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  1. #1
    Lynn Petrie's Avatar
    Lynn Petrie Guest

    Default Aluminum Wire in service panel

    It has been awhile but what remarks or comments would you put in your report about aluminum wiring.

    I was inspecting a service panel today - 200 amp service and two different circuit breakers (20 Amps) had alumium wiring going to them.

    Is this defective or a maintenance item ? Is it a fire hazard? What do you write up , not to scare the buyer or seller

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    How old is the house? Are you sure they were aluminum conductors and not tin coated copper? If aluminum, there have been a couple of threads recently on this subject.
    Maybe the buyer needs to be scared?

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  3. #3
    Lynn Petrie's Avatar
    Lynn Petrie Guest

    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    house is 160 years old and how do you tell the difference in tin coated or aluminum wire


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Aluminum is aluminum through and through.

    Tinned copper is copper on the inside.

    Look at the cut end of the wire, if all you see is aluminum looking, it is aluminum, but if you see copper in the center, then you have another problem to worry about - the copper conductor was tinned (coated in tin) to reduce the reaction caused by the copper and the rubber insulation, and the rubber insulation is likely dried out.

    For aluminum wiring, read the other thread, lots of good information there.

    For tinned copper (and rubber insulation) about the only solution is to re-wire those circuits with newer (from about the 1940s/50s on to today) thermoplastic insulated wiring.

    Neither is a 'good thing'.

    While I've never seen any used in house wiring, during the aluminum wiring time period, there is copper clad aluminum - it has the same problems as regular aluminum and the same amp ratings as aluminum. It will look like copper but will have an aluminum center.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Tin coated

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    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  6. #6
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Good pic of Aluminum wire.

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  7. #7
    Lynn Petrie's Avatar
    Lynn Petrie Guest

    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Thanks for all the replies and pictures. It was definitely aluminum wiring.


  8. #8
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Here is what is suggested by the NCHILB...


    " Aluminum wire is evident on 120 VAC branch circuits in the subject house. This single strand, branch circuit aluminum wire was used widely during the 1960s and 1970s. As per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, problems due to overheating at the connections between the wire and devices (switches / outlets) may have been responsible for fires. It is recommended that the electrical system be evaluated by a fully licensed electrician. For further information on Aluminum wiring go to CPSC Home Page."



  9. #9
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Lynn,

    Does this look familar?

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  10. #10
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Lynn,

    What Rick H. just posted above is a No-Ox type anti-oxidant that should be accompanied at aluminum connections.

    One visual difference in determining aluminum vs tin-coated cu is the aluminum is a shinny finish (think American Airlines aircraft skin) whereas the tin plate finish is a dull (leaning toward gray) finish that is an electro-plated finish.

    See any difference in these two conductors??

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  11. #11
    Shannon Guinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Lynn,

    What Rick H. just posted above is a No-Ox type anti-oxidant that should be accompanied at aluminum connections.

    One visual difference in determining aluminum vs tin-coated cu is the aluminum is a shinny finish (think American Airlines aircraft skin) whereas the tin plate finish is a dull (leaning toward gray) finish that is an electro-plated finish.

    See any difference in these two conductors??

    Richard, I was recently corrected on another forum that anti-oxidant compound is not required by the NEC and I noticed that you stated "should be accompanied at aluminum connections" I have always used Noalox at any aluminum connections (which were few, I'm a copper guy myself) but I do "suggest" that it is used on any service that I inspect that utilizes aluminum conductors. I always check the panel cover for manufacturer's instructions as well, sometimes they will say to use anti-oxidant compound. Just for the record I have never liked aluminum because of it's tendency to be less than reliable and seems to loosen up at the lugs moreso than copper. IMHO.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Sorry to open up an old thread, but while reviewing the draft SOP for Texas, I noted they have included that we must report on the lack of anti-oxidant paste. While it is recommended and I currently report when it is lacking, is this really in the NEC or other recognized standard or is it just folk-lore as a requirement?
    Thanks, Jim

    BTW if any TX inspector is interested in the proposed SOP, drop me an email and I will forward what I have.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Jim,

    This reference may be useful January-February 2006: Aluminum Building Wire Installation and Terminations 

    Scroll down BOLD

    Aluminum Wire in the NEC
    The National Electrical Code has permitted the use of aluminum wire since 1901, a mere four years after the first recognized national electrical code was published in 1897.4 This is remarkable considering that aluminum had only been commercially feasible in large quantities since 1889 with the combined improvements in refining alumina from bauxite (the Bayer process in 1889) and producing molten aluminum from alumina (Hall-Heroult process in 1886).5 By comparison, many sources indicate that copper has been used for thousands of years, and the modern electric system only began in the 1880s.

