Is it possible to pull this #2 Al cable out of conduit or not?
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  1. #1
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    Default Is it possible to pull this #2 Al cable out of conduit or not?

    I wanted to salvage about 70 ft. of new #2 aluminum electrical cable as pictured, 4 conductors, from the conduit it occupies in my building (salvage conduit too.) It has never been energized, was installed long ago then the occupant wasn’t able to get another meter installed so it could be used (no space left in electric room, estimates for whole job were low 5-figures.) Anyway, conduit looks like 2” and the 4 conductors have ample room to rattle around in there. Conduit runs 15’ to ceiling, one 16” radius bend, 40’ horizontal along ceiling, another 16” radius bend, then final 15’ down. Worker I asked to pull it says it’ll take two man- days to do, conduit has to be pulled off cable one 10’ section at a time, he has to be forklifted to ceiling to do that part, etc etc. He says #2 aluminum cable isn’t flexible enough to pull out of the conduit, whoever installed it must have had to fit each section of conduit over the super-stiff cable one section at a time. Yes it has occurred to me that it may be easier than he says, he may just not want to do it. If it is a 2 m.d. job, not cost-effective to do, way too expensive, I’ll just buy new for what I was going to use it for.

    Do u think he’s exaggerating on the size of the job?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails c9bab9e9-6e94-4756-bcc6-ec96be48679c.jpg  

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    I just did exactly that with 130' of #4 a few months back in an old barn. When the cable is installed it is coated with cable lube which dried out long ago. So you can't just pull it out as is. But you should be able to remove the 15' vertical and the curved piece on each end and then pull the cable through the 40' straight section. One person pulling and another pushing on the other end to feed in the cable. I had three bends and no way to remove one bend on the end so had to slide each piece of conduit individually while walking inside the trusses. Even then it only took me about two hours. If he said two man-days he doesn't want to do it.

    Steve

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    Yes it's possible. When we moved 4.5 years ago, I had to do the same thing. It was a bear and took about 3 hours, but I got it done without removing sections of the conduit. I agree that he just doesn't want to do it.

    How about, you go show him how to do it and then you'll know for sure...

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    New #3 copper wire should cost around $1.00 a foot. You could install the new wire in less time than it would take to salvage the aluminum wire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveF View Post
    I just did exactly that with 130' of #4 a few months back in an old barn. When the cable is installed it is coated with cable lube which dried out long ago. So you can't just pull it out as is. But you should be able to remove the 15' vertical and the curved piece on each end and then pull the cable through the 40' straight section. One person pulling and another pushing on the other end to feed in the cable. I had three bends and no way to remove one bend on the end so had to slide each piece of conduit individually while walking inside the trusses. Even then it only took me about two hours. If he said two man-days he doesn't want to do it.

    Steve
    Thanks. Hmmm, “cable lube.” Not familiar with that but seems to me since conduit is mostly enclosed though far from airtight, maybe there’s a way to pump some substance in to relube the cable and conduit to facilitate pulling. If nobody’s ever done that, I’d be a little surprised, but maybe I’ll think about how I could do that on a day when Mr. Lazy is off.

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    Cable lube is basically soap. I would guess pumping water into the conduit and waiting a few days for the soap to soften may do it. *Of course it is not really soap it is synthetic as are almost all "soaps" today.
    Bil lD

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    You can buy the wire lube at a home improvement store. It comes in a plastic bottle and is inexpensive. If you reuse wire, make sure to check the insulation 100%. When you look at a conduit fill chart, select the next size larger conduit as it will be much easier to pull the wire.

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    At the pull end of the conduit, locate a dead man and connect a 2 ton minimum come a long to it, make a loop in the aluminum wires and connect to come a long. Pull out all the wires and leave the conduit in place. You can use a backhoe or a 10 ton truck instead of a come a long, just depends on how much room you have to work. From the picture the wires already have a thin film plastic layer for providing lubrication. It'll come, no kidding. Don't use cheap rope or mickey mouse equipment.

