Quickly Make Your Life Easier By Recognizing The Many Uses Of Aluminum

If you asked 100 consumers what aluminum products they use, about, 95% will say aluminum foil. Of all the uses for aluminum. Aluminum foil is identified as the number one product that consumers can identify as something made of aluminum. Everyone uses those thin shiny paper sheets to line their ovens and barbecue grills. Aluminum foil is the product of choice to wrap up leftovers. Aluminum cans were the second most identified consumer product as having an aluminum composition.

But there are other uses for aluminum that impact our life and our pocketbooks. These product make our lives easier and more productive and help reduce the costs for goods and services. Some typical applications for aluminum include siding for residential homes and commercial buildings. Aluminum is widely used in the transportation industry for cars, airplanes and railroad cars.

Herein lies a potential problem for consumers. Aluminum because of its characteristics of strength, being light weight and malleable reduces the weight of cars. The Aluminum Association reports that In 2000, transportation accounted for 32.5 percent of all US shipments. That same year aluminum passed
plastic–with average content of 257 lbs per vehicle to become the third most-used material in automobiles.

Car manufacturers have a goal of designing light weight, fuel efficient cars. Aluminum seems to fit this requirement. Aluminum is not only being used for door panels but manufacturers are extending
The use of aluminum to the structural make up of the car’s power train suspension components and body parts.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 22, 2004. These lighter metals like boron, steel and aluminum
are increasingly showing up as structural components, but unlike steel, they cannot easily be bent back
into shape after a crash. Instead, said the Journal, these components often get replaced, boosting repair costs. High end cars like the Jaguar XJ use aluminum in the body. Other cars that are use aluminum extensively include:

* Audi A8, with its aluminum body, aluminum front and rear axle, and numerous other aluminum components

*The Honda Insight with its aluminum monocoque body and an aluminum alloy in-line 3 cylinder engine

*The Lincoln LS, featuring a sheet aluminum hood, deck lid and front fender, and forged aluminum wheels.

Automakers are increasingly choosing aluminum to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance vehicle performance. The trade off for this advanced technology will be a “disposable cars” Pete, a mechanic in San Jose, CA states “The parts and materials for these “aluminum intensive cars are so expensive that is makes more sense to total them out for parts. The technology for replacing
the parts hasn’t caught up. These cars are almost impossible to repair because of the way they are
built. A minor accident can cause real damage.”

These aluminum intensive cars will also have an impact on car insurance rates. More often than not when these cars are involved in an accident, the insurance company will have to consider them totaled so your insurance bill will increase.

So what is the trade-off – fuel efficiency versus high cost of repair and maintenance.? Do we need ugly heavy cars that increase gas consumption? The non-disposable car may look bland, be slower and use gas But the real truth is this car would not sell.

Aluminum Wiring Facts and Fallacies

When first used in branch circuit wiring, aluminum wire was not installed any differently than copper. Due to increased copper costs in the mid 1960’s, aluminum wiring became more prevalent in wiring homes. It was known at the time that aluminum wire requires larger wire gauge than copper to carry the same current.

For example, a standard 15-amp circuit breaker wired with No. 14 gauge copper requires No. 12 gauge aluminum. Typical connections from electrical wire to electrical devices, also called terminals, are usually made by wrapping the wire around the screw terminals and tightening the wire or pushing the wire through the back of the outlet. Over time, many of these terminations to aluminum wire began to fail due to improper connection techniques and dissimilar metals. These connection failures generated heat under electrical load and resulted in overheated connections.

History of Aluminum Wire

Electricity is transmitted from the utility generating stations to individual meters using almost exclusively aluminum wiring. In the U.S., utilities have used aluminum wire for over 100 years. It takes only one pound of aluminum to equal the current carrying capacity of two pounds of copper. The lightweight conductors enable the utility to run transmission lines with half the number of supporting structures. The utility system is designed for aluminum conductors, and utility installers are familiar with installation techniques for the types of aluminum conductors used in utility applications. Prior to 1972, the aluminum wire was manufactured to conform to 1350 series alloy. This alloy was specifically designed for power transmission purpose. Due to its mechanical properties the 1350 alloys were not suitable for use in branch circuitry. At this juncture in time a “new technology” of aluminum wire was developed, known as AA-8000 series which is the current aluminum wire used today for branch circuitry, however it is extremely rare to find in branch circuit wiring. This type of wire when installed properly can be just as safe as copper wire.

Problems with Aluminum Wires

Aluminum wires have been implicated in house fires in which people have been killed. Reports of fires with aluminum wiring generally show that poor workmanship led to failures. Poorly made connections were too often the cause. There were several possible reasons why these connections failed. The two core reasons were improper installation and the difference between the coefficient of expansion between aluminum wire and the termination used in the 1960’s.

Feeder and branch circuit wiring systems were designed primarily for copper conductors. Aluminum wiring was evaluated and listed by Underwriters Laboratories for interior wiring applications in 1946; however it was not used heavily until 1965. At that time copper shortages and high prices made the installation of aluminum branch circuit conductors a very attractive alternative. At the same time, steel screw became more common than brass screws on receptacles. As aluminum wire was installed more frequently, the industry discovered that changes were needed to improve the means of connecting and terminating smaller aluminum wire. Installation methods for utility grade aluminum, or series AA- 1350 alloy were also different and workmanship was an important factor in making reliable connections.

