Putting aluminum wiring in houses was popular during the 1960s and 1970s, so a lot of older homes have it. You may be wondering, “what is aluminum wiring in a house?” or “how can I tell if my house has aluminum wiring?”
The most important question you should be asking, however, is this: Is aluminum wiring in a house dangerous?
The short answer is that, yes, aluminum wiring is dangerous — it presents a serious fire hazard if installed incorrectly. Here’s all you need to know about aluminum wiring in a house.
What is Aluminum Wiring in a House?
Aluminum wiring is a type of electrical wiring used in some residential construction projects or in homes with aluminum electrical conductors.
What makes this type of wiring different than others is that it’s made from aluminum instead of the usual copper.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, copper prices were rising significantly. As a result, a lot of builders opted to use the more affordable aluminum wiring instead. While this is perfectly fine in some situations, aluminum wiring in residential homes presents several potential problems.
How to Tell if Your House has Aluminum Wiring
Here, we’ll explain how to tell if your house has aluminum wiring. If you don’t feel comfortable examining your home’s wiring, you can always consult with a professional to handle the inspection for you.
Keep in mind that you should never attempt to resolve electrical issues on your own. Doing so may result in serious (even fatal) injury to yourself and/or your home.
Here are some ways to determine if there is aluminum wiring in your home:
- Find out if any electrical updates were made in your home during the 60s and 70s.
- Have an experienced professional examine the electric panel and circuit breakers.
- Check for the word “aluminum” on the insulation jackets of the wiring.
- Check for stripped wire ends at outlets and light switches.
What’s Wrong with Aluminum Wiring in House?
The main negative side effect of aluminum is that it expands more than copper does when heated. Wires heat up when electricity runs through them, which obviously occurs often.
Too much heat expansion forces the wire to poke out from under terminal screws and connections with light switches and outlets.
This can loosen the wires, exposing them to air, meaning they are more likely to corrode and oxidize. Gaps between the wiring and connectors may lead to overheating, an inability to power your appliances, and even house fires.
Another issue with aluminum wiring is that it’s less flexible and far more fragile than copper wiring, making it more prone to breaking, fraying, and damage. This is especially true if it’s been improperly installed.
All of these issues together — loose connections, oxidation, corrosion, breaking, etc. — make aluminum wiring less desirable.
Is Aluminum Wiring in a House Dangerous?
Aluminum wiring is an acceptable material when it’s been properly installed with the right materials. However, it can be dangerous when you consider all the problems it can present if it’s been installed poorly.
The connections between aluminum wires and outlets or switches can deteriorate quickly, becoming a serious fire hazard.
Additionally, as electrical resistance collects inside a wire, it becomes hotter and hotter, eventually becoming so hot that it can ignite a fire on the materials around it. Loose connections, oxidation, corrosion, and easy breakage all make aluminum wiring potentially dangerous in a home.
When you think of how many electrical connections exist in a residential home, it’s easy to see how dangerous bad wiring can be for your safety.
Should I Replace Aluminum Wiring in My House?
Even if no immediate danger is detected, it’s best to replace your home’s aluminum wiring. Rewiring your home can be an expensive project, but the good news is that you have a couple of options:
- Choose an electrician who offers financing options.
- Wait until there’s an immediate problem and save up in the meantime (you’ll still need regular inspections, though).
John C. Flood specializes in updating home electrical systems. One of our certified electricians will inspect the aluminum wiring in your house, catch any potential dangers or issues, and guide you through our recommendations and next steps.