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Old 22-03-2015, 07:15   #1
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Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Gang,

Have some aluminum wire on my boat. It is white and red. My voltmeter seems to indicate that the white is negative.

Is it usual for negative aluminum wire covering to be colored white?

Or is this some kind of regional or other phenomenon?

Thanks,

G2L
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Old 22-03-2015, 07:33   #2
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Is this DC or AC?

Solid or stranded?

Are you sure it's aluminum and not tinned copper?

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Old 22-03-2015, 08:16   #3
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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Originally Posted by Gone2long View Post
Gang,

Have some aluminum wire on my boat. It is white and red. My voltmeter seems to indicate that the white is negative.

Is it usual for negative aluminum wire covering to be colored white?

Or is this some kind of regional or other phenomenon?

Thanks,

G2L
Whoa! If it's on a boat - unless you did the original wiring - never, never assume the wires conform to code.

In my experience red OR white wire is normally used on positive runs. Black is typically used for ground.
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Old 22-03-2015, 08:22   #4
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Aluminum wire should not be used on a boat. If it was mine, I would replace it with marine grade tinned copper. If your meter shows it to be negative, then it likely is. Can you follow it back to the panel to confirm?
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Old 22-03-2015, 09:38   #5
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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Whoa! If it's on a boat - unless you did the original wiring - never, never assume the wires conform to code.
Amen to that, X 100.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrong View Post
In my experience red OR white wire is normally used on positive runs. Black is typically used for ground.
Unless it is AC, then the black will be the hot wire and the white neutral/ground.
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Old 22-03-2015, 12:01   #6
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

I would think aluminum wire is fairly uncommon on a boat; it is the least noble of all commonly used conductor materials. You may be mistaking tinned copper.
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Old 22-03-2015, 12:27   #7
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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Originally Posted by Gone2long View Post
Gang,

Have some aluminum wire on my boat. It is white and red. My voltmeter seems to indicate that the white is negative.

Is it usual for negative aluminum wire covering to be colored white?

Or is this some kind of regional or other phenomenon?

Thanks,

G2L
If this is a previously owned boat, nearly anything is possible but I doubt you actually have aluminum wire. If you really have aluminum wire, the entire boat should be rewired by a competent marine electrician.

The negative conductors on an old boat should be black. On a newer boat they could be either black or yellow. If the boat has a 120 volt AC (shorepower or geneset) system, the hot (AC) wires will be black (or red in a switched circuit) and the neutral wire will be black.

If you don't understand this, please hire a pro. Electricity and water can be a lethal combination.
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Old 22-03-2015, 12:46   #8
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Hypothetically, let's say one had a big 'ol roll of tinned wire and had a DC wiring job to do one one's boat. Being thrifty, I would use the wire I had rather than going out and getting some new wire. Even if the colors of the wire were wrong.

Faced with white and red as the colors, I'd wire red as +V and white as gnd. I'd also mark the white on each end with a yellow or black marker or heatshrink. So I can see how a cable ends up as Red/Wh. I don't think I've ever seen Rd/Wh colored cable, but that of course doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

If it's actually AL, I'd scrap it. If it's solid conductors (Romex or similar) it doesn't belong on a boat.
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Old 22-03-2015, 13:04   #9
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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Hypothetically, let's say one had a big 'ol roll of tinned wire and had a DC wiring job to do one one's boat. Being thrifty, I would use the wire I had rather than going out and getting some new wire. Even if the colors of the wire were wrong.............
That's not unusual when dealing with heavy battery cables and the like - Black (or yellow) cable and mark the ends of the positive cables red with tape.

If someone were to do that with #12 wire and wire an entire boat that way, I would consider him a "hack".

Nothing personal, but someone who takes pride in his work wouldn't do that.
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Old 22-03-2015, 13:52   #10
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

I found my AC power cabling set up the way I see it in normal household systems, Black/load - White/common - Green/ground. My DC is Red/load - Black/ground. This is throughout the boat with no variation and while replacing chafed or scuffed wiring, I keep it consistent.
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Old 22-03-2015, 14:06   #11
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

If it is Al wire, white and has a teflon or similar insulation, it possibly is an aviation grade wire as such wire is not uncommon in aviation.

Still has no business on board a boat IMO, due to corrosion issues etc.
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Old 23-03-2015, 09:55   #12
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Test to see if it really is allumininium, as someone says it could be aircraft wire or domestic electrical. If it is remove it and check everything else because it will fail. We even had our main supply to the appartments fail because the aluminum ground wire from the utility company fizzed away. Engeneer said it was quite common for properties near the sea!
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Old 23-03-2015, 10:21   #13
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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...
If someone were to do that with #12 wire and wire an entire boat that way, I would consider him a "hack".

Nothing personal, but someone who takes pride in his work wouldn't do that.
I was more trying to point out how such oddball wire could end up on a boat. I'd really never use wh/rd on da boat.
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Old 23-03-2015, 10:44   #14
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

Back in the 1970's some homes and mobile homes were wired with aluminum wiring and many burned down before they realized it was the aluminum wiring. Not legal to use now. Same goes for aluminum gas lines. I bought a shop building in 1976 and when the inspector saw the aluminum gas lines I was red tagged until all were replaced.
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Old 23-03-2015, 11:08   #15
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Re: Aluminum Wire: White = Negaive?

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Back in the 1970's some homes and mobile homes were wired with aluminum wiring and many burned down before they realized it was the aluminum wiring. Not legal to use now. Same goes for aluminum gas lines. I bought a shop building in 1976 and when the inspector saw the aluminum gas lines I was red tagged until all were replaced.


Aluminum wiring appeared in residential applications in the '70's after a sharp rise in copper prices. When used with the terminals of that time period, primarily designed for copper, the differing expansion rates of aluminum (compared to copper) resulted in terminals that developed loose connections. Loose connections meant more resistance, increased heat and on occasion a fire resulted.

Subsequently, terminals were redesigned to better grip the aluminum conductor and all was well. Aluminum is a great conductor of electricity and is still used today, especially for large conductors - service entrances for example.

I have never seen aluminum gas piping, nor can I recall it ever being acceptable per Code, though someone might prove me wrong

I would be concerned about work hardening of aluminum being used aboard a boat, as well as having approved terminal connections, suitable for aluminum wiring. Stranded copper, preferably tinned, would be my recommendation. And with standard recognized color coding!
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