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When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? #216280 11/19/15 11:09 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 264
Potseal Offline OP
Member
Recently I was troubleshooting/repairing parking lot plugs in a fenced compound used exclusively by a school bus company. All of the wiring, starting right at the panel, was Aluminum. This was not an older installation and based on the overall appearance of the parking lot I'd say it was a "money saving" installation in every which way possible. It's not often I find Aluminum wiring unless it's in a house that was built in the 70's. The only time I've heard of Aluminum being the preferred choice in recent years was when I was still in school. One of my instructors said that Aluminum was a reasonable choice for residential service conductors because it's cheaper. I remember a few classmates taking issue with that comment. Anybody here use Al for certain jobs?



A malfunction at the junction
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Dwayne
Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216281 11/20/15 01:03 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,414
G
gfretwell Offline
Member
For larger feeders (2ga and up) aluminum is pretty common. I haven't seen any small conductors used for years. (early 70s)
The real problems involved screw terminations and the metal used in the screw but the reputation killed the product.
A lot has been installed, trouble free, using lugs. Aluminum wire in an aluminum lug, as most are, may actually perform better than copper.
It all has to do with the expansion rate of the 2 metals.



Greg Fretwell
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216285 11/20/15 12:16 PM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 984
G
ghost307 Offline
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IMHO - Thin Aluminum is only appropriate for siding houses and wrapping leftovers.

It has no business being energized.


Ghost307
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216287 11/20/15 10:01 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 947
T
twh Offline
Member
I don't think that Sask Power uses any copper in its feeders. Because of that, we have a pretty good history that aluminum feeders aren't a problem.

Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216289 11/20/15 11:14 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,123
HotLine1 Offline
Member
Pot:
Are you saying that you have devices wired with Al conductors, or are the repairs in the feeders???

Over the years with tools, I had a few issues with Al conductors (#4 & #6) that were installed for parking lot lighting circuits. Deterioration from the water (UG) over time caused burnouts, and it was a PITA to make repairs.

Cracks or scratches in the insulation allowed corrosion, and over time...burnout and fry the PVC conduit.

Budget saver when installed originally, but a budget buster on repairs.




John
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216291 11/21/15 05:22 AM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 886
N
NORCAL Offline
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I don't like AL for anything under 100A, either AL or CU conductors will have problems if installed improperly.

Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: HotLine1] #216298 11/21/15 05:36 PM
Joined: Feb 2013
Posts: 264
Potseal Offline OP
Member
Originally Posted by HotLine1
Pot:
Are you saying that you have devices wired with Al conductors, or are the repairs in the feeders???

Over the years with tools, I had a few issues with Al conductors (#4 & #6) that were installed for parking lot lighting circuits. Deterioration from the water (UG) over time caused burnouts, and it was a PITA to make repairs.

Cracks or scratches in the insulation allowed corrosion, and over time...burnout and fry the PVC conduit.

Budget saver when installed originally, but a budget buster on repairs.




The repair was all over. The Al neutral feeder had come loose at the first pedestal, closest to the panel, and as a result it was creating the inevitable whacky voltages further down the line. Even the receptacles themselves were connected with Al and they weren't Al rated devices. Some of those connections were broken but not obvious. Overall a real messy install that I thought was done to save money.


A malfunction at the junction
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Dwayne
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: twh] #216299 11/21/15 09:01 PM
Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,335
S
sparkyinak Offline
Member
Problem in the post was the aluminum strands were thin and round thus would get smooched, even with proper touquing. I don't use aluminum wire for branch circuits but have used compact aluminum wire for feeders.

Nice thing about compact aluminum is the strands are not round but shaped in a manner so there is no gap in between the strands plus are much thicker so they stand up better when torque. Generally you do not have to use larger conduit in order to get the same ampacity as its copper equal.

With Aluminum back ground, it's a hard sell. I'll use it for residential feeders and that's about it.


"Live Awesome!" - Kevin Carosa
Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216308 11/22/15 02:26 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,459
T
Texas_Ranger Offline
Member
Al was used extensively all over Eastern Europe until at least 1990 and I'm talking as small as 2.5 mm2 (slightly larger than 14 AWG). Sometimes with crimp splices, more often with screw terminals. Problems are far and few in between, particularly with DIYers stuffing aluminium and copper into choc blocks. I once looked through a 1970s place with a mix of Al and Cu (but never under the same screw and all socket circuits were copper, only the lights were Al) and there were no obvious problems. I did re-tighten some screws but that's what I'd expect in any install of that age. The Al alloy used for domestic wiring does break more easily than copper and has to be treated with care. In Austria Al was only used for a brief period during WWII so any you'll find is well past its best-before date anyway. Currently Al is limited to 16 mm2 and up by the regs and only used for large feeders, always with crimp splices and by trained professionals.

BTW, the Germans are very happy with Wago connectors and 2.5 mm2 Al (loads up to 16 A), provided the connectors are filled with their Alu Plus paste or vaseline.

Re: When would you choose Al over Cu for an install? [Re: Potseal] #216311 11/22/15 02:57 PM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,414
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gfretwell Offline
Member
Considering the hype, it amazes me how many million houses built in the late 60s and early 70s that didn't burn down wink



Greg Fretwell
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