RACO gang box with sidecar extension to gain wiring space (C) Daniel Friedman Field Experience using the AlumiConn™ Connector for Aluminum Wiring Repair using Pigtailing

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AlumiConn™ field installation experience: making it fit.

Aluminum wiring repair procedures using the AlumiConn™ terminal block are described in this article where field experience and some installer / opinions / suggestions are made for fitting the copper-to-aluminum pigtailed splice wires back into the electrical box.

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Field Experience Using the AlumiConn™ and Copper Pigtailing on Aluminum Wire for Aluminum Wire Repairs

Plastic electrical box (C) Daniel Friedman Space to fit the pigtailed copper wires and recommended splice connectors is a critical concern during aluminum electrical wire repairs.

Our photo (left) shows an old-work plastic electrical box that can give more wiring space by added box depth in the original wall opening.

[Click to enlarge any image]

at ALUMINUM WIRE REPAIR SPLICE SPACE we discuss the wiring space problem and solutions in detail.

Using the King Innovations AlumiConn Connectors for Aluminum Wiring Pigtail Repairs

In order to understand the practicalities associated with installing AlumiConn™ connectors I have added the connectors to a small number of boxes.  From this experience I have gained some experience in the installation process, and also drawn some conclusions for the remaining work ahead. - reader contributed comments from - C.J. 9/6/2013 [Ed]

I have purchased 3-port AlumiConn™ connectors at Home Depot (the only type I found on their shelves).  I noticed sometime in the past week that King Innovations is now selling 2-port connectors and 3-port connectors. 

I think the 2-port connectors is a new product.  I will be asking my local Home Depot to please stock them.  I would also like to see a 4-port connector but so far I don't see such a product.

In the typical suburban tract house (like mine) there are somewhere between 50 and 100 electrical boxes that need to be converted.  All of the boxes are metal, and they were installed when the house was built.  The majority of the wall boxes are 3" x 2".  None of the boxes were designed to be extended. 

The walls and ceilings are covered with 1/2" drywall and the electrical boxes protrude through the drywall.   The drywall has a textured finish which was applied when the house was built.  Any wall or ceiling damage is very hard to fix due to the need to patch, then re-texture and then paint the damaged area.  It is very difficult to match the existing wall texture. 

Furthermore, a small supply of matching paint for each color in the house may not be available - thus requiring the purchase of new paint matched with a photo spectrometer.  It can also be expected to require painting the entire wall to avoid the appearance of an obvious patch.

A 12" long piece of 3/8" wood dowell works well to push electrical wires and connectors around in an electrical box.

There are a number of common electrical configurations in the boxes.  These configurations, along with some comments are as follows:

Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for Duplex Outlet Wiring Connections

1 duplex receptacle requires 3 triple port AlumiConn connectors.

Grounding of the electrical box can be done in either of 2 ways:

(1) Copper pigtailing : Two copper pigtails can be attached to the ground screw of the receptacle.  One pigtail is connected to an AlumiConn™ connector to which the ground line for the IN and OUT lines is connected.  The other pigtail is attached to the box.  In either case, the 3 triple port connectors can be pushed into the electrical box without too much trouble.

Watch out: be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommended torque settings to assure a successful aluminum wire repair. Details are at The AlumiConn Torque settings

(2) Receptacle metal strap: The outlet receptacle contains a grounding screw that attaches to a metal band.  The band holds the receptacle together and also provides the tabs by which the reciprocal is attached to the box.  Screwing the receptacle to a metal box will result in grounding the box to the receptacle. 

Watch out: method (1) described by CJ is not recommended and is not an approved electrical grounding method. There is risk that for various electrical receptacle installation conditions the receptacle screws mounting the metal trap tabs (of the receptacle) to the electrical box itself may become loose or may become loosened through use of the receptacle. The result is an unreliable ground. Don't use this method - Ed.

Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for Single light switch (single pole, single through):Wiring Connections

Requires 4 triple port connectors and 1 double port connector (for a total of 5 connectors).

In my experience so far I was able to get 4, but not 5 AlumiConn connectors pushed into the box.

This leaves me with the following (lousy) choices.  I have not yet decided which I will use.

AlumiConn torque tests by D Friedman (C) Daniel Friedman#1 - Connect the ground lines of hot in, hot out and switched-hot wires in an AlumiConn connector and leave the metal box ungrounded (not desirable).

#2 - Replace the metal box with a plastic box.  This will eliminate the need to ground the box.  I have not yet tried to remove the old box, but I think I can do this without damaging the wall.  I will need to first slightly loosen the box from the stud so that a hack saw blade will fit between the box and the stud. 

The loosening will require a properly designed crowbar (such as a leaf from an automobile leaf spring).  This may cause some damage to the drywall on the other side of the box opening. 

Hand hacksaw the nail at the top and bottom of the box that hold the box to the stud. 

Attach a piece of string to the end of each of the wires entering the box.  Loosen the screw that secures the wire to the box and push the wire into the wall, keeping the other end of the string outside of the wall. 

Remove the box from the wall by first pushing the box into the wall, then rotate it 90 degrees about a horizontal axis (push the top in, pull the bottom out), then pulling the box through the drywall opening.  Install a new plastic box using retro-fit attachment bars (sometimes called "Madison bars").

#3 - Attach a copper pigtail to the electrical box and twist all of the ground lines (3 aluminum + 1 copper) together with a "long" twist.  Apply NoAlox to the end and bind with a wire nut.  I think this is probably a reasonable practical solution, but it does not meet CPSC recommendations. [And is not a recommended repair approach for aluminum wiring - Ed.]

Aluminum Wire Repair using the AlumiConn™ for 3-way light switch (single pole, double through) wiring connections

hot in, hot out, 3-conductor switched-hot + neutral
Requires 4 triple port connectors and 2 double port connectors (for a total of 6 connectors

I know that I will not be able to make this number of connectors fit in a box.

Replacing the box with plastic (as described above) will reduce the connector count from 6 to 5.

If the replacement box is a deep box, then the 5 connectors should fit.

Other common configurations

Thanks, - C.J. 9/6/2013

Time Required to Repair Aluminum Wiring by Pigtailing with the AlumiConn™ connector

My experience so far is that conversion of an outlet box that contains no surprises (just hot in + hot out) takes about 20 minutes to convert.  This is the time from unscrewing the cover plate to getting the cover plate back on after the conversion. 

A box containing an on/off switch takes longer. 

I have also found that planning the exact placement in repacking the wires and AlumiConn™ connectors back into the box is essential.  The lack of forethought can result in re-packing multiple times - very undesirable due to "excess" re-bending of wires (I am always fearful of a break, especially of the aluminum wire) and lost time. - C.J.

Typical Pigtail Wire Lengths for Repairing Aluminum Wiring by Pigtailing with the AlumiConn™ connector

I have also experimented with the length of the copper pigtail.  I tried 3", 4" and 5". 

While there are exceptions, I think the 3" length is a little too short - it provides insufficient length to easily tighten the set screws on the AlumiConn™ connectors, and make attachment to an outlet or switch, and bend the wire around when repacking.  4" is a good length.  5" works fine, but adds more wire than necessary. - C.J.

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