Aluminum Wiring Pigtail Issues


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Hauer Power Aluminum Wiring Pigtail

Hello Edmonton and welcome to a great electrical read about aluminum wiring pigtails

Today we wanted to give you the opportunity to learn all that you may want to learn about aluminum wiring, and aluminum pigtail adaptations.

Most people know by now that aluminum wiring can be very unsafe. There is a lot of truth to aluminum wiring pigtails being unsafe but here we want to break it down and let you make the educated decision for yourself.

The first problem with aluminum wiring is oxidation.

One of the biggest issues with aluminum wiring is when it rusts and oxidizes. When copper oxidizes it also forms a film however this film is conductive electrically and does not pose a risk. The oxidization of aluminum however as an element results in a white resistive film that forms around the conductor.

This white resistive film that forms around the aluminum wire is hazardous as resistance creates Heat and eventually can start a fire. Fire is even more likely with this wiring due to the aluminum cabling commonly being wrapped in a paper insulation.

 Even with such a common problem with aluminum wiring there is a common solution. The common solution for aluminum wiring and oxidation is an antioxidizing paste. There are various brand names for this antioxidant but it is readily available and helps to prevent the oxidation of aluminum wiring.

 A second big problem with aluminum wiring is known as creeping.

Aluminum wire has more expansion and contraction due to temperature change. As with anything in nature things  expand when they Heat up. aluminum wire is no different however when it is secured under a screw and it expands and contracts it can easily creep out from under its connection.

Creeping can be a very dangerous concern with aluminum wire because if an energized wire were to lose connection and make contact with the box or the ground this could cause a short circuit or other deadly scenarios.

Thankfully there is yet another solution to the creeping problem of aluminum wire. This is known as copper pigtailing,  or aluminum pigtailing. What is involved in this solution is the previously mentioned oxidation paste as well as a rated aluminum connector. aluminum connectors come in a few different variations but they all serve the same purpose.

Different Rated Connectors

A classic solderless wire connector such as a marrette is typically rated for copper use only. There are specific wire connectors that are rated for aluminum to Copper connections and these are the ones that would be required. the common colorations are brown or purple. There are also some connectors with screw terminals in them.

The abbreviation to look for to know if something is rated for aluminum use are the letters Al.  oftentimes it is combined al/cu. These abbreviations simply come straight from the periodic table for the elements of aluminum and copper.

Another well-known issue with aluminum wire is that it is not as conductive as its copper counterpart.

It is well known that aluminum wiring is not as conductive as copper wiring. This is reflected in tables 1 through 4 of the Canadian electrical code book, as well as throughout other sections. The rated ampacities of aluminum wiring are simply less than that of copper wire. Scientifically speaking aluminum is 61% conductive compared to copper, which is a considerable amount more, which can reach up to 100%.

For example in an older home with aluminum wire you would likely find it to be wired with 12 gauge aluminum  for a 15 amp circuit.  should that circuit have been wired with copper wire it would be set at 14 AWG which is a smaller wire than 12 AWG.

This sizing of conductors being different is still applied today with aluminum wire. Believe It or Not aluminum wire is still prevalent in almost every home but typically on the utility wire side coming from your home’s exterior Transformer that feeds the houses in your neighborhood.

Aluminum wire is still very common with larger cable. it can also be used safely when installed correctly especially for utility cabling or large terminations. A large problem with aluminum wiring and why it is not used for small Branch circuits in a home is what we will get into below.

A major Disadvantage of aluminum wiring is that it is a much softer metal than the copper alternative.

Aluminum is a softer wire than copper therefore it is more brittle and is more prone to knicks, scrapes and eventually breaks. Wires Breaking Inside your wall is a major issue considering the risk of fire. This reason alone is enough for many people to want to get rid of aluminum wiring in their homes.

In addition to being a softer metal aluminum is also weaker when it comes to Its ability to be pulled tightly. Copper has a higher tensile strength than aluminum meaning that it can be pulled tighter before breaking and can withstand greater torsion than aluminum.  

While it’s safe to say that no one is playing a tug of war on the wires in your home it does mean a potential for future problems. If there were any issues with the installation of the aluminum wire it may lead to broken and hazardous wiring in the future. 

Aluminum is less desirable as a conductor due to its elemental nature.

Originally aluminum wire was used because it was more cost-effective than copper. As time went on however it’s weaknesses began to show through and many homes and people suffered the consequences.

As these consequences were seen solutions were provided. One of the solutions that came in the late 1970s and is still in effect today was the use of aluminum alloy. Oftentimes metals will be built as an alloy to strengthen or improve their use as a product.

Aluminum wire that is available nowadays is the product of aluminum combined with other metals. This way the oxidization of aluminum can be further mitigated as well as the weak, soft and brittle aspects of aluminum wire.

Aluminum wiring is known to be effective and safe when used in many large conductor applications.

As a conclusion however it is clear that aluminum wiring does not hold a safe place in our homes and buildings. It can develop into a hazardous situation and is widely considered as a severe safety hazard.

If you have any aluminum wiring in your home that has not been safely corrected by an aluminum adaptation, give our team a call and find out how we can help make your home safe. As your Edmonton Electrician, we are here to give you the power!