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Aluminum wire in new breaker panel.

ToolNut's picture

My 1967 vintage house is wired with aluminum.  Worse yet it has a Zinsco Breaker panel.   After going to replace a DP 20 amp breaker for $50 I have decided to have the whole panel replaced with a Square D QO 200 Amp panel.   


Is it legal/appropriate to terminate the aluminum branch circuits (15 and 20 amp) directly to the breakers (with Nolox)?   Or are there Co/Alr breakers that should be used?


I've searched every way I can think of and only find discussions about the outlets and switches.  Thanks in advance for the help.


 

(post #109947, reply #1 of 14)

I am looking at the QO breaker data sheets. The 10-30 amp breakers are rated for #14-8 aluminum wire.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #109947, reply #2 of 14)

Awesome.  Thanks!

(post #109947, reply #3 of 14)

FYI: There were a couple of problems with alum branch circuit wires.  One was/is the expansion/contraction of the wire and the effect at the terminals (primarily) in the branch boxes.


The second was ductibility - some of the early alum fomulations were very brittle and broke (and will constinue to break) after just a few flexs.


Ran into a house a couple of months ago where a light push on an alum wire to see behind it caused it to break.


 


_______________________


"I may have said the same thing before... But my explanation, I am sure, will always be different."  Oscar Wilde

======================================== "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness' http://rjw-progressive.blogspot.com/ ========================================

(post #109947, reply #4 of 14)

Thanks for the heads up.

(post #109947, reply #5 of 14)

The local power company uses aluminum from the street to the back of the panel.  you might check you input.

(post #109947, reply #6 of 14)

I'm not worried about the larger feeds, just wondering about the smaller 15 and 20 amp branch circuits.    BTW you're right, it is aluminum coming off the pole.

(post #109947, reply #7 of 14)

Most breakers are rated for Cu-Al solid wires, it says on the label.

Tom

(post #109947, reply #8 of 14)

The local power company uses aluminum from the street to the back of the panel.  you might check you input.


Irrelevant - those are stranded aluminum (And are often also used for majpr appliances like stoves, central A/Cs and the like)


Single strand branch circuit alum wiring is considered dangerous by most electricians in the US (and has been the subject of major research as to how to best deal with.)


 


_______________________


"I may have said the same thing before... But my explanation, I am sure, will always be different."  Oscar Wilde

======================================== "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness' http://rjw-progressive.blogspot.com/ ========================================

(post #109947, reply #9 of 14)

Aluminum branch circuit wiring is bad news. Not the end of the world but bad.If possible rewire. This can be done in stages. Start with the circuits that get the most load. This will depend on your patern of use but kitchen circuits are usually a good start. Bathrooms, if you use a blow drier, laundry circuits, if you iron, and shop or garage circuits, if you run power tools, are also contenders.

Even on Cu/AL rated circuit breakers, or other connections, it pays to clean and treat the wire before making the connection. I, after trying many other tools, have found that a small stainless steel brush, it looks like a masochists tooth brush in shape and aproximate size, works really well. These are avalable most places, even at the big boxes, that sell welding supplies.

Rough clean by brushing the wire dry until bright. Have a rag handy. Aplly a coat of anti-oxidant. Brush again through the compound to break up the instantainious oxides and work it in. Recoat to fill voids and make the connection. It also helps, if you have the time, to give the aluminum a few minutes to relax after the initial tightening and to snug them up a final time. Often a "tight" connection will take an extra half turn once rested but don't overtighten. No need to horse it.

(post #109947, reply #10 of 14)

Thanks for the input.   I do plan to systematically replace with cu. 


As far as AL wire prep, a link from a post wayback suggested using a wet/dry sand paper, but I like the wire brush idea, it should work the antioxidant in well.


I appreciate the advise.


BTW, anybody want to buy a Zinsco panel... slightly used, one home, as is, no warranty.   Might make a good trout line anchor.    The breakers could be used for homemade Christmas tree ornaments for next year.   Or skeet practice. 


Interesting trades considered.


Bill


 

(post #109947, reply #11 of 14)

Sorry, but the breakers are way to big and heavy to be used for Christmas tree ornaments.

I have the pre-Zinsco version of that pannel. Made by GTE/Sylvania.

. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #109947, reply #12 of 14)

Don't throw those Zinsco breakers away. There are companies that can use them. They will be remanufactured and resold. Rare breakers, especially in obsolete and larger sizes, can be sold for good money. One such company that advertises that they buy breakers: http://www.ebreaker.com/

A few searches on the web or asking at an electrical supply house should give you more leads.

I had coworker sell some breakers and make a few hundred dollars. Yours are probably not worth much but you never know. You also might try selling them on E-Bay.

A remanufactured main can fetch over $400 for some discontinued 100-200A models. When you get into rarer makes and larger sizes prices can get into the thousands. Many people would be glad to spend that money rather than having to spend much more to replace a difficult panel.

(post #109947, reply #13 of 14)

Bill H,


Until you are able to replace all your wiring I would suggest that you use scotchlocks and contact solution to pigtail out with copper (I like THHN) to your devices.  The spring in the scotchlocks and the contact solution seem to deal with the expansion and the poor conducting qualities of the aluminum.  It has to be done carefully due to the space in the boxes and aluminum brittleness.

(post #109947, reply #14 of 14)

4Lorn1 - Thanks for the tip.  A buck is a buck regardless of how you get it.


Fonzie - I have been pigtailing the devices as we work through the house.  I have not been using Scotchlocks however and in the stuff I've been reading it is saying ONLY Scothlocks vs the other brand wire nuts, especially the purple Ideal one labeled for use on Al to Cu, despite its UL listing.  Therefore I will double back and carefully replace with Scotchlocks and some Nolox etc.


Thanks for the help.