    The NEC has required aluminum alloy conductors for branch-circuit wiring (12–8 AWG) since 1981. The Code never explicitly prohibited aluminum building wire; however, there was a period in the early 1970s when UL withdrew the listing for aluminum building wire and revised the listing to require aluminum alloy conductors.

    During this process, there was no listed aluminum building wire available except remaining stock. Today’s “new technology” aluminum building wire is made of AA-8000 series aluminum alloy. These alloys were developed in the late 1960s and were listed and manufactured beginning in 1972. At about the same time, CO/ALR devices were required for aluminum wire branch circuits and listed by UL. These devices were developed to be used reliably with 10 and 12 AWG conductors and must have brass screws.

    AA-8000 series aluminum conductors were first specifically required by the NEC in 1987. The language has remained virtually unchanged since then, and can be found in the 2005 NEC Section 310.14. AA-8000 series aluminum alloy conductors have physical properties that are significantly different from the previously used AA-1350 aluminum conductors. To identify these conductors in the field, look for the designation “AA-8XXX” in the legend on the conductor or cable assembly; these are the only type of aluminum building wire conductors that are UL listed.

    AA-8000 series aluminum alloy building wires are manufactured according to ASTM B-800. In the U.S., they are generally compact stranded according to ASTM B-801. Compact stranding reduces the diameter of the conductor by 9–10%. Compact stranding allows conductors to be installed in smaller conduit than their compressed stranded equivalents. Equal ampacity AA-8000 aluminum and copper conductors can usually be installed in the same size conduit. Annex C in the 2005 NEC has a separate set of tables for determining conduit fill when using compact stranded conductors. These tables apply equally to compact stranded aluminum or copper conductors. Each table for compact stranded conductors is designated by an “(A)” following the table number [i.e., Table C.1(A)]. Table 5A is a separate table of conductor properties for compact aluminum conductors and is located in chapter 9 of the NEC.

    Although many changes were made in the aluminum conductors used for building wire, industry changes in connectors are equally significant. In 1978, UL issued a standard for connectors for aluminum building wire. This standard, UL 486B, contained much more rigorous testing methods than had previously been required. Today, UL 486B has been combined with UL 486A and the combined standard contains requirements for both copper and aluminum wire connectors.

    Industry Standard Installations
    Beginning in 2005, the NEC has started referencing through fine print notes the National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS), a new series of standards published by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). One of these standards is NECA/AA 104-2000, titled “Recommended Practice for Installing Aluminum Building Wire and Cable.” According to the foreword of NECA/AA 104-2000, the standards “define a minimum baseline of quality and workmanship for installing electrical products and systems.”6 This standard was jointly developed with the Aluminum Association. NECA is currently in the process of developing an equivalent standard for installing copper building wire.

    Installing aluminum building wire requires the same process as installing copper building wire. The insulation should be stripped from individual conductors using tools manufactured for the conductor type and insulation type, or by standard methods such as penciling or whittling the insulation from the conductor. Never “ring cut” the insulation since you risk nicking the conductors inside. One common perception regarding aluminum building wire is that it is more susceptible to breaking when nicked than copper building wire. This opinion is based on experiences from “old technology” aluminum wire that was made of AA-1350 or EC grade aluminum prior to 1972. The EC grade wire then available was 99.5% pure aluminum, hard-temper and was more notch sensitive than copper building wire. This is no longer true since AA-8000 aluminum alloy building wire is a fully annealed aluminum alloy conductor that is very strong and flexible.

    Where terminating with a compression connector, the bare conductor should then be inserted into the connector barrel and crimped with the tool recommended by the connector manufacturer. Compression connectors are generally marked with the required die size. After the crimping process is complete, any excess oxide inhibitor should be removed from the conductor.

    If terminating a conductor with a set-screw connector, the bare conductor should be wire brushed and an oxide inhibitor applied to the bare conductor. The screw should then be tightened using a torque wrench or torque screwdriver. Using these tools will insure that the connection is tightened to the torque value recommended by the connector manufacturer. Over tightening the screw can be as detrimental to the long-term performance of the connection as a loose connection. Many electricians believe that “the tighter the better.” Unfortunately, over tightening can lead to damaged conductors and connection points.


