GFCI breakers for Al wiring

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TKM wrote:

For which panels are those available? I've been told that the Siemens breakers are both GFCI/AFCI and believe that to be the case (based on personal experience - I posted before about a "ground fault" through a USB cable causing my AFCI breaker to trip) but a) I can't find documentation of same and b) I was also told that the GF protection was at an "equipment protection" level not a "personnel protection" level (I believe 30 mA vs 5 mA, but I'm going off memory here) therefore it wouldn't meet the intent of the Code.
I do agree, however, that AFCI protection does not seem to be an entirely bad idea with Al wiring. FWIW I've had the AFCI in for several months now and have experienced no nuisance trips, only the trips caused by the USB issue mentioned above.
nate
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You might want to wait a while yet. As I understand it, current AFCI's only protect against parallel arcs, where there is an arc between hot and neutral (or ground), without the load being in series, and the current spikes are high.
The arcs you get from deteriorating aluminum connections are series arcs, in series with the load. Even with a high load like a toaster or a microwave oven, the arc current spikes can't exceed the full load current of that appliance. So these arcs are harder to detect, and current AFCIs are not designed to do so. And so you won't get any protection from arcing connections.
Future AFCIs are supposed to detect series arcs too. I'd wait until they appear if you don't have to install AFCIs now.
    Dave
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On Fri, 13 Apr 2007 02:37:36 +0000 (UTC), snipped-for-privacy@cs.ubc.ca (Dave Martindale) wrote:

You're teh first one to explain this to me. Of course I never asked anyone, but still, thank you.

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Not just bedrooms, but *all* branch circuits? The only AFCI's I've seen so far are twice the width of a standard 15 A breaker, so that's going to cause a lot of problems with panel space on upgrades. My own house panel could fit one or two AFCI's if they replaced existing 15 A breakers, and then it would be full.
    Dave
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I believe that the current specification for AFCI breakers requires them to have a GFCI function, but STR the GFCI function spec is 30ma instead of 5ma in regular non-AFCI GFCIs.
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Chris Lewis,

Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
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There seems to be a heck of a lot of detailed information on dealing with aluminum wiring here:
<http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.htm
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--Tim Smith

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Yup, but still nothing about the GFCI issue. I did find a link to the new "AlumiConn" connectors which look like my best option for pigtailing. Of course, now I have to make sure they didn't use any #14 wire anywhere....
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Amuninum wire is such a pain I would seriously consider fishing new wire.

It will specifically say so like with other outlets and switches.
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Yeah, it would figure that copper prices are through the roof again at the moment.

A GFCI *breaker* will say so? I already gave up on a GFCI *outlet* in lieu of an appropriate pigtail solution. I don't see any distinguishing Al-compatible markings on the existing breakers...
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wrote:

What's the issue with pigtailing within a breaker box? Seems *far* easier than pigtailing within an outlet box - no space issues to mess you up.
nate
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wrote:

an
wire.
wired
Breakers are marked/spec'd Al/Cu if applicable. AFAIK GFCI breakers are no exception. How does the wiring look at the existing breaker connections? Any sign of overheating? I got to tell you I would not have Al wiring in a house of mine even a rental. If I were buying I would demand a big offset on the price to compensate for it too. Just too many known problems. If I were somehow stuck with it I would bite the bullet and replace ASAP. Peace of mind alone is worth it. Do it a circuit at a time whenever you have to work on one for some other reason if that's the only way and drop any 20A breakers to 15A on renmaining Al circuits for added safety. I think the NEC now requires 15A on Al circuits anyway.
Example of breaker rating/markings:
<http://ecatalog.squared.com/fulldetail.cfm?partnumber=HOM115
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Hmm, I can't seem to find anything marked Al/Cu at the local home improvement amusement parks. I do find several which specifically say to use only with copper wiring. I'll pay a visit to a contractor supply this week, they will probably have a better selection.

