A large number of homes built during the 1960’s and 1970’s have aluminum wiring was installed instead of the more expensive copper wiring. Aluminum wiring was used due to the significant cost savings, however years later, unanticipated fire hazards arose from the oxidation and deterioration that occurs at the points where aluminum wiring was connected to outlets, light fixtures and junction boxes. This can cause overheating and arching that won’t trip a circuit breaker, but can cause a fire.
The first thing every homeowner should know is that aluminum wiring, in and of itself, is not always a fire hazard. In fact, there are even new homes built today that include aluminum wiring elements. The most common modern aluminum wiring in homes includes the main service cable, as well as feeds for heavy-duty appliances such as en electric range or heat pump. These are generally safe applications that should cause no concern as long as they were properly installed.
Fire hazards with aluminum wiring in homes, particularly ones built from the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s, come from age-deteriorating branch circuits: splices and connections made at outlets and light fixtures. Usually, electrical fires start at these locations because the switch or outlet installed was not designed to be used with aluminum wiring. Fires can also start if there was no anti-oxidation compound applied to the wires in the first place. If oxidation is not prevented, that is when dangerous overheating and arcing occurs.
Only an experienced electrician can determine the level of danger a home faces, and then fix those problems. There are several aluminum vs copper wiring solutions available to homeowners today, but because each house is unique, a complete evaluation is necessary before we can determine what options will reduce a home’s fire risk. Completely rewiring the home from aluminum to copper is one option, but a very expensive one that only makes sense if you are already in the process of completely remodeling or doing deep renovations. Retrofitting and repairing the dangerous connections is also an option for some homes.
It’s very important that you call a professional as you notice any problems with your electrical system, but you can also keep your home as safe as possible by having regular inspections performed by a professional electrician. These inspections will:
Our electrical safety inspections will also include tests of your wiring system and your electrical equipment. After the inspection is complete, we’ll discuss any problems we’ve found with you in plain English, and we’ll be sure that your electrical system is as safe and functioning correctly.
No matter how urgent any electrical repair may seem, it’s never okay to attempt to handle them on your own. Trying to take care of electrical problems without professional training is extremely dangerous. If you or someone else aren’t hurt during your attempt, there’s still a chance that you’ve left something undone that poses a huge risk to you, your home, or your family. In fact, faulty electrical wiring is the number one cause of house fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. So in order to make sure that your home is safe, always rely on a professional electrician for any electrical services.
Circuit breakers that keep tripping, a flickering light on the back porch, or an exhaust fan that just won’t work properly are a few of the common problems homeowners face that have something to do with their electrical system. But figuring out where the problems are stemming from can take a lot of training and knowledge. At D.O.C. Electric, our electricians will find out exactly what’s causing the problem(s), and what other issues may be happening—or beginning to happen. Then we’ll fix it right the first time.