Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aluminum Wiring Problems

Aluminum wiring cause outlet to spark

We were called out to this home because the outlet started to spark. This is a scary situation for any homeowner. This home was built in the 1960. I was wired with Aluminum wires. 

The owner removed the outlet and smartly called us (Electricians) into to look at the situation. This is a picture of the electrical box when we arrived at the home. Aluminum wires look like modern wires accept the metal is silver instead of gold. The wires are slightly thicker then copper wire and much lighter. Aluminum is a much softener wire then copper. If it is handled incorrectly the wire can fatigue and break. It also corrodes differently than copper. This is a problem when attaching AL wire to electrical equipment that was designed for CU. 

Aluminum wiring was only use for a short time in the 1960 during a copper shortage. At that time it was a cost effective solution for new houses. Now some 50 years later we recommend that this wire be removed. The wire becomes more dangerous as it ages.  Al corrodes and weeks much faster than CU.  A 50 year old piece of Al wire can be broken by hand without any tools. 

You can see here in this picture where the Aluminum wire started to spark and almost caught fire. The outlet was never designed to work with AL wiring.  The screw terminal is a CU post.    Outlets that you purchase at your local home centers are normally stamped with the type of wire they work with on their yokes (Frames). Not correctly matching the devices to the wire  is just another of the many problem that home with Aluminum wires face. 
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  1. I wired many homes with aluminum in the 1970's when i first started in the trade,now going back to repair and replace. at one time there were al only receps and switches and we never had callbacks on them have seen most all the burnt up receps and wires, what was worse they actually used it in the mobile homes of the era too ! talk about a fire trap.

  2. Despite the blown wires that look like have been shorted, the open ended current is still active. It is best that we exercise caution on this one.

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