    Proper tightening (torqueing) is essential to achieve a reliable connection. Once the proper torque is achieved, there is no need to go back and re-tighten the lug after a period of time with AA-8000 series aluminum alloy conductors. However, all electrical connections should be periodically inspected in accordance with NFPA 70B.7

    Last edited by BARRY ADAIR; 03-20-2008 at 12:29 AM.
    badair http://www.adairinspection.com Garland, TX 75042 TREC # 4563
    Commercial-Residential-Construction-EIFS-Infrared Thermography
    life is the random lottery of events followed by numerous narrow escapes

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    From Barry's link.

    See my BOLD and underlining.

    Oxide Inhibitor
    Oxide inhibitor use is considered good workmanship for all 600-volt terminations
    , whether wired with copper or aluminum conductors. The oxide inhibitor provides a barrier at the connection point that excludes moisture and other potentially damaging environmental substances. Oxide inhibitor must be compatible with the conductor type. Different manufacturers make compounds that can be used with copper only, aluminum only, or both copper and aluminum. Be sure to choose the compound listed for the application. Compression connectors often come pre-filled with the appropriate oxide inhibitor. When connectors are tested for compliance with UL 486B, the conductor is prohibited to be wire brushed or abraded, and oxide inhibitor may only be used if the connector is pre-filled with the antioxidant. Therefore, mechanical set-screw terminations are tested without wire brushing and oxide inhibitor.
    According to the UL GuideInfo (UL White Book) for wire connectors (ZMVV), oxide inhibitor for aluminum or copper wire may be used if the connector manufacturer recommends its use on the connector documentation. Oxide inhibitor is of the most value when making connections between uncoated copper and aluminum. This type of connection is subject to galvanic corrosion when in the presence of an electrolyte. Since most lugs today are made of tin-plated aluminum, galvanic corrosion is limited except in the case of severe electrolytic environment or significant damage to the connector plating.

    I.e., oxide inhibitor is "not required", but is "good workmanship".

    If we started reporting on "good workmanship" ... our reports would never end.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    This has been SOP for TREC report as long as I can remember

    (7) report as in need of repair the absence of appropriate connections, such as copper/aluminum approved devices, pig-tailed connections or crimp connections; and the absence of anti-oxidants on aluminum conductor terminations

    So there ya go Jerry our neverending report

    badair http://www.adairinspection.com Garland, TX 75042 TREC # 4563
    Commercial-Residential-Construction-EIFS-Infrared Thermography
    life is the random lottery of events followed by numerous narrow escapes

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Thanks Guys, this confirms my suspicion.

    Since it is in the SOP, there is probably a strong push to leave it in, but it seems there is no standing for this as a requirement. Seems that we should leave the establishing new rules to the code writers and stick to having the SOP align with what is currently on the books.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Another area to be concerned with may be the inability to get home owners insurance.


    1/3/2008
    We are pleased to consider coverage requests for homes 30 years old and older. To determine if your client’s home
    meets our underwriting guidelines, we require a 4-Point Inspection. The inspection, signed and dated by the inspector,
    must be on company letterhead or a pre-printed form. The inspection must have been completed within the past year
    and must, at a minimum, include the following information:
    • Inspector’s Credentials:
     The inspector must have an active affiliation with at least one of the following organizations: NACHI,
    ASHI, FABI, HIAF, or NAHI
     If licensed, include the license type, number, and state of issue
    • Electrical System:
     Type of wiring and metal, i.e., copper Romex®
     Size of service in amps and is this service size sufficient for the home?
     Overload Protection: Circuit breakers, fuses, or both. FPE breakers present?
     Condition and estimated remaining serviceable life
     Year and description of any updates to the system
    • Plumbing System:
     Supply and waste lines are of what materials?
     Condition and estimated remaining serviceable life of pipes
     Year and description of any updates to the system
     Water Heater: age, type, location and condition
    • Heating System:
     Type and fuel, i.e., electric central heat and air
     Age of the furnace/heat exchanger
     Condition and estimated remaining serviceable life
    • Roofing System:
     Roof cover is of what material(s), i.e., composite shingles, concrete tile
     Number of layers (if shingles)
     Age of roof cover
     Condition of roof cover and estimated remaining serviceable life
     Condition of soffit and fascia and estimated remaining serviceable life
    Please include the inspector’s photographs with your request along with your name,
    contact information, HomeWise agent ID, insured’s name and quote number.
    If you use a Replacement Cost Estimator other than ISO HomeValue, please submit the RCE with your 4-Point.
    Inspections and RCEs may be faxed to (813) 200-3632 or emailed to uw@homewiseinsurance.com.
    Remember, our guidelines for the minimum rebuilding cost for homes 30 years old or older are:
     Rebuild cost no less than $300,000 in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach & Pinellas Counties
     Rebuild cost no less than $175,000 in the remainder of state
    1/3/2008
    Partial list of unacceptable exposures, regardless of home’s age
    This list was not intended to be an all-inclusive list of unacceptable exposures. Other concerns
    may arise based on the content of the inspection report that could result in a decline of the application.

