JD’s Blog | The Dangers Created by Aluminum Wiring in Your Home
Aluminum wires are lightweight, strong, and much more affordable than copper wires. These reasons helped make it the wiring of choice of licensed electricians across the United States during 1960s and 1970s. Even still, a majority of the power supply lines bringing electricity into our homes are still made out of aluminum. SDGE uses aluminum to power every home meter box / panel. Occasionally, they have used copper wires for overhead lines at some of the beach areas.
As electrical failures involving aluminum wiring became commonplace, it became apparent to licensed electricians that while a continuous run of aluminum wire does not present a problem, the connection points could deteriorate and become a fire hazard when that wire is connected to outlets and light switches, or even to each other at splices. If the splice is not tightly connected, the aluminum overheats.
Aluminum wiring can become troublesome when:
- It oxidizes, resulting in an overheating effect
- It gets nicked and damaged due to higher malleability
- It is subject to high thermal expansion and may change shape
- Nicked when poorly stripped by the electrician
Checking the Safety of Your Aluminum Wiring
It pays to be vigilant in the case of older aluminum wiring because the problems often begin to arise only when it’s too late. Considering the fact that a typical home has at least 200 electrical connections, usually many more, the fire hazard is enormous. One bad splice or connection is one too many.
You can detect if your house also has aluminum wiring by identifying the letters AL or ALUMINUM on the cable covering. If you have a home with aluminum wiring, it is important that homeowners take certain safety precautions to ensure the safety of all the aluminum wires in their home, especially if the home is more than 40 years old. Every circuit, switch and outlet can be a fire hazard waiting to happen! It is a good idea to have a licensed electrician check up on the aluminum wiring, and carry out electrical repairs before things get dangerous.
Warning Signs of Unsafe Aluminum Wiring
A licensed electrician can help you solve any issues that may arise because of old and faulty electrical wiring. If you see unusually warped or warm electrical outlets or light switches, then it’s time to call in professionals. There are other more subtle indications of a problem as well. These can include strange smells and odors around your home’s switches, appliances and lights that aren’t functioning like they used to (but seem to be fine otherwise), and also a periodic flickering of lights. If you smell burning, turn off the power immediately and call your electrician!
But What if I’ve NEVER Had a Problem with My Wiring?
It may be tempting to assume that your home’s aluminum wiring is safe because it hasn’t caused any issues in the last 30 or 40 years. But this misconception can end up costing you a lot. Hire a licensed electrician who can provide electrical upgrade services in accordance with the situation at hand. The fact alone that you’ve never experienced a problem means that you are probably on short time before a major electrical event occurs.
What are My Options for Aluminum Wiring Repair?
The options available for converting from aluminum to copper connections include:
- Copper rewiring
- Pigtail aluminum wire ends with special crimp connectors called COPALUM
- Connect the aluminum wire ends with aluminum to copper AlumiConn wire lug connector
Rewiring your entire home with copper wire can be quite costly and impractical. As an alternative for a permanent repair, the U.S. CPSC recommends that pig-tailing be done with special crimp connectors, called COPALUM, or special miniature lug-type connectors, called AlumiConn connectors.
The AlumiConn method is the most accessible and cost effective solution to addressing aluminum electrical wiring issues. However, this type of electrical repair should be done only by a licensed electrician that is familiar with aluminum wire problems and repair methods. Completely eliminate aluminum wire danger and protect your family today by contacting Point Loma Electric to convert your aluminum wiring to copper using AlumiConn wire lug connectors. Special torque screw drivers are required for securing the AlumiCon connectors to each aluminum wire. Securing the lugs too tightly could do even worse damage to the aluminum wire. Aluminum wire used for branch circuit wiring throughout the home was never a good idea, but it was cheaper than copper and the contractors building & wiring new homes are always looking for an edge to make a better profit.