According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated two million homes in the United States are built or renovated using electrical circuits with aluminum wiring. The specialists state that unless certain safety procedures are undertaken, every outlet, light switch, and junction box connected to such circuits is a fire waiting to happen.
How do I know if I have aluminum wiring in my home?
If your house was built between 1965 and 1973, you most likely have aluminum wiring in your home. If your house is in the time range, please contact a licensed electrician to do a full evaluation for you.
My house has aluminum wiring – what now?
It is important to know that having aluminum wiring in your house is not banned or illegal. Aluminum wiring is more likely to cause a fire than copper wire for many reasons:
- Aluminum expands more than copper when there is an electrical current running through it, making it easier for aluminum to creep out from under terminal screws and cause loose connections that over heat.
- The oxide that forms over aluminum wiring can cause overheating, whereas the oxide that forms on copper does not cause this same problem.
- Aluminum is softer than copper, causing easy breaks in the wire that creates hot spots.
Aluminum wiring is known to be a fire starter. Typical homes can have 200+ connections, which means that each individual connection is a fire hazard. If you have aluminum wiring in your home you should watch for these signs:
- A light switch or outlet that is hot to the touch.
- Strange odor or smell of burning plastic by light switch or outlet.
- Flickering of lights not associated with obvious external cause.
- Static occurs in electronic equipment like radios, TVs and computers
- Constant tripping of your breakers
How can I keep my home safe?
Once you are aware that your home has aluminum wiring and you are aware of the dangers, it is time to take action. There are several potential fixes that can keep your house safe. You must keep in mind that all of these services MUST be performed by a licensed electrician.
- First option is to re wire the house. This is the most permanent option. Rewiring your home requires that all of the aluminum wiring is replaced by copper wiring, lowering your chance of an electrical fire. This option require no upkeep.
- Another option is to use a copalum crimp. This requires the copper to be crimped into a pigtail connection with the existing aluminum wiring. If every connection is fixed this way, it can be considered a permanent repair.
- If there is no clear sign of trouble, you may feel that you do not need to do repairs immediately. Doing nothing only borrows time and should not be the final place of action for aluminum wiring in your home.