Yeah, I'm going through room by room and checking every outlet, switch and fixture. Any 20A breakers on a 12awg Al circuit will be replaced with 15A breakers. I'm also expecting to encounter 14awg to the bathrooms and will be dropping new wire there. I already found one example of aluminum nutted to *stranded* copper on a lighting fixture... that got me moving on the whole thing. I'm hoping it won't be requiring enough work to necessitate a permit, but it could go either way at this point.
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snipped-for-privacy@mail.win.org wrote:

I would rather pigtail to copper and connect the copper to the breaker, as in N8N's post. The breaker connection is probably heated by the breaker trip mechanism, and heat cycling with aluminum is not a good idea. Aside from that, I don't see any advantages in direct connection. In any case, I would use the connection procedures in http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.htm
UL fixed aluminum expansion problems with new alloy aluminum and CO/ALR devices. But most of the installed aluminum branch circuit wire is probably "old technology". (Aluminum oxidation is a problem with new and old wire.)
-- bud--
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Yeah, I've been using that as a rough guide, they've omitted mention of the "normal" CO/ALR butt splices sold at Home Depot and such though. So I'm not sure where they fit into the whole scheme, but I suspect they're about as good an idea as the purple wire nuts also sold there (which is to say, not at all).

Yeah, in my case it's silver-colored wire through and through, so it's not the copper clad type aluminum that is supposed to be safer. Thus requiring scraping, anti-oxidant, and a thermally-safe fit at every connection.
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In general, what is reasonable to buy at Home Depot, and what should be bought from an electrical supply company?
For example, if I want to replace an outlet, or a switch, is one of the cheap ones from the bins at Home Depot OK? If not, how about the more expensive boxed ones there?
How about wire, cable, conduit, wire nuts, and things like that?
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Tim Smith wrote:

Anything with a brand name (Leviton etc.) and marked "spec grade" is as good as the "good stuff" from the supply house. Might be more expensive, but that's another issue.

see above...
nate
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wrote:

Generally speaking you can probably beat the supply house on a lot of common homeowner type stuff at the home depot. What you don't get is service and things that are not as common. The price break at a supply house will not kick in until you are a "case price" customer who spends enough there to get on the "good customer" price sheet. They don't want to compete with home depot for the homeowner market.
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snipped-for-privacy@mail.win.org wrote:

>>http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.htm

I don't know what your "normal butt splices" are. Butt splices join wires end-to-end with a sleeve which is usually crimped to the wire.
The only listed splice devices for aluminum branch circuits I know of are Alumiconn, as in gfretwell's post, and purple Ideal 65 wirenuts. Alumiconn is new and looks real interesitng. In the research done for the CPSC, the Ideal 65 didn't work better than other wirenuts with antioxide paste, and had flamability issues. I think that is in alreduce.htm. Scotch doesn't make wirenuts listed for aluminum. But Scotch is recommended by alreduce.htm based on the extensive testing done for the CPSC.
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"Normal" butt splices as opposed to the COPALUM splices that require a special tool.

OK, so currently my Al mitigation plan is: - Use Scotchlok spring nuts according to the instructions in alreduce.htm (scrape, no-alox, pre-twist) wherever solid aluminum mates to solid copper - Use Alumiconn e.g. on fixtures with stranded copper or where space is an issue - Replace any 14AWG aluminum wire - Replace any 20A breakers on 12AWG aluminum circuits with 15A breakers - On switches and outlets, replace with new CO/ALR devices - Pigtail to copper for GFCI outlets in baths, kitchen, laundry, or similarly install GFCI breakers if I can find them for my panel - Have an electrician check the connections at high voltage appliances and the service drop - Keep my eye out for the feasibility of series fault AFCIs as they become available
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Do you actually have any 14 AWG aluminum? Was it ever used for branch circuits? Similarly, was 12 AWG ever used for 20 A circuits?
I thought aluminum was always required to be 12 AWG for 15 A.
    Dave
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