01:27PM | 09/16/04
Member Since: 09/15/04
1 lifetime posts
In my apt., I have a 100 amp service, single phase, where the 3 main wires (2 hot, 1 neutral) running from the building into my panel are aluminum.

There are 6 breakers total, running horizontal, which is the max (2- 20 amp, 4- 15 amp).

The 20's are on the far left and right side of the row of 6 breakers.

The neutral bus runs horizontally on top of the 6 breakers.

One of the cables leading into the box contains a black, white and red wire, the rest just have the black and white.

From the cable that contains the black/white/red wire, the black connects to the far left 20amp breaker, and the red connects to the 15 amp breaker that is 4th from the left, while the white goes into the neutral bus.

The remaining breakers are connected simply black to breaker, whites to the neutral bus.

Thats the layout of this panel.

The problem I am having is that the main neutral wire is heating up to the point of melting the wire insulation (mostly at the lug and a bit more beyond it). This happens typically when I have the A/C on (a/c is on its own circuit), but have noticed it happening with other applicances on.

I have been told that I need a new panel, an 8/16.

I have been told that I need to balance the electrical load.

Looking for some insight on what the problem could be (besides the fact that the wire is aluminum-- all connections have already been tightened).

BTW- SquareD breakers.

Very old and small panel.

Thanks for you help.

Tom O

01:08PM | 09/18/04
Member Since: 09/17/02
477 lifetime posts
Just tightening a loose connection involving aluminum wire is not going to get the job done. Damage has either been done to the conductor or lug or a heavy oxidation layer has formed. Aluminum oxide is not a good conductor of electricity.

The connection was probably loose to begin with or the termination was not properly made. This caused heat which also caused the aluminum conductor to oxidize some more and may have damaged the interior of the lug and this caused more heat which caused...

Anyhow, at the very least, the neutral needs to be pulled out, trimmed back to fresh conductor & re-terminated. The best way would be to apply an anti-oxidant to the conductor & scrub it into the conductor with a brass or stainless steel toothbrush. This will break up the oxide layer & prevent it from re-forming.

While the conductor is out of the lug, clean out the inside of the lug & look for burn marks or corrosion damage. If you see either, do not use the lug. Most manufacturers make a lug for their neutral bus that you can install that will handle a large conductor, such as your main neutral wire.

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