Anyone seen these new copper/aluminum connectors out there? Know anything about them? I have a friend who is doing some re-modeling in his home and he wants to make sure his connections are safe. He is asking me about them, but I’ve not seen them before.
There have been several discussions here about these. It is probably as good a solution as there is if you have the room in the box for them. They are as good as the heavily hyped Copalum
I did a thread search, but didn’t see any references. Got any links?
I agree with Greg. These are a good alternative to the Copalum crimps, and don’t require any special training or “certifications.”
The only down-sides (if you will) is that these aren’t an “irreversible” connection and they require that the installer provide proper torque, which requires the proper tool. Homeowners or other unqualified personnel may be inclined to disregard the torque requirements rather than purchase a torque-driver.
I got a baggie of these for free from a salesman, but I keep forgetting that I have them. I’ll have to give them a whirl one day. They are bigger than they look on an internet picture, so they’ll fill the box up pretty quick. As with any aluminium termination, the use of a torque screwdriver is an absolute must. Furthermore, if an electrical contractor is installing these, his torque screwdriver had best have recent verifiable calibration as a simple CYA move. The calibration date of the torque screwdriver should be recorded on the invoice and any other paperwork associated with the aluminium job.
There is an alternative approved torquing method. Which doesn’t require a torque wrench.
Just follow the directions.
P.S. The only way to make solid branch wire 100% safe is to remove it, so there is a risk associated with everything. Including crossing a street or eating, or even sleeping.
Huh? The directions clearly specify a torque value for each gauge size. You really have no choice but to use a torque screwdriver, unless you happen to have a calibrated wrist.
Don’t have a calibrated wrist, but I do have the ability to read the whole page. Check out section labeled “Manufacturer Approved Alternative Torque Method” Now it’s only for solid wire, but that’s the only aluminum wire I’m VERY concerned about.
What does that last sentence mean? Does it mean the device looses UL approval if that method is used?
The listing is given based on use of the proper tool. That sentence pretty much says it all - it’s not a listed connector unless it has been properly torqued.
You got it. Plus, the NEC, 110.3(B) requires electricians to install equipment in accordance with its listing and labeling. In a nutshell, it is to be installed exactly the way the UL evaluated it, or the product is basicly being misused. The manufacturer can approve a given method, but unless the UL evaluated that alternate method, it’s a non-UL compliant use of the product.
You could use a radiator hose clamp to hook a ground wire to a pipe and it might do a fine job, but the UL never evaluated radiator hose clamps for grounding use. This is just a parallel example.
Question: Are CO/ALR devices avaiable, or are they hard too find?
They seem to be more available in areas where aluminium branch circuit wiring was commonly installed in the day, and less available where aluminium wiring was not ever commonly installed. The ready availability concerns me some, since the mis-application of a co/alr device or fitting can create more of a hazard than leaving the device alone in the first place.
That’s about the only place I can find them in my area as well. I very rarely need a co/alr switch or receptacle, since there is little aluminium wiring in our area. Not much point in the regular electrical suppliers stocking them. Anything can be ordered off the 'net for delivery in a couple days, so it’s really no big deal.
I think CO/ALr is a perfectly acceptible retrofit for aluminum wire. The IAEI had a couple guest speakers from Alcan (pitching the new MC with the internal aluminum bonding conductor). They also had a presentation on aluminum wire explaining the difference between the original 1350 alloy wire we had so much trouble with and the current AA8800. They had samples of both. The new stuff is a lot harder and “springier” than copper so you don’t have the same problems with it squeezing out of the binding screw.
The other thing they explained was the CO/ALr device. The major difference is the metal in the screws. They use a brass screw instead of steel, that tracks the expansion of aluminum a lot closer than the steel, even better than the copper connections we like. In fact in an aluminum lug (the silver ones you see everywhere) aluminum has been demonstrated to work better than copper.
I would really like to hear a story about a properly installed CO/ALr device failing at the binding screw, so far I haven’t.
BTW when I heard this pitch the first thing that came to mind was that they were trying to reintroduce aluminum branch wire. EEEEK!
Truth is, it was fairly safe, or it would have mandated for removal like k&t is in some areas. The real problem was operator error.
This is why electricty is the 2nd largest cause of home fires, even without solid branch al wire. Penny wise, dollar-stupid home owners.
If they do, I’d take it in my next house. With what copper prices are doing these days, it might be a good savings and I believe from everything I’ve read (and you echo this in your post) that they’ve worked the kinks out of the alloy and the terminations.
It sure is easy to blame an aluminum wire fire on the wire itself… I’m sure there’s lots of copper fires, but nobody would blame copper wire…they’d blame the workmanship or whatever the defect was.
I lived in a place with aluminum for a while (high-rise rental), and actually a lot of what I saw made me really uncomfortable. Back-stab outlets (original and AL-CU rated so maybe ok at the time), non co/alr stuff, wires barely wrapped around screws, and connections to copper pigtails with ordinary wirenuts. Basically a patchwork of bad workmanship from a “maintenance man” or maybe a previous tenant. Some of it looked like it had been there a while. I was surprised at how well it held up under such bad workmanship. In the end, I didn’t stay, and that was a big reason. However I can’t say I would’ve worried any less were it copper. Bad is bad!
(If you’re wondering what made me pop a plate off in the first place, some of the outlets there were a weird vintage I’d never seen before so I popped off the plate to see what they were, saw the aluminum, and checked everything else out).
Anyways, back to my point, I would definately be willing to trust a new aluminum wire product. Besides, my current house (2004) is all backstab copper work (lowest bidder I assume) and some of the circuits have a fairly high VD under 1.5kW load… from ~123v down to 108v (14% ish)… mind you, the circuit is quite long (and measured from the very end recept.), but it still seems high. There’s some clock radios on it and other low load stuff so i’m not particularly concenred about it at the moment. But if the VD is mostly from backstabs, I can’t imagine aluminum on screws would do worse… even the old stuff. You can always do regular VD tests on AL wiring to see if it changes due to high resistance connections developing.