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Aluminum Wiring

Submitted by SterlingBrown on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 14:10

About that Aluminum Wiring…

A little background information on aluminum electrical wiring is important.  Many homes around were wired with aluminum beginning in 1965.  It was later discovered that some aluminum wiring was causing fires and its use on the 15- and 20-amp circuits was discontinued in the mid 1970s.  15- and 20-amp circuits typically serve lighting and receptacles.

Some properties that make aluminum useful in many applications make it inferior to copper as an electrical conductor for the home. Often the wire was pinched or damaged in the process of shipping or installation.   Some crews that were expert at installing tough copper wire never quite mastered dealing with softer aluminum. The point at which the wire was pinched had lower capacity as a conductor and heated up, posing a serious fire hazard.

The other two problems with aluminum are its tendency to oxidize and its thermal expansion.  In plain English, oxidation is a whitish coating that forms on the wire and lessens its conducting capacity.  This lower capacity causes the wire to heat up during use.  Thermal expansion poses a problem at the terminal screws in light switches and receptacles.  Expanding and contracting each time the switch or appliance is turned on and off, the wire can begin to creep off the terminal screws.  This can cause poor connections and arcing, again putting the home in danger of a fire.

Warning Signs of Unsafe Aluminum Wiring:
There are several warning signs of unsafe aluminum wiring.  Any one of these warning signs should prompt an immediate call to an electrician for evaluation:
1.    Unusually warm receptacles and switch cover plates.  Sometimes cover plates will become warped from the heat.
2.    Smoke, sparks, or “flashing” coming from or seen behind receptacles and switches.
3.    Untraceable problems with plug-in lights and appliances.
4.    Periodic flickering of lights.

Be sure to have an electrician address any of these problems.  Aluminum wiring is not handyman-friendly.  This is not a project for the untrained.  Also, aluminum requires different receptacles, switches, and connectors than copper, so the inexpensive parts you find in the bin at the local home warehouse probably aren’t compatible.         

Will I Have to Rewire to Sell My House?

Probably not.  If your wiring is functioning properly now and displays none of the warning signs, your home is marketable with the aluminum wiring.  If you are experiencing electrical problems, call a reputable, licensed electrician for an evaluation.  There are several approved methods of dealing with problem aluminum short of rewiring the home.  Be specific with the electrician about the problems you’ve observed, as well as your plans for the home.  And don’t be afraid of calling more than one electrician for a quote.

If you’re buying a home built between 1965 and 1973, Aluminum wiring is one more reason you should hire a professional home inspector prior to closing.  The report should be in writing. Hiring an inspector who does not measure up to the industry standard, InterNACHI or ASHI can leave a buyer in the dark.

MAIS is your best choice for Fargo Home Inspection and Moorhead Home Inspection Services as well as Alexandria Home Inspections and Detroit Lakes Home Inspections, Fergus Falls Home Inspections, and the surrounding Western Minnesota Lakes Area.

Call 218-443-3555 or 218-841-0444 for immediate scheduling of your Home Inspection.


Submitted by SterlingBrown on Thu, 06/13/2019 - 14:10