Aluminum and Copper Wiring

During the 1970's, aluminum (instead of copper) wiring became quite popular and was extensively used. Since that time, aluminum wiring has been implicated in a number of house fires, and most jurisdictions no longer permit it in new electrical wiring installations. We recommend, even if you’re allowed to, that you do not use aluminum for new electrical wiring.

Don’t panic if your San Diego house has aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring, when properly installed, can be just as safe as copper. San Diego aluminum wiring is, however, very unforgiving of improper installation.

Our San Diego Aluminum Wiring Contractors Provide These Services

  • Aluminum Wiring Repairs
  • Rewiring
  • Electrical Wiring
  • Aluminum Wires repairs
  • Copper Wiring
  • Electrical Wire repairs
  • Aluminconn aluminum wire repair
  • Light Switch replacement
  • Electrical Repairs
  • Home Wiring
  • Copper Wires
  • House Wiring

Problems with Aluminum vs Copper Wiring

The main problem with aluminum wiring is a phenomenon known as “cold creep.” When aluminum wiring warms up, it expands. When it cools down, it contracts. Unlike copper wires, when aluminum wiring goes through a number of warm/cool cycles it loses a bit of tightness each time. To make the problem worse, aluminum oxidizes, or corrodes, when in contact with certain types of metal, so the resistance of the connection goes up. Which causes it to heat up and corrode / oxidize more. Eventually the aluminum wire may start getting very hot, melt the insulation or fixture it’s attached to, and possibly cause a fire.

People usually encounter aluminum wiring when they move into a San Diego house that was built during the 1970's. If your home has aluminum wiring, you should hire a licensed electrical contractor to check the following things:

  • Fixtures (eg: outlets and switches) directly attached to aluminum wiring should be rated for it. The device will be stamped with “Al/Cu” or “CO/ALR”. The latter supersedes the former, but both are safe. These fixtures are somewhat more expensive than the ordinary ones.
  • Wires should be properly connected (at least 3/4 way around the screw in a clockwise direction). Connections should be tight. While repeated tightening of the screws can make the problem worse, during the inspection it would pay off to snug up each connection. Note that aluminum wiring is still often used for the main service entrance cable. It should be inspected.
  • “push-in” terminals are an extreme hazard with aluminum wire. Any connections using push-in terminals should be redone with the proper screw connections immediately.
  • There should be no signs of overheating: darkened connections, melted insulation, or “baked” fixtures. Any such damage should be repaired immediately.
  • Connections between aluminum and copper wiring need to be handled specially.
    The NEC requires that the wire be connected together using special crimp devices, with an anti-oxidant grease. The tools and materials for the latter are quite expensive – not practical to do it yourself unless you can rent the tool. [Note that regulations are changing rapidly in this area. Suggest that you discuss any work with an inspector if you’re going to do more than one or two connections.
  • Any non-rated receptacle can be connected to aluminum wiring by means of a short copper “pigtail”. See (5) above.

If, when considering purchasing a home in San Diego that has aluminum wiring, an inspection of the wiring is very important. Every connection between aluminum wire and copper should be repaird with approved devices. There are only 3 approved repairs for aluminum to copper connections. Although the repairs are straightforward and relatively inexpensive they should be done by an electrician who is knowledgeable about the proper way to repair aluminum wire connections.

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