Is Your Home’s Wiring Safe? Find Out Now!

Posted in: Electrical

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Most homes in the 1960’s and 1970’s used aluminum wiring as a quick and cheap electrical wiring repair. This means your home could definitely contain unsafe wiring. Though it was grandfathered in to not be deemed a code violation, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and many other government officals have thoroughly investigated thousands of hazardous incidents and fires resulting from aluminum branch circuit wiring.
According to the CPSC, a national survey conducted by Franklin Research Institute for CPSC showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes that are wired with copper! This survery only assessed wired connections AT the outlets. This did not include other wire connections, such as splices throughout the home, which are also more prone to fail and potentially become a fire hazard.
elec kidThe fire hazard investigated by CPSC occurs at connections with aluminum wire, including receptacles or switches and junction boxes; or the hazards occur with major appliances, including dishwashers or furnaces, for example. There are several deterioration processes in aluminum wire connections that cause increased resistance to the flow of electric current, resulting in damage that is cumulative in effect. That increased resistance causes overheating, sometimes at hazardous levels, when current is flowing in the circuit.
A shortage of copper in the mid 1960s caused builders to increase the use of aluminum wire in residential electrical distribution systems from the few large-power circuits (i.e., for electric clothes dryers and ranges), to general purpose 15- and 20-ampere-rated circuits. Homes built before 1965 are unlikely to have aluminum branch circuit wiring. Electrical cables installed between 1965 and the mid 1970s in new homes, in additions, and as part of rewired/new circuits may contain aluminum wiring. On April 28, 1974, two people died in a home in Hampton Bays, N.Y. Fire officials determined that the fire was caused by an overheating aluminum wire connection at a wall receptacle.

Why is Aluminum Wiring Dangerous?

Think about the source that is running/transmitted through your wiring – electricity. Electricity generates and gives off heat. When your wires are actively generating electricity, they expand and contract as the electricity/heat passes through them. Aluminum is a soft metal, and when expansion and contraction continues regularly, the wiring is so soft that it easily breaks and will cause electrical malfunction and can unfortunately cause electrical fires and fire safety hazards in your home. Ever notice that a receptacle/outlet had power in your house one day, and the next, nothing? Plugged something in that worked yesterday and it doesn’t work today? It’s usually not your appliance. It’s your outlet. The aluminum wiring most likely broke within your wall, and now that outlet is considered dead. Aluminum wiring is not only dangerous for your home, but it’s extremely poor quality. Upgrading your home’s electrical wiring would benefit you in the long run, avoiding potential costly repairs and most importantly, avoiding potentially life-threatening electrical fires. NEVER TRY TO DO THIS YOURSELF. As the CPSC suggests, always hire a licensed electrician to do this work for you. You could not only be electrocuted, but you could potentially make the problem worse, which ends up costing you even more of your valuable, earned dollars!

Does Your Home Have Aluminum Wiring?

Identifying aluminum wiring in your home can be very simple, if you know what to look for. All electrical wiring is coated, and has an outer “jacket” that sheaths the actual wires, for your protection and to prevent wire tampering or damage. This plastic sheathed cable is often referred to as “Romex”. Most areas of your home do not have the wiring exposed for identification. However, most times you can find exposed wiring in your basement, attic or garage. If you need to, use a flashlight, and check the sheathing for embossed wording that most times reads “Al” or “Aluminum” every few feet along the length of the wire. However, make sure you keep reading! There can also be embossed indications of “CU-clad” or “Copper-clad” in addition to the “Al” and “Aluminum” markings. This does NOT mean you have copper wiring. It means that you have copper-coated aluminum wiring. This is still equally as dangerous and all-aluminum!If you are unable to identify your home’s wiring, give a licensed electrician (like us, America’s Best Mechanical & Electrical) a call to make these determinations for you!

For more information or to ask any further questions about this topic, please give us a call at 888-456-2525.

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