Aluminum wiring can cause a homeowner a lot of problems. We’ll discuss why and when it was used in homes, and what causes the safety issues. We are the experts in the Calgary area and are pleased to offer free aluminum wiring evaluations.
Why Aluminum Wiring is Dangerous
The deterioration of aluminum wire causes a resistance to electric currents. This increased resistance at switches, receptacles, splices and pigtails causes overheating and the potential for arcing. In other words, it creates a fire hazard.
Aluminum wiring can lead to serious problems in your home, but Exquisite Electric can help.
Why Was Aluminum Wiring Used?
A copper shortage in the mid-1960’s caused homebuilders to look for a cheaper alternative to copper wiring. Wires made with aluminum were less expensive and seemed a viable option at the time.
Why Did They Stop Using Aluminum Wiring?
Following a deadly house fire in 1974 in the US, caused by an overheated aluminum connection at a wall outlet, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) began investigating numerous other incidents involving aluminum wiring. Aluminum wire stopped being used in residential applications as a result of their report.
How Many Homes Are Affected By Aluminum Wiring?
An estimated 450,000 homes in Canada were built between 1965 and the mid-1970’s. Many of these houses were wired with aluminum, and consequently are “55 times more likely to have Fire Hazard Conditions,” according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Aluminum Wiring Indicators
How do you know if your home has aluminum wiring? Please contact an electrician for an evaluation if your home meets any of the criteria below in addition to being built or renovated between the mid 1960’s-mid 1970’s.
- Flickering Lights
- Outlets or switches that are warm or hot to the touch
- Light bulbs and appliances not lasting as long as they should
- Unusual static on radios, televisions or computers
- Circuit breakers tripping
- Sizzling, crackling or a burning smell coming from outlets, switches, lights or the electrical panel
Why Aluminum Wiring Fails
It should be noted that aluminum is a fine conductor. In spite of this, a number of factors will cause it to break contact with other wires at the connection points. Electricity then has to arc across the broken or loosened connection points, increasing the chances of an electrical fire. Aluminum wire connections are susceptible to the following issues:
Different metals expand at different temperatures and at different rates. Aluminum, copper and steel are no exception. When aluminum and copper are used together, or aluminum is used against a wire nut, the aluminum expands faster than the copper or steel. The aluminum also cools faster, which will cause an increase in resistance due to a loss of proper contact with the wire nut.
Aluminum Wire Oxidization
Aluminum oxidization happens within moments after bare aluminum metal is exposed to the air. Oxides form on the surface of aluminum wire and unlike copper oxides, which are conductive, aluminum oxides have high dialectic strength (not conductive). A good aluminum termination requires that these oxides be removed during the termination process and that new oxides be prevented from forming.
Galvanic corrosion is the process in which one metal corrodes preferentially when it is in electrical contact with another.
Aluminum and copper have a large galvanic potential difference between them, which can lead to galvanic corrosion when they are joined together and an electrical current is passed through them. This corrosion causes a lack of contact between the wire leading to increased resistance and increased risk of overheating and fire hazard conditions.
The corrosion may be limited or reduced by plating one or both of the metals with an intermediate potential, such as tin.
Aluminum Wiring Creep
Creep happens when aluminum conductors are subjected to a constant stress. The aluminum has a tendency to ‘creep’ or pull away from the stressed area. This creeping will continue until the stress is equal to the ultimate strength of the aluminum itself.
When an aluminum conductor is wrapped around a screw terminal of a switch or receptacle, the aluminum has a tendency to creep away from the screw, causing high resistance in the circuit and increasing the chances of an arc.
What Does Aluminum Wiring Look Like?
Aluminum wires look a lot like their copper counterpart. That being said, there are a few things to look for on the wire jacket that will let you know if it is aluminum or copper inside. For information on what to look for, please visit our blog post: How to Identify Aluminum Wiring
Aluminum Wiring and Home Insurance
Most insurance companies are now increasing the premiums, or even denying coverage, for homes that have been wired with aluminum. For this reason, they now require a detailed safety inspection from an electrician to ensure that the wiring risk has been mitigated. Many homeowners run into problems after they purchase a home or when they are trying to sell their home as explained by Canada’s Real Estate Magazine. Your insurance premiums may be reduced once an electrician has repaired your aluminum wiring and submitted the proof.
What Aluminum Wiring Repair Solutions are Available?
If you know your home is wired with aluminum, there are a number of solutions available to you depending on your budget and the condition of the wiring. Visit our aluminum solutions page or simply book a free consultation with Exquisite Electric to discuss options.
If you are not sure how to proceed, please give us a call and we would be happy to do a free assessment of your home.
Suite 223, 370 5222 130 Ave SE
Serving Calgary and the surrounding area including Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Millarville, DeWinton, Heritage Heights, Priddis, Bragg Creek, Chestermere and more.