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What is the gooey stuff on some of the wire connections in the electric panel?
Friday, August 31, 2018
It’s anti-oxidant paste and is necessary at the connection of stranded aluminum wires to the lugs in an electric panel—as in the photo above—and also at any circuit breakers connected to stranded aluminum wires. Oxidation occurs over time at the unprotected surfaces of aluminum at wire connections. It is a process similar to the rust that builds up on steel and, although aluminum is an excellent electrical conductor, aluminum oxide is actually an insulator.
So, if left untreated, the oxidized surfaces of the aluminum wire impede the flow of electricity, which creates heat and can lead to an electrical fire. The paste is either black or gray, and should be used liberally at the connections.
The series of photos in the video below shows graphically the overheating problem, with an overlay of an infrared camera image and a closeup of the oxidized wire at the breaker connection.
Also, see our blog post What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?
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