Aluminum wiring has been used for literally over a hundred years, but only recently have homeowners started to worry that aluminum wiring might not be as safe as copper wiring.
So, what is aluminum wiring and is it really something that you need to worry about? The short answer is that you shouldn’t have to worry about your aluminum wiring unless you’re experiencing one or more of the warning signs listed below.
As for aluminum wiring itself, the reason that it was originally used and put in so many homes is that it has better conductivity than copper considering the weight of each.
The conductivity of aluminum wiring was so much better than copper wiring that for decades industrial utility companies used aluminum wiring for their power grids and transmission lines.
What’s the Problem?
Many homes in the 1960s and 1970s were powered by aluminum over copper because the price of copper was prohibitively high at that time. The reason that eventually became an issue was that the electrical devices in the homes at that time – e.g., overhead fans and electrical switches) weren’t designed for aluminum wiring.
This created a bunch of issues for homeowners, which were later addressed by updated manufacturing standards. Modern buildings have undergone similar improvements where nationwide standards rate the terminations used in the building for aluminum wire specifically.
Rating for aluminum-to-aluminum connections and larger stranded aluminum wiring is now standard practice because of new National Electric Code Standards. For both commercial and residential buildings and homes, the problem with aluminum wiring has to do with the rate at which aluminum wiring oxidizes, poor initial installation, and something called “creep” where the aluminum wire deforms over time because of the load put on it.
(Aluminum oxide is technically an issue because it acts as an electrical insulator rather than an electrical conductor: The opposite of what you typically want.)
Warning Signs Not to Ignore
The first thing to do if you know that you have an older home or commercial business that may have used aluminum wiring is call on Spyrka Electic for an inspection of your setup.
Your inspector might come out and say that the only thing you need to do is retrofit a couple of suspicious wires with copper-aluminum connections. You could be good to go with just one phone call.
The thing to really watch out for, though, are these warning signs. If you’re experiencing one or more then you probably have a faulty connection or faulty wiring, and aluminum wiring could be the prime suspect.
Do you trip your breakers frequently and find yourself having to run down to the basement and reset it as the box? That and discolored or hot outlets are huge signs that your wiring needs to be professionally inspected.
Other tell-tale signs of potentially serious problems with your aluminum wiring are flickering lights or a noticeable plastic odor that your outlets seem to be giving off whenever you turn on an appliance or device.
The last warning sign could be the most dangerous because it means that you almost certainly have a serious problem on your hands: a sparking outlet that also makes a buzzing sound is something you shouldn’t ignore.
The professional electricians at Spyrka Electric can come at a time of your convenience to your home or business in order to inspect all of your outlets and switches. In most instances, no wall cutting is necessary and clients get tremendous peace of mind.