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I currently have a light switch with stranded aluminum wire wrapped around the screws with electrical tape over over the screws and wire ends. It controls all 3 of my outdoor lights.

I want to install this timer. Is it possible? And does stranded aluminum work like copper as in there is one hot and one neutral in this case? Old switch Old switch again

  • 1
    Can you shoot a picture of what's in the box? "Stranded aluminum" could mean more than one thing. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 31 '19 at 21:30
  • 4
    That looks like tinned stranded copper to me, not aluminum. – brhans Jan 31 '19 at 22:00
  • Well that certainly would make more sense. So now the question is, if I can just proceed as if this were normal copper but wrap it with electrical tape as they've done before? – bee Jan 31 '19 at 22:10

There are two separate questions here:

Timer Installation

This particular timer has connections for:

  • Line - This should be the hot wire coming into the existing switch.
  • Load - This is the currently switched hot wire going from the switch to the lights.
  • Neutral - This is NOT normally connected on a plain (not timer, not dimmer, not "smart") switch. In newer installations it is required to be in the switch box. But it might not be in an older installation, in which case you have to find it, if it is available, which it might not be!
  • Traveler - This can be ignored, unless you have a 3-way switch (a second switch somewhere else controls the same lights as the switch you are replacing).

So the basic timer installation is easy, provided you have an accessible neutral.

Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring is generally not used for low current (e.g., 15A and 20A circuits for residential lighting and receptacles). Depending on the type of wire, it may be "OK, but need to make sure it is compatible with anything you connect it to" or it may be "really nasty stuff that should be ripped and replaced." I can't guess what you have. A few things that might help us figure this out are:

  • How old is your house? Where are you located (city/state/country)?
  • Is there any writing on the outside of the wires (i.e., codes that might tell us exactly what kind of wire you have)?
  • Are all the wires in your house aluminum, or just a few?

In addition, pictures of the current switch with its wires attached, as well as the model # of the new timer, may be helpful in figuring out what to do.

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  • Thank you, I've added a picture of the wire in question. My house is 25 years old and all other wiring (to my knowledge, I've replaced many outlets) is copper. I am in Upstate NY. Will post timer model in a min once I can find it. – bee Jan 31 '19 at 21:41
  • A 25-year-old house in the US would not normally have any aluminum wiring to lights/receptacles. The "tinned copper" mentioned by brhans seems much more likely to be the case. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jan 31 '19 at 22:15
  • Ok. Yes it does make more sense. I added a new picture to the original post. Does it look like there is a neutral in the box? – bee Jan 31 '19 at 22:19
  • It looks like there are a whole bunch of whites in the back of the box. If they are wire nutted together then they are almost definitely a batch of neutrals and you can pull neutral from there. However, if there are multiple separate groups of neutrals then you have to make sure to get the one that is for this switch and not the other switch. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jan 31 '19 at 22:33

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