    ELECTRICAL:
    Any active knob & tube wiring
    Less than 100 amp service
    Any active aluminum Romex® or similar aluminum cable
    Aluminum branch wiring (aluminum service wiring is acceptable)

    Overload protection with plug-type or type S, SL, T, TL, W or circuit breaker fuses
    FPE Panels
    PLUMBING:
    Polybutylene pipes
    Lead, cast iron, or clay supply lines
    Galvanized steel supply lines (unless inspector indicates no reduced water flow or rust)
    Tank style water heaters over 15 years old
    Active leaks
    HEATING:
    Portable heaters as primary heating source
    Furnace/heat exchanger over 15 years old
    Primary source of heat must be controlled by a wall-mounted thermostat
    ROOF:
    Layering of shingles
    Rolled asphalt or composite roofs
    Metal roofs (raised-seam or standing-seam roofs are acceptable)
    Wood shingles or wood shake roofs
    Asbestos shingles
    Asphalt or composition shingle roofs greater than 15 years old
    Damaged roofs, patched roofs, roofs in need of repair or in poor condition
    Damaged or missing soffit or fascia
    FOUNDATIONS:
    No open foundations
    No homes built on stilts (unless compliant with 2001 FBC)

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
    www.magnuminspections.com
    I still get paid to be suspicious when I got nothing to be suspicious about!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    From Barry's link.

    See my BOLD and underlining.

    Oxide Inhibitor
    Oxide inhibitor use is considered good workmanship for all 600-volt terminations
    , whether wired with copper or aluminum conductors. The oxide inhibitor provides a barrier at the connection point that excludes moisture and other potentially damaging environmental substances. Oxide inhibitor must be compatible with the conductor type. Different manufacturers make compounds that can be used with copper only, aluminum only, or both copper and aluminum. Be sure to choose the compound listed for the application. Compression connectors often come pre-filled with the appropriate oxide inhibitor. When connectors are tested for compliance with UL 486B, the conductor is prohibited to be wire brushed or abraded, and oxide inhibitor may only be used if the connector is pre-filled with the antioxidant. Therefore, mechanical set-screw terminations are tested without wire brushing and oxide inhibitor.
    According to the UL GuideInfo (UL White Book) for wire connectors (ZMVV), oxide inhibitor for aluminum or copper wire may be used if the connector manufacturer recommends its use on the connector documentation. Oxide inhibitor is of the most value when making connections between uncoated copper and aluminum. This type of connection is subject to galvanic corrosion when in the presence of an electrolyte. Since most lugs today are made of tin-plated aluminum, galvanic corrosion is limited except in the case of severe electrolytic environment or significant damage to the connector plating.

    I.e., oxide inhibitor is "not required", but is "good workmanship".

    If we started reporting on "good workmanship" ... our reports would never end.

    Hi Jerry,

    Carried over from a different thread. I agree, the anti-ox is not required but is best practice / good workmanship.

    Corey


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Aluminum Wire in service panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    Since it is in the SOP, there is probably a strong push to leave it in, but it seems there is no standing for this as a requirement. Seems that we should leave the establishing new rules to the code writers and stick to having the SOP align with what is currently on the books.
    "Seems that we should leave the establishing new rules to the code writers and stick to having the SOP align with what is currently on the books."

    Agreed.

    I asked Corey to reply to this thread, being prepared to be knocked over the head and told I was wrong, but thinking that he would confirm what "I knew" (or thought I knew) was correct.

    Whew! I didn't get knocked over the head.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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