Aluminum Wiring: What’s the Problem?

By Scott Bowers,

Aluminum electrical wiring showing burning

Aluminum Wiring was used in the construction of roughly 1.5 million U.S. homes built between 1965 and 1973. According to a report published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (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. This problem only gets worse with time. The aluminum-wired connections that fail tend to progressively deteriorate at a slow rate, and after many years can reach very high temperature while still remaining electrically functional in the circuits. A large number of connection burnouts have occurred in aluminum-wired homes. Many fires have occurred some involving injury and death.

The Aluminum Industry Wins in Court

Initial investigations into hazards associated with aluminum wiring were spearheaded by the CPSC. The federal agency works very closely with manufacturers and testing organizations like the UL. Its findings are taken seriously due in part to its ability to impose industry standards.

In the mid-1970s, the CPSC began distributing information concerning the potential hazards of aluminum wiring. It also was working to seek relief for people with homes wired with aluminum. This resulted in a 1976 lawsuit filed by Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation against the CPSC, ending in 1979 with a federal appeals court ruling that deemed electrical distribution items not to be consumer products.

Since the CPSC has jurisdiction over consumer products, the area of electrical wiring falls outside of the CPSC.

Useful Resources (Supplied by Aluminum Wire Repair, Inc.)

Federal Pacific Service Panels

Insurance Considerations

Favorite Electrical Links

(Source: Aluminum Wire Repair, Inc.. No copyright infringement intended.)

How Safe is Aluminum Wire?

By Scott Bowers,

Aluminum wire is still approved by the N.E.C. But this on the assumption that everything will be done perfect. Having said that i would like to give a little advice on using aluminum wire when you are building a new home. For the sake of saving a few dollars, it is not worth the safety hazard you face when using this wire. This is not only my opinion but the opinion of many others in the trade. Many times i have been called to repair corroded connections using this wire. Most of the time the aluminum wire had to be replaced with copper. One other piece of advice, before you consider buying a home with aluminum wire you might want to check with the insurance company. Some of them may refuse to insure a house with aluminum wire.

There are a lot of homes that have been wired with aluminum wiring and it would not be financially possible to rewire the entire house or service. There are a few things you can do to make sure that the wiring is not becoming a problem. You should be on the lookout for devices or lighting going on and off. Breakers or outlets overheating. Have the main panel checked for corrosion or loose connections. When adding copper devices or wire to aluminum, make sure this work is done by someone who knows the proper procedure for this type of wiring. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way in preventing future safety hazards.

To get answers to more questions about your electrical system see: Master Electric FAQs