Ask The Inspector Blog Series:
Question: What is the big concern about Aluminum wiring? - Denise B.
Answer: Solid strand aluminum Branch wiring has been linked to a high risk of electrical fires, but regular maintenance or remediation can help reduce this risk.
Solid strand aluminum wiring has long been a topic of concern for homeowners and electricians alike. Aluminum wiring replaced copper wiring in the mid-twentieth century due to its lower cost, but it has proven to be less reliable compared to copper wiring. One of the applications of aluminum wiring is in Branch wiring, which supplies electricity to various devices throughout the home. Lets discuss the risks associated with solid strand aluminum Branch wiring and the maintenance that needs to be done to avoid problems.
Risks of Solid Strand Aluminum Branch Wiring
Solid strand aluminum Branch wiring has been linked to a relatively high risk of electrical fires. This is because aluminum is more prone to expanding and contracting compared to copper, which makes it more likely to loosen over time. This loosening leads to overheating when the wiring is carrying an electrical load, resulting in worn insulation and possible arcing.
Another risk associated with solid strand aluminum wiring is corrosion, which can cause the wire to deteriorate over time. When this happens, the connection points between wires can become loose, leading to arcing and excessive heat generation. This corrosion is exacerbated when aluminum wiring is used with incompatible materials, such as copper connectors or devices.
Aluminum Branch Wiring Maintenance
To reduce the risk associated with solid strand aluminum Branch wiring, it is important to perform regular maintenance. Here are some of the things you can do to ensure the reliability of your home’s aluminum wiring:
- Schedule regular electrical inspections - A licensed electrician should perform an electrical inspection of your home every five years or whenever you experience any electrical-related issues in your home. These inspections can catch any issues before they become potentially dangerous.
- Replacement of devices - Replace any outdated or non-compliant aluminum-compatible devices with compatible devices. This can significantly reduce the risk of overheating or fire.
- Regular fastening - Check to ensure that all connections are properly tightened and fastened to prevent loosening and possible arcing.
- Avoid mixed metals - Do not use copper connectors or devices with solid strand aluminum Branch wiring. This will reduce the risk of corrosion and loosening of the connection points.
- Expert replacement - If you are planning on making any electrical upgrades to your home, make sure the installation is performed by a licensed electrician familiar with solid strand aluminum wiring.
Aluminum Branch Wiring Remediation Options
- Replace with Copper wiring - Replacing solid-strand aluminum wiring with Copper wiring is a well-established and popular choice. It offers better conductivity than aluminum, longer lifespan, and is more durable. Wire replacement, however, is an expensive and invasive remediation method. Unless you are planning on significantly remodeling the home, replacement may not be a viable and cost-effective method.
- Install COPALUM crimp connectors - COPALUM Crimp connectors offer one solution for aluminum wiring. The system involves a permanent repair method to effectively reduce the risks of fire hazards.
- Install AlumiConn Connectors- AlumiConn is another solution for homeowners who have aluminum wiring in their homes. The AlumiConn connectors allow for a copper-to-aluminum connection, reducing the risks associated with aluminum wiring. This alternative installation also results in longer-lasting connections.
The risks associated with solid strand aluminum Branch wiring are significant, but can be effectively avoided through maintenance and replacement options. Regular inspection, tightening of connection points, and usage of aluminum-compatible devices can drastically reduce the risk of fire hazards. Copper wiring, COPALUM crimp connectors, and AlumiConn interchangeable connectors are effective replacement options that are long-lasting, safe, and cost-effective for homeowners. It is sensible for homeowners whose homes feature any old wiring of this type to invest in making the necessary replacements to ensure the household remains safe.