit marking them as acceptable for joining copper to aluminum.

    I have never seen a proper installation with aluminum wire. I'm sure it can be done, kind of like LP siding problems were because of poor installation practices... only this is something that costs lives, not a little discomfort over having to replace siding prematurely.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    The oxide inhibiter is supposed to avoid the corrosion you speak of Jim. The spring inside the #65 is supposed to have a greater ability to deal with the differing coefficients of the two metals.

    I have seen more wire nuts melted or charred involving copper than I have the #65s. Any improperly made connection is subject to failure.

    AFAIK Ideal still labels the #65 for use with AL and Cu. I do find it strange that AL/AL is not an allowable usage.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    JIM PORT

    supposed to has a lot of questionable doubts. condons is one that comes to mind. SAFE

    you need to check the various web sites and studies and then recommend to your client, what you feel comfortable in your report.

    me, i write it up and give my clients web sites to review and recommend evaluation by licensed electrician and let them make decisons. i'm covered
    WIRE NUTS AND CONDONS BOTH FAIL SOMETIMES

    CVF


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Interesting analogy. I am not a champion of AL wiring. I just do not believe in hysteria!

    Question: What is the cause of corrosion of AL conductors? Ans. Mainly exposure to air.

    Then of course there is the chemical reaction between two dissimilar metals to factor into the mix, and of course heat.

    The inhibitor insulates the AL conductor from air and (in theory at least) minimizes the effect of the two dissimilar metals.

    Electricity all by it self is dangerous regardless of the conductors being used. Copper is a much better choice than Al because of many factors.

    However, what is going to happen now that the price of Copper is climbing outrageously again? Al, will more than likely make another surge.

    I did read somewhere that series 8000 Al supposedly corrects previous concerns, but I've personally never seen any 8000 Al and if I did I probably would not know how to identify it from its predecessor.

    Personally, I present AL conductors as a concern point. To whip up hysteria over the mere presence of AL wiring is inappropriate.

    Can anyone show me where NFPA, NEC, UL or any other NRTL has taken the position that AL must be replaced because of safety concerns?

    I understand that in FL you as an inspector must inform the client that the presence of AL wiring may create an issue with obtaining insurance for the home along with a comment regarding the known problems with Al wiring, but leave it at that, unless you see something that says to you there is evidence of failures that need to be addressed by a licensed electrician.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Even with the price of copper increasing there are still prohibitions in the NEC against AL conductors in the smaller branch circuit sizes. Comments are now being taken for the 2014 edition so any change to allow small AL conductors would be quite a ways off.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Hey Guys,
    Getting back to my origiinal question! Are insurance carries in your state still providing coverage on houses with aluminum 140 branch wiring?


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Wingo View Post
    Hey Guys,
    Getting back to my origiinal question! Are insurance carries in your state still providing coverage on houses with aluminum 140 branch wiring?
    Yes, on a weekly basis in my area.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Charlie, I reference the same site in my reports and have even sent it to electricians. I think it explains everything very well. As I understand it the real problems are 1) the aluminum becoming brittle at connections from expansion and contraction and 2) the aluminum oxidizing.

    Tom Rees / A Closer Look Home Inspection / Salt Lake City, Utah

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    This is the verbage our license board gave us to put in our reports no matter if you find a problem or not.

    Home Inspection Report & Summary Page Recommended language for Aluminum Wiring.
    Single strand aluminum wire is present on 120 volt branch circuits in this house. This single strand, branch circuit aluminum wire was used widely during the 1960s and 1970s. According to reports published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), problems due to overheating at the connections between the wire and devices such as switches, outlets, and light fixtures may have been responsible for house fires. It is recommended that the circuits using single strand aluminum wiring be evaluated and modified as may be deemed necessary by a licensed electrical contractor who is familiar with the problems inherent in this type of wiring. For more information on aluminum household wiring, refer to the National Electrical Code and the C.P.S.C. booklet "Repairing Aluminum Wiring." The toll-free hotline number for obtaining this booklet is 1-800-638-2772, or you can visit:
    http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/516.pdf.
    Date Approved: January 16, 2009
    Effective Date:
    Immediately


    Mike Schulz License 393
    Affordable Home Inspections
    www.houseinspections.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Too many HIs try to solve everyone's problems.... report what you see, make a recommendation and move on.

    To answer the OP's question, I've heard of nothing in Oregon. Our SOPs specifically address AL wiring and require us to mention it's presence. Other than that it's pretty vauge. It is interesting, though, since that's pretty much the only specific item in our SOPs that we must report on. Those of you defending this wiring must know more than the actuaries and fire departments.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Aluminum Branch Wiring Uninsurable-FL

    Thank You Donald for mentioning dissimilar metals because this is the main problem and why spice devices that put the copper and aluminum together, regardless of method and/or compounds, do not eliminate the issue at hand.

    Dissimilar metals mated together cause a transfer of electrons from one material to another.

    Doing some wiring on a remodel job a looong time ago where I ran into my first AL NM cable: there was not any methods for splicing to CU as of yet so I used 'Scotches' that I filled with anti-oxhide compound.
    About a year later I think, the call came in for loss of power in the bathroom.
    Amazing, how the AL transfered itself (not melted) to the CU until the connection was no longer there: the point where the AL met the CU.
    No burning, discoloration, or trauma, just looked like somebody had cut the AL conductor off at the point where it first met the CU.
    The AL was still twisted around the CU in the wire nut but seemed to have been chemically merged together with some of the AL material missing or smaller....hope your getting the picture here.

    I decided upon myself that the only way to do over my splices in a fail safe manner was to use CU/AL rated set-screw butt splices filled w/anti-oxhide compound and tape em up good. I have performed many many of these splices to date w/o a single failure.
    This is how I instruct contractors in my jurisdiction today.


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