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ELECTRICAL INSPECTION, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR
ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS
Aluminum Wiring Summary Page for Public Use
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Cadet & Encore Heater Recall
CIRCUIT BREAKER FAILURE
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FIRE SAFETY Checklist, CPSC
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SIEMENS MURRAY Recall
VOLTS / AMPS MEASUREMENT EQUIP
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ZINSCO / SYLVANIA HAZARDS
Aluminum wiring repair procedures using the AlumiConn terminal block are described in this article where field experience and some installer / opinions / suggestions are made for fitting the copper-to-aluminum pigtailed splice wires back into the electrical box. Readers should be sure to see ALUMINUM WIRING REPAIR METHODS and ALUMINUM WIRE REPAIR SPLICE SPACE.
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Field Experience Using the AlumiConn™ and Copper Pigtailing on Aluminum Wire for Aluminum Wire Repairs
Space to fit the pigtailed copper wires and recommended splice connectors is a critical concern during aluminum electrical wire repairs. Our photo (left) shows an old-work plastic electrical box that can give more wiring space by added box depth in the original wall opening. At ALUMINUM WIRE REPAIR SPLICE SPACE we discuss the wiring space problem and solutions in detail.
Using the King Innovations AlumiConn Connectors for Aluminum Wiring Pigtail Repairs
In order to understand the practicalities associated with installing AlumiConn connectors I have added the connectors to a small number of boxes. From this experience I have gained some experience in the installation process, and also drawn some conclusions for the remaining work ahead.
I think the 2-port connectors is a new product. I will be asking my local Home Depot to please stock them. I would also like to see a 4-port connector but so far I don't see such a product.
The walls and ceilings are covered with 1/2" drywall and the electrical boxes protrude through the drywall. The drywall has a textured finish which was applied when the house was built. Any wall or ceiling damage is very hard to fix due to the need to patch, then re-texture and then paint the damaged area. It is very difficult to match the existing wall texture.
Furthermore, a small supply of matching paint for each color in the house may not be available - thus requiring the purchase of new paint matched with a photo spectrometer. It can also be expected to require painting the entire wall to avoid the appearance of an obvious patch.
Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for Duplex Outlet Wiring Connections
The hot in, hot out, 1 duplex receptical.
Requires 3 triple port AlumiConn connectors.
Grounding of the electrical box can be done in either of 2 ways:
(1) The outlet receptical contains a grounding screw that attaches to a metal band. The band holds the recptical together and also provides the tabs by which the recptical is attached to the box. Screwing the receptical to the box will result in grounding the box.
(2) Two copper pigtails can be attached to the ground screw of the recptical. One pigtail is connected to an AlumiConn connector to which the ground line for the IN and OUT lines is connected. The other pigtail is attached to the box. In either case, the 3 triple port connectors can be pushed into the electrical box without too much trouble.
Watch out: be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended torque settings to assure a successful aluminum wire repair. Details are at The AlumiConn Torque settings
Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for Single light switch (single pole, single through):Wiring Connections
hot in, hot out, switched-hot + neutral
This leaves me with the following (lousy) choices. I have not yet decided which I will use.
#2 - Replace the metal box with a plastic box. This will eliminate the need to ground the box. I have not yet tried to remove the old box, but I think I can do this without damaging the wall. I will need to first slightly loosen the box from the stud so that a hack saw blade will fit between the box and the stud.
The loosening will require a properly designed crowbar (such as a leaf from an automobile leaf spring). This may cause some damage to the drywall on the other side of the box opening. Hand hacksaw the nail at the top and bottom of the box that hold the box to the stud.
Attach a piece of string to the end of each of the wires entering the box. Loosen the screw that secures the wire to the box and push the wire into the wall, keeping the other end of the string outside of the wall. Remove the box from the wall by first pushing the box into the wall, then rotate it 90 degrees about a horizontal axis (push the top in, pull the bottom out), then pulling the box through the drywall opening. Install a new plastic box using retro-fit attachment bars (sometimes called "Madison bars").
#3 - Attach a copper pigtail to the electrical box and twist all of the ground lines (3 aluminum + 1 copper) together with a "long" twist. Apply NoAlox to the end and bind with a wire nut. I think this is probably a reasonable practical solution, but it does not meet CPSC recommendations. [And is not a recommended repair approach for aluminum wiring - Ed.]
Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for 3-way light switch (single pole, double through) wiring connections
hot in, hot out, 3-conductor switched-hot + neutral
Replacing the box with plastic (as described above) will reduce the connector count from 6 to 5.
If the replacement box is a deep box, then the 5 connectors should fit.
Other common configurations
Thanks, - C.J. 9/6/2013
Time Required to Repair Aluminum Wiring by Pigtailing with the AlumiConn™ connector
My experience so far is that conversion of an outlet box that contains no surprises (just hot in + hot out) takes about 20 minutes to convert. This is the time from unscrewing the cover plate to getting the cover plate back on after the conversion.
A box containing an on/off switch takes longer.
I have also found that planning the exact placement in repacking the wires and AlumiConn™ connectors back into the box is essential. The lack of forethought can result in re-packing multiple times - very undesirable due to "excess" re-bending of wires (I am always fearful of a break, especially of the aluminum wire) and lost time. - C.J.
Typical Pigtail Wire Lengths for Repairing Aluminum Wiring by Pigtailing with the AlumiConn™ connector
I have also experimented with the length of the copper pigtail. I tried 3", 4" and 5".
While there are exceptions, I think the 3" length is a little too short - it provides insufficient length to easily tighten the set screws on the AlumiConn™ connectors, and make attachment to an outlet or switch, and bend the wire around when repacking. 4" is a good length. 5" works fine, but adds more wire than necessary. - C.J.
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