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    If you are going to salvage the conduit anyway, can't you cut the two ends off as suggested by SteveF? Cut or disconnect the straight downcomer and pull it off, then cut the ell off and (you could coil the cable to allow you to pull the ell off with minimum effort). Then 40' of straight run should be pretty easy. #2 Al cable is 62lb/1000 feet, for 70 feet of 4 conductors you should only have 15 lbs of cable. If it's 2/0, double that.

    Careful with the pull forces recommended above. #2 only has about 1350lb of rated strength. 4 conductors 5400lb. Two tons of force is close, and if one conductor hung up you could end up snapping it or (depending upon install quality) pulling part of the conduit down.

    If you do cut the conduit, file the sharp edges off or snake a conduit end bell onto your wire and seat it on the conduit end. Else you may end up with a 2 ton wire stripper.

    The end bell may be a good idea anyway, to reduce the force needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cannonmn View Post
    Thanks. Hmmm, “cable lube.” Not familiar with that but seems to me since conduit is mostly enclosed though far from airtight, maybe there’s a way to pump some substance in to relube the cable and conduit to facilitate pulling. If nobody’s ever done that, I’d be a little surprised, but maybe I’ll think about how I could do that on a day when Mr. Lazy is off.
    You didn't mention the type of conduit. If it's metal I don't think I would try to drag it out by brute force or you may risk damaging the insulation layer. It was likely put in that way but again it was slathered in cable lube when they did it.

    After a little more pondering, if you can rotate the bend on one end above horizontal before pulling it off, I'd pour some soapy water in until it runs out the other end. Doesn't take much water to make something slippery as evidenced by me almost busting my ass on a slightly wet linoleum floor about an hour ago.

    Steve

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    I'm in the camp of removing the conduit bends and pulling through the straight.

    Best to have one person pulling and one feeding, and use a thimble or bell to keep the insulation from being damaged going into the conduit.

    Paul

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    If by salvage you mean scrap the conduit and wire. Just get a 'Porta-Band saw' and cut into manageable pieces and pull the wire out on the ground. Otherwise call an electrical contractor with the proper equipment. There is no value to be had at a scrap dealer vs leave it in place. You will not get it out easily....


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    why would you even want to reuse that aluminum wire?
    aluminum wire sucks most municipalities out here don't even allow it's use
    in residential.

    now for the conduit if it takes longer then 10 minutes per joint to disassemble,
    well some one is spanking the monkey.
    unscrew slide it apart and snip snip the wire.
    and use a proper man lift not a forklift and a pallet.

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    Thanks, funny u should mention that, same worker who estimated the job will NOT ride in the Official, purpose-built manlift I bought. He will however “pallet surf” when I’m not around to prevent it. I know, wrong, terrible, you’d fire him etc. but I’m not in charge of hire/fire.

    I think at this point in my cable-pulling education, Ive decided to postpone any removal until I have absolutely zip to do for a day. That puts the job off for a few years at least.

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    If it's old rubber insulated cable, you'll have to remove the conduit to get to the cable, and even then, it will fight you. I had that happen with some railroad passenger cars that were being re-wired, and we wanted to remove the old 85 ft runs of #2 rubber insulated (1955 vintage). Nothing could budge it - when we tied a forklift to it and pulled, we moved the railroad car, but the cable didn't budge.

