Grounding AL wired outlets


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Old 06-17-16, 08:43 AM
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Grounding AL wired outlets

Hello all,

Discovered this forum whilst searching for some answers about some other wiring stuff and thought you all might be a great resource. I recently bought a home that still has AL wiring on the main floor in every room except the kitchen appliances. AL is common in this area for a bunch of homes.

First thing I noticed was the decora outlets which immediately threw an alarm that either this person had no idea what copper only means, or they decided they'd just splice copper to the aluminum because they have no fear of a fiery death.

Turns out, this person was both. Some outlets just ran AL straight into the copper only outlets. Others have copper spliced, with regular wire nuts, to the AL. So I set about correcting this travesty with the right outlets until I can run copper lines.

Issue I have is the ground wire is attached to the outside of the metal box with a clip (which also means no ground was even run to the decora outlets) and I'm not sure how to address this correctly. If I just hook the hot and neutral to the switch and screw it into the box, it will read correct with my Sperry tester. I'm pretty sure that's a false reading cause there's no ground except screw to metal box. Is that correct?

Also, would it be correct for me to run a ground wire from outlet to box with another metal clip? There's almost no way for me to access the ground wire already attached without cutting some drywall.

Thanks for any help.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 09:06 AM
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If you use receptacles that are marked as "self-grounding", they will be properly grounded just by being mounted to a grounded metal box. I don't know off the top of my head if there is a self-grounded receptacle that is also rated for aluminum. You may have to special order so the Leviton or Cooper Wiring Devices catalogs would be a good place to start.

Standard receptacles need a grounding pigtail wire between the box grounds and the device ground. A second ground clip is a reasonable choice in this case.

You also may want to look into the AlumiConn connectors. These are a relatively easy way to DIY work with aluminum wire. The best fix (aside from complete replacement) is the crimp system from Tyco, but that requires you to hire a manufacture certified contractor to install.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 09:56 AM
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Welcome.
Aluminum aside, your metal boxes don't have a tapped hole for a ground screw?
Most metal boxes do.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 11:22 AM
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Brian, the tapped hole in steel boxes is a fairly recent innovation, maybe less than twenty years old. Boxes in 1970s construction (the era of aluminum wiring) definitely did not have a tapped hole for the equipment grounding conductor.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I ordered 13 Co/Alr receptacles from Amazon and almost certain they aren't self grounding. I'm guessing the tester is giving off the false reading of correct even though the ground is open due to the metal box.

I'll have to take a closer look inside the boxes for a tapped hole for a grounding screw. I was mainly searching for the ground wire and finally realized it was attached with a clip to the outer, right side of the box. Not sure you can find aluminum ground wire anymore, so am I ok using a bare copper grounding even though rest of outlet is AL?

I've looked at the alumiconn connectors and I'll have to use those on the GFCI's this crazy person hooked AL to. Only issue with those is I'll need 3 for each box and they take up space. Not too big a deal except my last place had a bunch of zwave outlets and switches and I'm planning on doing the same here. Those connectors take up too much space with the increased size of the zwave receptacle. I have access to the basement and the attic, so a rewire won't be extremely difficult.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 12:04 PM
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The tester is showing a real ground, in that the receptacle is actually connected via the metal screws. The issue is how many amps that ground path can realistically handle in a fault situation. A weak ground will show fine on a tester but may not function adequately during a fault. Self-grounding devices make the connection to the box at high enough integrity to meet code for equipment grounding.

Bare copper ground is OK.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 01:03 PM
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Awesome. Looks like noalox and some grounding wires should at least help me sleep at night until I can get a rewire done. I wouldn't be so concerned if one of the receptacles hadn't already almost caught fire. At least the basement is all copper.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 04:00 PM
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Not sure you can find aluminum ground wire anymore, so am I ok using a bare copper grounding even though rest of outlet is AL?
Like ibpooks has stated, use copper ground wire. I'd secure it to the box with another ground clip, thjey are available at box stores.

I'd go back to the realtor and ask again to see owner's disclosures. By law, the owner must disclose known defects when selling a house.

AL is common in this area for a bunch of homes.
There are areas all over the state where aluminum wiring was pretty commonly used in the mid 60s through the mid 70s, but I doubt it is any more prevalent than in other states. I am just curious, what area are you located in?
 
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Old 06-17-16, 05:55 PM
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An unused clamp hole can be used for a ground screw. They are the same thread size.
 
