Aluminum wiring is very common among houses in the St. Louis market constructed from the mid to late 1960’s through the early 1980’s. Even though it is common, we are of the opinion that “safeguards” to the system are very important. The following link is provided to help educate you so that you may make an informed decision as to the safety of your home:
Do Not Use Purple Wire Nuts
This repair method is considered unacceptable by the Consumer Safety Products Commission for solving the problem of overheating aluminum wiring circuits.
Even though it is common, we are of the opinion that “safeguards” to the system should be made to ensure the system is safe. What was found to be happening was that corrosion was forming on the surface of the aluminum. The corrosion forms when two dissimilar metals meeting this case the contact between the aluminum wire and the brass screw terminals on the wiring devices. (Copper wires with brass terminals do not create corrosion because brass is an alloy of copper.)
The corrosion causes the resistance between the wire and the terminals to rise, and the rise in resistance causes heating a few isolated cases enough heat to cause the nearby combustible materials to ignite. The corrosion may not occur if the recommended wiring devices are used. Ultimately, the rating authorities decided that specially designed wiring devices were needed for aluminum branch wiring, and the electrical code was changed about 1971. These new devices use terminals made of alloys that are more compatible with aluminum.
To assist consumers who live in homes with aluminum wiring to reduce the potential risk of fire and the possibility of dangerous overheating, the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission suggests the following precautionary steps.
CONSUMERS WHO HAVE NOT HAD THOROUGH ELECTRICAL TRAINING SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO INSPECT THEIR HOME WIRING SYSTEM OR MAKE ANY ELECTRICAL REPAIRS OR ADJUSTMENTS BEFORE SEEKING EXPERT ADVICE. SERIOUS OR FATAL ELECTRIC SHOCK COULD RESULT.
- If you are not certain or if you do not know whether your home is wired completely with aluminum, ask a knowledgeable electrician or other qualified individual to make the determination. If aluminum wiring was used, have the electrician or individual check the connections on heavily loaded and constantly loaded circuits to determine if the electrical connections have been made properly or show evidence of deterioration.
- Trouble signals associated with aluminum wiring problems include:
* Warm switch or receptacle face plates.
* Strange or distinctive odor or the smell of burning plastic in the vicinity of a receptacle or switch.
* flickering of lights not traceable to appliances or obvious external causes.
IF THESE TROUBLE SIGNALS ARE PRESENT IN YOUR HOME, SEEK EXPERT ADVICE IMMEDIATELY.
Below are repair methods approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission;
- 1) Complete Replacement with Copper Cable
2) COPALUM Method of Repair by an approved contractor/electrician.
3) Acceptable Alternative Repair Method/AlumiConn Connector
- If it is necessary to replace some wall switches and some receptacle outlets, only devices which are designed specifically for use with aluminum wiring should be used. These devices are labeled CO/ALR on the mounting strap.
- The following link to the Consumer Products Safety Commision “Repairing Aluminum Wiring” publication to help educate you so that you may make an informed decision as to the safety of your home: http://www.cpsc.gov//
How can Apple Inspections help?
Even if you believe proper improvements have been completed to your electrical distribution system conditions change. We can use our Infrared Camera and experience to inspect your electrical system. An infrared camera can detect even the slightest increase in temperate at outlets, switches, fixtures and the service panel and give you confidence in your electrical system. And remember that fire officials state that smoke alarms are the best fire safety devices.
Another alternative potential correction or safety enhancement to this wiring system would be installation of a panel box utilizing Arc Fault Circuit Interruptors (AFCI) breakers. These breakers are relatively new to the market and were designed to trip off when an “arcing” occurs in the line such as an electrical cord being chewed in-two which could spark and start a fire. When this “arcing” occurs, the breaker would automatically trip off power to this circuit thus preventing any damage. While this was not designed for aluminum wiring, it does simulate the hazard with most aluminum connections and therefore may be a reasonable retrofit for an aluminum wired house.