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    As usual everyone's making a mountain out of a mole hill' That's a job for a first year apprentice. Wire is installed in conduit AFTER the conduit is hung. The elec. code mandates this. If wire can't be pulled in or out of a conduit run, It was installed improperly. Add up your degrees of bend, You can't run more than 360°of bends without an opening, PULL box,fitting ,switch,manhole etc.I've pulled wire with everything from Overhead cranes to bulldozers,trucks even a diesel locomotive on occasion. Put a come-along on it tighten it up,put a strain on it,Then go for coffee[UNION ELECTRICIANS]. when you return in a half hour, tighten some more, If it's not falling out of the pipe already. The only thing holding it in the pipe is the SET in the wire in the bends, If It's never been electrified, It hasn't had a chance to heat up and melt to the conduit. As soon as the wire moves about two foot,to straighten out the set in the cable;It will slide right out. Grab all of the conductors at once,Don't try to pull one at a time. dave [acme thread] Been there done this sxxt for over 30 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 72bwhite View Post
    why would you even want to reuse that aluminum wire?
    aluminum wire sucks most municipalities out here don't even allow it's use
    in residential.
    Aluminum is commonly used for large conductors - like #2. Feeds to panel boards, Transmission lines, Etc. You wouldn't be wiring a house with #2 even when it was legal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by acme thread View Post
    As usual everyone's making a mountain out of a mole hill' That's a job for a first year apprentice. Wire is installed in conduit AFTER the conduit is hung. The elec. code mandates this. If wire can't be pulled in or out of a conduit run, It was installed improperly. Add up your degrees of bend, You can't run more than 360°of bends without an opening, PULL box,fitting ,switch,manhole etc.I've pulled wire with everything from Overhead cranes to bulldozers,trucks even a diesel locomotive on occasion. Put a come-along on it tighten it up,put a strain on it,Then go for coffee[UNION ELECTRICIANS]. when you return in a half hour, tighten some more, If it's not falling out of the pipe already. The only thing holding it in the pipe is the SET in the wire in the bends, If It's never been electrified, It hasn't had a chance to heat up and melt to the conduit. As soon as the wire moves about two foot,to straighten out the set in the cable;It will slide right out. Grab all of the conductors at once,Don't try to pull one at a time. dave [acme thread] Been there done this sxxt for over 30 years.
    Thx, well that’s remotivated me to at least give it a couple hours personally. If it is that easy I’ll have a neat coil of that shiny black stuff to point out to Mr. Lazy, I’ll do it on his off day. It’ll be worth my time, will have a good influence on other workers who tend to believe Mr. Lazy every time he pronounces something we need done, to be impossible. Might take some pictures just to show him and rub it in a little. This will be fun!

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    Aluminum wire sucks and has been the cause of many a fire, and as far as I am concerned it only has scrap value. There are much better uses for aluminum than building wire. If you do end up reusing it just remember every year or two you need to shut off the power and inspect and retorque any connections.
    That being said at only about 70ft of pipe length and #2 wire if it doesn't come out with one man pulling on it (all wires at one time) it might take just a bit of come along, etc to get it moving then it should come easy. I can't read the insulation type on the picture but if its RHW, THW, or XHHW it will be somewhat tougher to pull than some of the slicker types of insulation.

    Over the years I have pulled 750 and 500 mcm aluminum out of conduits 350-400ft long after being used for 30 plus years as the building insurers would drop coverage if they found any aluminum wiring within the building. Most of this was XHHW insulation and it took a 10K lb wire tugger to pull one piece out at a time. The old wire lube was still on the wire just all but dried up. The copper wire replacing the aluminum went in real easy as the conduit was sized for aluminum wire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alcosteam View Post
    Aluminum wire sucks and has been the cause of many a fire, and as far as I am concerned it only has scrap value.
    You have more experience than I do, alco steam (does this moniker refer to alco steam locos? cool!) but Al wire can be safely used and if properly installed shouldn't require retorquing. At least, that's what the Al cable sellers say. Still, the reason the insurers require its removal is that some folks don't install it properly.

    All that said, we're talking about four 70 foot sections of #2 wire. If you replaced it with copper or had a task that needed exactly 70 feet of 4 counductors, it would cost a bit less than 400 bucks for the wire. I'm guessing that given the time and labor costs to remove it, and the low salvage value if scrapped, the most economical path is to leave it in place. Or if you want the conduit gone, make sure the cable is disconnected on both ends and use a Sawzall to get 10 foot sections.

    If you need the conduit to remain, I still think it would be easiest to cut the ends off, pull out the wire, and reinstall the conduit with unions. Or if you want to salvage the conduit, instead of reinstalling unions you could just remove the conduit in chunks.

    I suspect that there are more remunerative ways to spend a half a day.


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