Episode 36 – STOP USING NOALOX ON ALUMINUM – putting pookie on aluminum wire

Have you, like me…and many other electricians, been using NOALOX on your aluminum wires for years? We’re going to go over why it’s not necessary except in specific situations – 4 of them evidently.

 

I’m guilty of this too…so let me just get that out there right now. For years I’ve been dunking conductors in this bottle and getting a fat layer of goop on the ends of my terminations without reading the bottle (manufacturer’s specs) about how it’s supposed to be used. I’ve just gone by whatever my boss had told me to do. Most of our bosses, though, have been wiring shit since the beginning of time and if the didn’t hear any different, they’ve just been doing what they’ve always done.

NOALOX

NOALOX is an anti-oxidizing compound that helps prevent the formation of oxides on the outside of a conductor. No. Aluminum. Oxidization – NO.AL.OX. Before the 60’s we’d been using actual aluminum wire for conductors, and the very nature of aluminum is that it’s a very reactive material – especially when introduced to air or moisture. It wasn’t until the 80’s that manufacturers perfected a few alloys to use in wire, that started to curb this issue.

 

GALVANIC ACTION

Galvanic action occurs when two dissimilar metals come in contact with one another for an extended period of time. It more refers to when an ACTIVE metal comes in contact with a REACTIVE metal. What happens is, over time, these conductors start to “eat away” at one another. Using an anti-oxidizing compound around the conductors helps to minimize this “rusting out” of the conductors where contact is made. This is why a lot of these No-ox brands say “for use with aluminum to copper, and aluminum to aluminum terminations.”

 

AA8800 ALUMINUM

AA8800 aluminum is what’s used in MOST of today’s aluminum conductors. I did say most, not all. There are some conductors and cables on the market that this is not true for, so you do need to use caution when deciding whether or not your conductor requires the use of a no-ox or de-ox compound. But most conductors used are now made of an alloy (a mixture of metals into a new type of metal) that doesn’t react to galvanic action or air and water corrosion like standard aluminum does.

 

HOW TO APPLY IT

Another thing MOST people do is install this stuff incorrectly to the conductor. There are manufacturer instructions that must be followed when installing almost everything in the electrical trade, because there are codes and standards that require it. The instructions for a lot of these compounds require you to:

1) clean the conductor off with a wire brush or emory cloth

2) apply noalox freely to both the conductor and the connector

3) assemble joint and wipe off the excess

I bet if you did a poll out there and asked all electricians about this method, at least 75% of them have no clue this is required, nor do they do it. The reason for this is that there’s no NEC code article that talks about using it or not using it. It’s just a commonly-used method, or “rule of thumb.” But 110.14 states (paraphrasing here) “where a compound is employed, it must be used correctly,” and 110.3(B) says (again…paraphrasing) – any materials used must be used to manufacturer specs/instructions.

 

WHERE TO USE IT

There are still places where it’s a good idea to use NOALOX, so I’m not saying DON’T EVER USE IT AGAIN. There are places where corrosion is highly likely, for instance near the ocean. Water and air mixed with salt can corrode many types of metal near the ocean, so using this compound does not hurt – and probably helps quite a bit. The problem in these locales is often that all of the rest of the metal inside the panel – lugs, bolts, bus-bars, all of it – are still going to oxidize…so at least protecting the terminations you make is a wise plan.

Also when an AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) like a city inspector calls for it, or has a code written that requires it – you have to do what they want unless you can argue your way out of it with logic…but you may have better luck growing a third hand. Lastly there are pieces of equipment that are made which call for the use of these compounds. Not many these days, but they do exist. In this case you do need to install the equipment to spec per code.

Lastly, certain conductors are not made of aa8800 aluminum alloy so you need to watch what kind of conductors you’re installing to make sure you shouldn’t be using a compound like this. NEC 110.14 still does say that since dissimilar metals degrade one another, using the correct materials to ensure they’re not intermixing, must be adhered to.


