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  • Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

    I’m redoing one of the rooms in the basement and putting a new bathroom beside it. The house has aluminum wiring and I’m wondering whether to replace the wires with copper since I have the wires exposed. I was using a power saw in the basement and while using it the lights were flickering, which probably means a loose wire somewhere ~ additionally, now when I turn on the lights they go off occasionally for hours at a time.

    As a result I plan on replacing the fuse panel and all of the switches and outlets in the basement room and the bathroom. Is it worth the money to replace the wiring as well? Does it make sense to do it in just one room and one bathroom and leave the rest of the house aluminum?

    Also, is it worth going with a 200amp panel? The house is small (1500 sq ft), I have a gas furnace and I plan on getting a gas dryer in a few weeks. I have an electric stove and washer, A/C, two or three computers running at the same time and I will be using a power saw or a router occasionally.

    Thanks,

    Kris

  • #2
    Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

    There is nothing wrong with PROPERLY installed aluminum wire, that said I have rarely seen it installed correctly. There are specific receptacles and switches that are rated for aluminum wire, pull one and look for an AL with a diagonal line through it, if it has one like pick below it is not rated for aluminum wire and must be replaced (even these spec grade devices are note rated for aluminum). You must also use anti-corrode paste on ALL connection points (tube in pic). That said, my guess is that with all the flickering and lights going off you have a few connections where the wires have cooked the insulation to the point of ash an inch or more back from the connection point. In this case if the installer was good (unlikely since you have arcing) he would have left some slack in the power lines in the walls/roof and you could pull good wire into the box and strip back to the point that the insulation is still untouched by heat damage.
    If this is not possible you will need to replace the wire. Please pull the wire from box to box and don't just splice in the wall or even in a box in the wall that will be covered, both are against code, the first is a fire hazard.
    I would suggest you pull every device in your house and check for aluminum rating and the condition of the wires, add anti corrode and reinstall with new wire nuts and or devices.
    IMO 200A is way overkill on a standard house with gas heat. I have it in my new house because I am running 100A out to the external shop and it only cost me $500 to upgrade at the time of install, you may want to check with your power company on the cost of upgrading the wire from the pole/transformer before you decide.

    Last edited by wbrooks; 10-16-2007, 01:22 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

      I personally if it was my house would replace the 10 gage and smaller aluminum wire, and use copper as the replacement.
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      • #4
        Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

        Absolutely agree but wanted to dispel the myth that Aluminum is evil

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        • #5
          Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

          Aluminum = Really do need NOALOX or equiv and proper connectors and wiring devices.

          Changing over to copper = Less to worry about and thus peace of mind. Also in some areas the use of aluminum wiring indoors has been banned and insurance companies will argue (with lowered horns and loads of BS) that they will not pay for any damages related to aluminum indoor wiring.

          As others have stated, aluminum wire is not evil, it's when you use it with other metals and don't use proper chemical treatments. In addition never mix iron and aluminum and moisture.

          By the time you upgrade connectors and wiring devices to those made for aluminum wiring and also use NOALOX, it may end up less trouble to just be rid of the aluminum wiring inside and replace it with copper.

          Something that needs to be addressed is that for a given gauge size like #12 is that copper can handle slightly more current with less heat buildup.

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          • #6
            Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

            Originally posted by Siwy View Post
            I’m redoing one of the rooms in the basement and putting a new bathroom beside it. The house has aluminum wiring and I’m wondering whether to replace the wires with copper since I have the wires exposed. I was using a power saw in the basement and while using it the lights were flickering, which probably means a loose wire somewhere ~ additionally, now when I turn on the lights they go off occasionally for hours at a time.

            As a result I plan on replacing the fuse panel and all of the switches and outlets in the basement room and the bathroom. Is it worth the money to replace the wiring as well? Does it make sense to do it in just one room and one bathroom and leave the rest of the house aluminum?

            Also, is it worth going with a 200amp panel? The house is small (1500 sq ft), I have a gas furnace and I plan on getting a gas dryer in a few weeks. I have an electric stove and washer, A/C, two or three computers running at the same time and I will be using a power saw or a router occasionally.

            Thanks,

            Kris
            Mostly I agree with everyone else..A couple points tho..1 if it truely is a fuse panel I doubt its rated for Al wiring as breakers were already in use before Al house romex was used..atleast In my travels I never saw a household type fuse panel rated for use with Al...2 part of the problem with Al romex is the use of the outlets the ..plugging in and out over and over will over time help loosen the screws holding the wire to the device.Also its very hard to get and keep tight an Al connection...you can tighten it come back in an hour tighten a bit more and usually more yet the next day,the bigger the wire size the more forgiving it is in this,Al just isnt as resilient as copper.Also copper is much more forgiving if there is a hot spot created from a slightly loose connection,I agree that I rarely ever saw it installed correctly..most they never bothered to nolox the wire nuts and connections on those smaller sizes.Also if you live anywhere near the ocean,ie within a couple miles,that salt air and Al just dont get along for electrical work.
            Personally I'd replace every bit of it you have access to as nearly for sure if you dont now you will in the future.I always hated doing service calls to fix the Al romex..even folding the wires into the outlet box can loosen it on the device screws.My own personal houses and buildings I never ever used it at all for anything.Doing regular construction we usually only used it for the run for the range and never once had a problem with it used here but a range is rarely unplugged in and out too.Rarely locally would we even use it for the riser feed to the utility connection..mostly that was because the larger riser conduit needed cost more then the price difference in the wire.
            Just my 2 cents Sam

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            • #7
              Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

              I should add that in my area the only common use of aluminum wire anymore is overhead outdoors. They even got away from using it as service entrance cable and ThreeCreeks tells why as connections would come loose and then there would be arcing and much heat resulting in fires. As for fuse boxes and aluminum wire, that is spelling trouble. If this is an older house are you sure it really is aluminum wire?

              Some copper wire may be tinned and has a silver look to it.

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              • #8
                Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

                We have found the problem for the flickering lights. It is one of the two main cables coming from the electric meter. You can see a dark/burned spot where the wire is connected to main power switch in the fuse box. When I turned on the power-saw, there were sparks!

                The fuse box is definitely going out. I will also replace the aluminum wire where the walls and ceilings are exposed. Especially, since my last trip to Home Depot where all of the light-dimmers and the nice looking light switches and outlets are not aluminum rated.

                Now I just need to find a good, licensed electrician to replace the fuse box…

                Thanks for a lot of good information.

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                • #9
                  Re: Replacing aluminum wiring and fuse panel

                  BTW, another misconception people have is that breakers are "better" than fuses. This is definitely not the case. Fuses are actually safer, since they have a shorter trip threshold than breakers. They also are not prone to malfunction like breakers- when they are overloaded they work. I've seen breakers in panels in high humidity basements that failed to trip.
                  The main problem was branch circuits; most fuse panels weren't large enough to add additional runs, so they were replaced with panels with breakers.

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