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Old 06-17-16, 08:54 PM
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The owner disclosed aluminum wiring, but they didn't state they had spliced copper to aluminum with regular write nuts. We also requested a licensed electrician look at the electric and check the outlets because I knew at least 2 had aluminum. We were supposed to receive receipts at closing. We were told by our closing agent it was done. I stupidly didn't pull off an outlet during final walkthrough because we were rushed to close. Turns out the guy fixed it himself and claimed he was a retired electrician. Didn't find out until after closing.

Not sure if there is anything we can do now. Feel like if we were told it was done then we were mislead by both our closing agent and the seller. They broke the contract but dunno.

Live in St Louis, MO. Several suburbs are still completely aluminum as they've never been forced to update.
 
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Old 06-20-16, 08:00 PM
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We also requested a licensed electrician look at the electric and check the outlets
For future reference, there is no individual licensing of electricians in Missouri nor is there individual licensing in St. Louis County, St. Louis City or St. Charles County and City so there is no such thing as a licensed electrician here. Here electrical contractors must be licensed by the city or county and only licensed contractors can take out permits with the exception of homeowner permits that allow limited electrical work to be done by homeowners. Electricians must work for a licensed contractor under their license. FYI, there are a few municipalities that have all their own inspectors and issue their own permits, but most contract permits and inspections to St. Louis County and they have the most stringent standards and conduct a very strict by-the-book inspection.

Several suburbs are still completely aluminum as they've never been forced to update.
Yes, municipalities within the county such as Ballwin, Chesterfield, Maryland Heights, Creve Coeur, Des Peres, Manchester, Bridgeton, Hazelwood and Florissant have a lot of homes with aluminum wiring. There are many more too, but those are the major ones in west and north county.

Your best source for materials to deal with your issues such as AlumiConn connectors, grounding clips and grounding pigtails is Lowes. Home Depot has some of the materials, but I am not sure they stock the AlumiConn connectors yet. There are Lowes stores in or near all of the municipalities I listed. Right here on this forum is your best source of information if you have any questions.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 07:49 AM
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Electricians must work for a licensed contractor under their license.
I don't understand this, can you give an example?

Why can't the Electrician be both the Electrician and Contractor?
 
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Old 06-22-16, 10:02 AM
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Thanks for the info casualjoe. Had no idea about the licensing in MO. Speaking with a few people to see if the contract was broken when the wiring wasn't really looked at by anyone but the homeowner and even the could outlets replaced were still with copper only.

I actually saw the alumiconn connectors at home depot. Had packs of the 3 and 2 in a few different amounts. I'm leaning toward just running copper. Almost 100% sure I could get everything wired and leave the runs labeled and waiting for an electrician to connect to the panel. Not sure if that would run afoul of some stupid code that doesn't allow DIY electric runs.

After lots of reading, I'm extremely confident in the runs to all the switches and outlets. Especially with access to the attic and basement. The panel still slightly frightens me lol
 
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Old 06-22-16, 07:49 PM
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Almost 100% sure I could get everything wired and leave the runs labeled and waiting for an electrician to connect to the panel. Not sure if that would run afoul of some stupid code that doesn't allow DIY electric runs.
The question might be can you find an electrician to connect the work you performed? The electrician would have to assume liability for your work. Many contractors would not want to assume that liability, but perhaps you can find one that will. Technically, you can legally do that work yourself and take out the proper permit for it if you first go to Clayton and take the homeowner's test. I have head it isn't too difficult.


I don't understand this, can you give an example?

Why can't the Electrician be both the Electrician and Contractor?
It's actually pretty simple. If you are an electrician you cannot practice your trade unless you work for a licensed contractor OR become a contractor yourself and get licensed. There has to be a license holder of record to take out a permit. The license holder can be the owner of the company, an engineer working for the company or any other employee such as a project manager working for the company. Let's assume you work for 1234 Electric and are the license holder. If you decide to quit your job then 1234 Electric is basically out of business. Getting a license isn't as simple as applying and paying a fee. There are requirements that must be met just to be eligible to take the test such as having served a 4 year apprenticeship plus a certain number of years working in the trade under a license holder. I believe a degree in electrical engineering also is an option rather than the apprenticeship and working in the field. In addition, just to take the test there are insurance and bonding requirements that must be met. It isn't a simple process to get an electrical license.
 
 

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