The most often identified culprits for poor workmanship involved: incorrectly tightened connections, wires wrapped the wrong way around the binding screws, and aluminum conductors used in push-back connections or with devices meant only for copper. Because the connections were made incorrectly, a chain of events of failures erupted. The connection was loose to begin with due to improper tightening torque, and the physical properties of aluminum / steel interface tended to loose the connection over time. Aluminum and steel have significantly different rates of expansion which would increase the resistance and temperature at the termination point. Similar problems occurred when aluminum conductors were incorrectly terminated in the push-in connections intended only for copper wire.

Corrosion is often cited as a contributing cause of aluminum connections. In 1980 the National Bureau of Standards performed a study to determine what caused the high resistance at aluminum / steel connections in receptacles. The study revealed that the formation of intermetallic compounds (alloys of aluminum and steel) caused the high resistance terminations, not corrosion or aluminum oxide. The thin, protective layer of oxide on aluminum conductors contributes to the excellent corrosion resistance of aluminum. When terminations are made correctly, the oxide layer is broken during the termination process allowing the necessary contact to be made between the conducting surfaces.

One of the most fundamental principles of electrical safety for wiring buildings is that high temperatures are hazardous. Heat is a major contributor to potential electrical hazards. A compromised connection creates additional heat. The additional heat contribution can “snowball” problems. Sometimes if sufficient heat is created, it can start a fire. Even if the heat does not directly start a fire, the heat can melt and or burn away insulation, which can create a short that may arc. Electrical arcs often reach temperatures in excess of 10,000 Fahrenheit. Aluminum wired connections in homes have been found to have a very high probability of overheating compared to copper wired connections.

Upgrading aluminum wired homes

There are several “upgrades” that are commonly done to homes with pre-1974 aluminum branch circuit wiring:

o Ensuring that all devices are rated for use with aluminum wire. Many are not, since they do not meet the CO/ALR specification

o “Pigtailing” which involves splicing a short length of copper to the original aluminum wire for use with devices not CO/ALR rated

o COPALUM a sophisticated crimping system that creates a cold weld between copper and aluminum wire, and is regarded to be a permanent, maintenance free repair. These connections are sometimes too large to be installed in existing enclosures. Surface enclosures or larger enclosures may be installed to remedy this problem.

o Completely rewiring the house with copper instead.

When deciding to repair or replace any electrical installation, a qualified professional should be consulted. The majority of homes wired with the general purpose circuits wired with aluminum are now over 30 years old. The likelihood of experiencing any problems unique to having aluminum is slight.

Any electrical system should be evaluated every 10 years by a qualified electrical professional to determine if it is likely to operate safely under the increased loads in different rooms being used differently, i.e. home office or bathrooms with larger dryers.

Scrap Aluminum Grades – How to Sort and Clean Scrap Aluminum to Maximize Its Value

Aluminum is a non-ferrous metal (which means it will not draw a magnet) that is lightweight. There are several different grades of scrap aluminum, and all of them vary in price. At most scrapyards, aluminum is broken down into the following grades:

Cast Aluminum

Radiators (clean and contaminated)

Extrusions (clean and contaminated)

Wheels (Clean and Chrome Plated)


Aluminum/Copper Radiators (clean and contaminated)

Old Sheet

Cast aluminum is very brittle and when broken, the inside will appear very grainy. A majority of the cast aluminum that comes across our scale is from auto parts. Transmission housings, engine cylinder heads, and electronic covers are all examples of cast aluminum auto parts. Other miscellaneous items that are made of cast aluminum include BBQ covers, some hot plates and skillets, and some light housings.

Aluminum radiators can be brought to our yard in two forms, contaminated or clean. A clean aluminum radiator must have all tanks, hoses, and steel and plastic removed. The plastic tanks on each end of the radiator will typically contain steel, sometimes however they will contain a tube made of aluminum or brass.

Extrusion is the process of pushing material through a die to give it a particular shape, very much like a Play-Doh spaghetti machine. The most common form of aluminum extrusion we see is window frames, but it is used very often in other framing systems and structural applications. Extrusions are broken down into contaminated and clean grades, with clean extrusion containing no steel, plastic, rubber, or insulation.

Aluminum Wheels come in two varieties, aluminum and chrome plated aluminum. Chrome plated wheels are worth a little less than pure aluminum due to the chrome contamination. Wheels with plastic face covers are also considered chrome plated due to the contamination of plastic and glue. Our listed wheel price assumes wheel weights, valve stems, and center caps are still attached. If these have been removed from your wheels discuss it with our scale operator and he may be able to increase your price.

Aluminum siding also includes gutters, downspouts, and other flat stock aluminum items. To receive the aluminum siding price, the material must not contain steel, Styrofoam, tar, insulation or any other contamination.

Aluminum/copper radiators are found in air conditioning units. They are copper tubes surrounded by aluminum fins. A clean aluminum/copper radiator will contain no steel flanges. If the steel flanges are cut off of a dirty aluminum/copper radiator, the rest of the radiator can be sold as clean and the flanges can be sold as aluminum breakage if they still contain some aluminum and copper.

Old sheet is the lowest grade of scrap aluminum and just about everything that has not been mentioned so far falls into this category. Some common aluminum sheet items include pots and pans, pop cans, lawn chairs, and screens. Siding containing excessive Styrofoam or tar will also be bought as aluminum sheet.