A Home's Aluminum Wire Can Be A Downer
The Dangers of Aluminum Wiring
Ever wonder what lurks behind your walls? I’m not talking about creepy, crawly insects or cute squirrels named Sebastian. I’m talking more along the lines of “What did the electrical contractor use to wire my home?” As a master electrician and electrical professional, this thought is ever present in my mind with each home or business that I pass. Why some homes I know of still have their original wiring since their construction over 60 years ago! Original wiring can be a great cause of concern especially if its aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring is typically found in older homes and has many hazards associated with it.
Wait? What?! Then Why Aluminum?
Great question. The industry standard for wire material is copper. Then, in the 1950’s through 1970’s, the prices of copper rose and an alternative was found in aluminum. Aluminum was less expensive and is more conductive than copper. It was being used in larger industrial electrical lines, airplanes, and the power grid as a whole. So, the powers that be said, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander… Let’s put in America’s homes!” And the Aluminum Age began.
Although less expensive and more conductive, aluminum wiring comes with serious baggage. Unlike copper, aluminum expands and contracts when it gets hot. Like a yo-yo dieter, your wire is constantly going from fat-to-thin, fat-to-thin, and fat-to-thin again. Over time, this causes loose connections which results in resistance. Resistance is a fancy electrical term for heat, and heat in an electrical system can open a door to overheating and electrical fires.
Aluminum is a soft metal. It’s prone to easily breaking or being cut. It’s can be easily damaged from contact with a foreign object i.e. a nail through the wall. This can lead to tripped breakers, loss of power, and our old friend resistance.
Aside from its malleability, if your aluminum wire rusts dramatically losses its ability to carry electricity. Copper on the other hand, does not lose its conductivity if it were to rust. Aluminum requires more upkeep in the form of applying oxidization inhibitors to the connection points to help slow the oxidation process but is often neglected by homeowners.
Signs of an Aluminum Wiring
First off, aluminum is silver in appearance, copper is well, copper colored in appearance. (I believe burnt orange may be the artistic term but I’m a Master Electrician, not a painter.). Some other warning signs may be the following:
· Warm light switches and electrical outlets.
· Your lights flicker for no reason and you know your house is not haunted.
· Breakers trip constantly.
· It smells like something is burning.
· Smoke or sparks occur when plugging in your electrical devices.
At first glance, these problems can seem like nothing at all. However, over time and if left unattended, they can result in serious damage to your home. If you suspect you have aluminum, look into upgrading the wiring in your home. Taking action now can save you from the damage caused by an electrical fire later.
If you would like to learn more, or have questions on the safety of your electrical wiring, your Master Electrician is happy to help. Call David anytime at 904-579-2434, or shoot a quick email.
As always-- stay safe, friends!