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Aluminum Wiring

Many residential electrical systems throughout the Puget Sound region utilize aluminum wire.  In short, this can be a bad thing for you and your home.  Aluminum has certain qualities that make it an undesirable, and unsafe, material as an electrical conductor.

Alpha and Omega Electric is committed to the safety and satisfaction of our customers.  We want you to make informed decisions and the ones that are right for you and your residence.  Since we receive many questions regarding aluminum wiring, and aluminum wiring replacement, we believe it’s important to provide our answers and the following information.

Background on the Use of Aluminum Wire

Between approximately 1965 and 1973, single-strand aluminum wire was often used is residential electrical systems.  The aluminum wire served as a substitute for copper branch-circuit wiring.  The substitute was made because of the then increasing price of copper.  During the time period in question, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that around two million homes were built or renovated using aluminum wire.

In a short amount of time, both homeowners and electricians discovered inherent concerns and safety hazards with aluminum wiring systems.  These led to the disuse of aluminum as a wiring material.  In fact, since the mid-1970’s, copper wire became the standard wire of safety and choice in residential electrical systems.

Concerns and Safety Hazards with Aluminum Wire

The greatest concern with aluminum wire is that it poses a serious fire hazard.  According to the CPSC, “homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 [‘old technology’ aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than is a home wired with copper.”  The fire hazard associated with aluminum wire is not just limited to old technology aluminum wire, but the hazard applies to aluminum wire in general.

This hazard is mostly apparent wherever the wiring is spliced or makes a connection with an outlet, switch, circuit breaker, or other component of an electrical system.  Given certain qualities associated with the metal, aluminum wire will shrink and expand at connection points as temperatures change.  This expansion and contraction causes breaks in an electrical circuit that can give rise to overheating, sparks, and even fires.

The fire risks with aluminum wire also increase with time.  When aluminum-wired connections fail, they tend to progressively deteriorate at a slow rate.  However, while this deterioration occurs, the connections themselves can remain electrically functional in circuits.  This means that after many years failed connections can reach very high temperatures.  These high temperatures translate into serious ongoing safety hazards.

Suggestions for Homeowners with Aluminum Wire

There are three important things homeowners should do if they have a residential electrical system that uses aluminum wire.  These include: look for signs of trouble, seek qualified electrical assistance, and rewire the home with copper wire.

Look for Signs of Trouble

All aluminum wiring poses serious fire risks.  However, there are specific signs that indicate an aluminum wire circuitry is in trouble and needs instant attention.  These include:

  • The smell of burning plastic at outlets, switches, or lighting
  • Smoking outlets, switches, or lighting
  • Cover plates on outlets or switches that are warm-to-the-touch
  • Circuit breakers that trip for no apparent reason
  • Circuits that do not work or only work intermittently
  • Lights that flicker

 

Seek Qualified Electrical Assistance

The signs above can be easily detected.  However, not all failing aluminum wired connections are easily discernible.  Connections can certainly fail without any prior indication.

This means that the aluminum wiring in your home should be evaluated by a qualified electrician.  A qualified electrician will be able to evaluate your home’s electrical system and diagnose any inherent problems and address any immediate concerns.

Keep in mind that not all licensed electricians are properly trained to work with and repair aluminum wire.  Make sure the electrician you seek is properly trained and qualified to deal with defective aluminum wiring issues.

Rewire Your Home with Copper Wire

If your home’s electrical system uses aluminum wire, we strongly suggest you consider rewiring your home with copper wire.  Rewiring may pose an unforeseen expense.  However, a rewired home essentially means a safer home.

Alpha and Omega Electric is built of a team of caring and dedicated electricians that is qualified and trained in aluminum wiring repair and aluminum wiring replacement.  Our team can carefully evaluate your existing system and work with you to provide the right wiring solutions that are right for you and your home.  If you have any questions about the aluminum wiring in your home, contact us today!

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