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

Should I attempt electrical work on my own?

By Scott Bowers,

This will not make me very popular but it is the truth. Without a license, not very much. At The present time most states allow you to do whatever you want in your own home. But doing electrical work yourself is a gamble. How much are you willing to risk to save money. There is a reason why it takes so much training to become an electrician. Do not make a mistake by taking electricity lightly, even the smallest job could be a safety hazard. Why take a chance. Get a professional to do this work.

Also In some states the homeowner can pull his own Electrical permit for work in his single family home, what he does not know is that in case of damage or fire caused by his work, his homeowners insurance will not pay, they will only if the work is done by a licensed Electrical Contractor. You should check with your homeowners Insurance Co., and they should sign a document or something to this effect to acknowledge this when they pull a permit.

The most dangerous time is when you tell yourself. This is easy. I can do it myself. Why should i get an electrician? Than when you don’t remember where all those wires went, or your hair is standing straight up, you say to yourself. Well maybe we better call someone to straighten up this mess. Now it will cost you double what you thought you were going to save in the beginning.
Special Note….

It is a violation for a licensed electrician or systems technician to connect wiring from components that have been wired by an unlicensed person. Doing electrical work without a permit is illegal in most areas. It could also invalidate your homeowner’s insurance.

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

What is a bonded electrician?

By Scott Bowers,

A bond is an insurance policy for which the contractor pays a premium. It guarantees that the contractor will meet his obligations in a satisfactory manner. Failure to do so should result in the payment of compensation by the bonding company. There are three types of bonds, payment bond, performance bond and bid bond.

Being bonded could be like getting an insurance policy that the job 1: will be completed and 2: will be done properly. Larger commercial and almost all government jobs will require that all contractors and sub-contractors be Licensed, insured, and bonded. If you can find a bonded electrician you have a good chance the job will be done properly.

a bonded electrician at work on a job site.

A bonded electrician considers safety

their number one priority on job sites.

One of the problems is depending on the cost of the job, the fees a bonding company charges could be high and this may be passed on to you the customer.

Actually the quality of any good electricians work should be guaranteed until he or she dies. If you do have a problem with faulty work with any bonded contractor, try to get the name of the agent who put out the bond for this particular job.

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

When is it time to call an electrician?

By Scott Bowers,

When you are resetting circuit breakers or changing fuses to often. When you turn on your air conditioner and the lights dim in the room. When your lights flicker or go on and off. When you can smell electricity burning. When you have six electronic devises going into one outlet in back of your electronics center. When you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips. When a three-prong plug needs a two-prong adapter. If you have to run extension cords to plug in electrical devises.

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