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**Disclaimer – These videos are for training purposes alone, all work done on electrical systems should be done by a licensed and insured electrical contractor.  If you are not an electrician, do not attempt any of the work you are seeing in these videos.**

 

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Comments

Shane C.Smith says

Hello my friend i can appreciate what you do and im sure that you help hundreds if not thousands of people in or out of the trade . Myself i have been pulling wire since i was about 15 im 50 now. I hate say this about myself but im "old school" now i guess and once youv’e been around you will certainly hear grumblings about how things use to be or how bad ass a particular old school guy was in his prime compared to todays young whipper snappers. Point of reference when i started cordless tools were almost non existant . Makita had the only drill and they were way past exspensive. Your best friend was a scratch all ,doubt many people know what one is or how to use it but i can tell you i developed very strong hands due to the fact all screws had to be hand turned with the exception of plug, switch screws, and plate screws for that u could use a swivel screwdriver and 6-32 and 8’s were all common or slotted no phillips or combo phillips square head. Anyway back to pookie my favorite thing to put on the inside rim of someones steering wheel or gas cap door to show how much you loved your fellow grunt. For me actually seeing the results of URD or triplex that has been ravaged by oxidation and the actual hazard that happens i still apply this stuff better safe than sorry im not smart enough to know all the alloy compositions of every type of conductor and yes years ago on a lunch break i was bored and read the directions on the back of the tube right before applying it to my favorite jerkymans steering wheel. In all my years ive never seen a fail however this mysterious substance was applied. I alway considered that was an out by the manufacturerer if the aluminum failed with the pookie on it. If anything it adds extra insulating to the conductor . If youv’e ever seen houses wired with aluminum where the outlets start to turn the color of the sun you learn how temperature affects aliminum more than copper or copper clad materials. It will expand and contract and eventually at some termination point especially the nuetral side of a receptacle the wire will be loosed and a dangerous situation occurs and since they always used #10 it had to be wrapped on a screw as opposed to when outets wires could be stabbed in the back which also is a favorite spot for trouble. Ive seen where URD or triplex direct buried was knicked accidentally and the oxidation caused the wire to balloon up into a huge ball before it failed. Of course you wouldnt put pookie on it there but it is an example of oxidation. For me the best option is not to use aluminum at all if possible. People i worked with that counted every wire nut on a job would always try to use it as service entrance conductors , jumper wires , for subfeeds ect.. why use an inferior product in the electrical system especially at the point where the highest loads are present. Anyway my rant ive worked in some cities that absolutely forbid it anywhere except for the power company. I respect your expertise and i conceed that you are cprrect in wht your saying 100%. However my experience still leads me to err on the side of caution . Which unless you have exstensive knowledge of each and every conductors metallurgical composition or if per chance you were an alchemist or if the wire manufacturers recomendation was to never use pookie on aluminum i would advise people to keep using albeit properly. It says usually that u should apply the product with a wire brush or emory cloth meaning make sure its clean (conductor) and so is the connector in case any oxidation was previously present. Not that scoring each individual part is scratched on an brand new piece of wire. Anyways that would be y advice. Not to argue or try to show you up thats just my opinion based on my experience.I believe every apprentice needs to have a nail apron as well as a pair of gloves and knee pads before spending money on a high dollar test instrument. I always kept green hands away from energised equipment for a good while until they knew some basic pricipals and had come to respect its power. Usually they are taught the hot wire is dangerous and not the dangers of the nuetral. Dare i say (ACCIDENTALLY) completeing a lighting load on the nuetral side of and energised circuit is more hazardous than breifly touching a single hot wire that is energised. Sorry your the teacher here. Shane "old school" from Texas.

Dustin Stelzer says

Thanks for the comment my friend, I don’t disagree with you. I think I’m splitting hairs with people here but always over-protecting and err-ing on the side of caution is definitely a good habit to practice. I’m not the end-all-be-all most knowledgable spark out there…in fact I know just enough to know I still don’t know shit compared to old-dogs like you. One day I might, but that day is not today lol. I appreciate all input and respect the perspectives of those who paved the way for youngins’ like me. Seriously, thank you for the well thought out comment. My main point to get across is if you’re going to use it, in the environments where it makes sense, make sure you’re using it how the manufacturer designed it to be used or it’s not doing the job you think it is.

Dustin Stelzer says

Thanks for the comment my friend, I don’t disagree with you. I think I’m splitting hairs with people here but always over-protecting and err-ing on the side of caution is definitely a good habit to practice. I’m not the end-all-be-all most knowledgable spark out there…in fact I know just enough to know I still don’t know shit compared to old-dogs like you. One day I might, but that day is not today lol. I appreciate all input and respect the perspectives of those who paved the way for youngins’ like me. Seriously, thank you for the well thought out comment. My main point to get across is if you’re going to use it, in the environments where it makes sense, make sure you’re using it how the manufacturer designed it to be used or it’s not doing the job you think it is.

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