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We have purchased a condo home that was built in 1975. The inspector brought up the hazards of aluminum wiring. Since we have very little knowledge regarding this area we were wondering if we should rewire the entire place or if it is OK just to have an electrician pigtail? Can you please help? We just want to ensure our safety.

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    Condo? What about your neighbors? Do they have aluminum wiring? You might want to consider getting the board to issue an assessment to have the entire building/complex rewired. – longneck Aug 13 '13 at 16:34
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    Also did your inspector just bring up that dangers of aluminum or did he take the time to make sure (on at least a few examples) that it looks like it was installed correctly? – DMoore Aug 13 '13 at 17:02
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Aluminum wiring is not the fire hazard people would have you think it is. In fact it is perfectly safe and there has been studies showing that the only increased chance of fire is produced with an improper installation. This usually means that contractors using outlets or devices that are not rated for aluminum. This does cause the wire to eventually overheat at contact and expand/contract so many times that it becomes brittle and can short.

Pigtailing aluminum is perfectly acceptable. Your electrician would just go to every outlet and pigtail the aluminum with a short copper strand using a Al/Cu Wire Connector (these are usually purple for identification). This is probably the best solution for lights and other "non" outlets. For outlets you can pigtail or just connect an Al/Cu rated outlet.

However your local building code may have stipulations - mine is fine with correctly rated outlets. I have read in other places that they require pigtails and I have read in other places (an electrician driven county) that they require a rewire.

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    As an added note on what the CSPC has to say, not all purple wire connectors have been evaluated/approved by the CSPC for connecting copper and aluminum. As of June 2011, the CPSC (cpsc.gov/PageFiles/118856/516.pdf) approves of only three methods for a permanent repair: 1. Complete Replacement of Copper Cable, 2. COPALUM Method of Repair, 3. Acceptable Alternative Repair Method/AlumiConn Connector – user14416 Aug 13 '13 at 16:55
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    The only approved purple connector for item number 3 as identified by the CPSC is the AlumiConn connector (homedepot.com/p/t/…-googleads--pla-_-202889892&ci_gpa=pla) – user14416 Aug 13 '13 at 16:57
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    Part of proper installation is coating AL wire in an anti-oxidant paste, like Noalox (trade name). – gregmac Aug 13 '13 at 17:30
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    I'd also add one of the added dangers associated with AL wiring is overloaded circuits. Houses built in that time frame tended to have fuse boxes and fewer circuits. The appliances we use today are higher-power and we obviously have many more electronic devices, which can cause circuits to run near their limits, or even trip. When AL wires expand and contract they can leave an air gap, where the AL can oxidize (leading to more problems) or arc (which can cause a fire). If fuses are tripping, some people will replace then with higher-rated fuses, which is obviously totally wrong and unsafe. – gregmac Aug 13 '13 at 17:43
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    That is a good point. Whenever I inspect a house for family/friend... we do a full circuit check which takes a couple hours and 3-4 people yelling and filling out a spreadsheet. – DMoore Aug 13 '13 at 18:32
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As with all things CHECK YOUR LOCAL CODES. I work for an Electrical contractor in Florida. We currently have a contract with a townhouse community of 200 plus units built in the 70's with aluminum wire. In our case and per our code we are replacing ALL receptacles and switches with a copper rating. All receptacles have to be tamper "resistant" and GFI's are required. At least one in a bathroom provided if a second bathroom is on the same floor it feeds off of the first. (Load and line side apply) and at least one in the kitchen (again first in the home run from the breaker panel) and any outside receptacles (unless they are protected by a GFI breaker). We use purple AlumiConns WITH Noalox Anti‑Oxidant Compound in it and 14 gauge copper pig tails. We're also required to add ground wire to the switches. On average you'll need 2 two ports (2 holes with screws) per single pole switch, 3 two ports per three way and 4 two ports per four way, 4 two ports per GFI, 2 three ports per regular receptacle, and 1 three port and 2 two ports per switched receptacle.

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My house was built in 1974 and has aluminum wiring. After 45 years I have just added decorative Copper only plugs and switches using the pigtail and anti-oxidant joint compound method for hooking them up. Interesting thing is all of the old plugs and switches were copper only and they were hooked directly to the aluminum wire. I never found any of the connections that showed any signs of deterioration, oxidation or heating problems. Could this be another fantiscie of the manufacturing industry to sell more product at a higher price.

  • No, more like you won the aluminum wiring lottery :P More seriously, I suspect that all your receptacle screws were torqued correctly during installation (along with proper antioxidant use), which kept the "loosen/heat/oxidize/heat/loosen/oxidize/heat/loosen" aluminum wiring failure cycle from starting. – ThreePhaseEel Dec 10 '18 at 23:51
  • Note that purple wire nuts filled with NoAlox are still susceptible to heat expansion, which can break the pigtail apart and cause an arcing situation (different metals expand at different rates). AlumiConns avoid that problem because they are a splice – Machavity Dec 11 '18 at 15:45
  • Alumiconns are also a lug splice made of aluminum, which (as a lug) is friendly to both Cu and Al (obviously). It's the other way 'round that's trouble: copper lugs do not like Al wire. The troubles mostly have to do with using Cu-only outlets and switches not properly (hastily) cross-rated for Al. – Harper Mar 22 at 19:50

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