A Comparison of Aluminum vs. Copper as used in Electrical Equipment - Sponsored Whitepaper

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The debate over the pros and cons of aluminum vs. copper conductors has been discussed for many years. Many of the concerns are based on old information and also misinformation. These concerns center on the very different properties of the two materials and their suitability for application within the Electrical Equipment Industry. Reliable performance from the conductors, the joints and terminations of the conductors is essential to the operation of the electrical system. With the recent increases in the cost of copper, customers are seeing these increases passed on to them by the equipment manufacturer. The variance in cost between equipment with copper versus aluminum conductors is now affecting the customer's buying decision.

This paper provides a comparison of the mechanical and electrical properties of copper (Cu) and aluminum (Al) and their relevance as applied to electrical distribution products. The offerings and impact of Cu and Al on various pieces of equipment is also discussed. The intended purpose is to provide the user with the information necesary to make an informed decision on the selection of copper or aluminum conductors within electrical equipment.

Cu and Al are the two most commonly used materials for conductors and bus bars in electrical equipment. Each has positive and negative characteristics that affect their use in various applications. Both materials have been in continuous use in the electrical industry for many years. While aluminum is the most abundantly available of the two metals, the demand and scarcity of Cu have caused its cost to fluctuate widely. Silver is generally considered the best electrical conductor, however its high cost and low

strength limits its use to special applications such as joint plating and sliding contact surfaces.

For the purposes of this paper, the areas of discussion are:
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