- Single strand aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s, is a potential fire hazard.
Aluminum Electrical Wiring Hazard
How safe is aluminum wiring?
- According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard. Problems due to expansion, or more likely micro-fretting and arcing at the connectors, can cause overheating at connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at splices. The connections can become hot enough to start a fire without ever tripping a circuit breaker!
- CPSC research shows that “homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than are homes wired with copper. “Post 1972” aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire “alloys” in 1972 time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems. Aluminum wiring is still permitted and used for certain applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits which usually consist of multi-strand wiring. The fire risk from single purpose circuits or multi-strand wiring is much less than for branch circuits or single strand wiring. But it’s not necessarily because of a “new alloy” as some folks assert. It’s because there are enormously fewer connections (four or six rather than 30 or 40 per circuit) and thus statistically a smaller chance of a connection failure. These connections do still burn up, as indicated by field reports. bullet For more information concerning Electrical Safety, go to Electrical Safety Publications – US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Reducing the Fire Hazard in Aluminum-Wired Homes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: ANY REPAIRS MUST BE DONE BY A QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN.
- Aluminum-wired connections in homes have been found to have a very high probability of overheating compared with copper-wired connections. 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 resulted, some involving injury and death.
- The probability of aluminum-wired connection overheating in a home varies considerably according to the types of connections, the installation methods used, and the circuit usage, along with many other factors.
- The most certain corrective action for all cases would be to rewire the home with copper wire. This can be expensive but is the “fix”.
- Currently, the only “accepted repair” is the copalum crimp method. Using this method requires this repair to be made at all aluminum connections including but not limited to, junction boxes, switches, outlets, fixtures and appliances.