Aluminum Wiring in Older Homes
Aluminum Wiring Maintenance & Repair
One of Electric Doctor’s most popular calls is about aluminum wiring in older homes. Whether someone is buying a home, selling a home, or remodeling, the issues regarding aluminum wiring is well known but sometimes they don’t know what to do about it.
Aluminum wiring was utilized in many older residences around the country and in Colorado. This type of branch circuit wiring can be troublesome and dangerous. I have seen numerous examples of aluminum wiring going awry during my stint as an Electrician. A large portion of the problems have to do with loose and/or arcing connections within the electrical junction boxes that house the outlets, switches, and light fixtures. In this scenario some part of the electrical system will either stop working or work intermittently. You may experience lights flickering or dimming. Household appliances and electronics may turn off and on unexpectedly. This can be caused by numerous conditions i.e. weather and hot/cold expansion and contraction, arcing, old worn out switches and outlets, switches and outlets not being properly rated, improper copper/aluminum connections, and the list goes on. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, consider it a warning that more problems are potentially on the horizon.
The next issue that is of equal or of more concern is “flame out” or “meltdown” syndrome. I have come across this situation many times while investigating aluminum wiring related problems in homes. This is where the problem has gone beyond the point of a loose connection or arcing to emerge as a very real fire hazard and has already melted most everything within the electrical box or boxes. It is common to discover the “culprit” circuit to still be alive (energized). Often times when this situation occurs it has been compounded by an antiquated electrical circuit breaker such as Federal Pacific (FPE) or Zinsco that does not function correctly. Circuit breakers are designed to trip when overloaded or a short is present. Old antiquated electrical circuit breakers that have never been exercised can be extremely dangerous. I have witnessed old breakers, under test conditions, that did not trip until almost five times the current for which it was designed, was applied. In other words it took almost 100 amperes of current to trip an antiquated circuit breaker rated to trip at 20 amperes and even then it was not instantaneous allowing the wire to overheat and meltdown. Examples are shown in our pictures of wire-nuts, aluminum wire, switches, and outlets that have experienced Meltdown Syndrome.
If your home has aluminum wiring and your electrical breaker panel is still the originally installed electrical breaker panel, you should plan on an electrical panel upgrade. Any residence that contains aluminum branch circuit wiring should definitely consider making the upgrade to a new electrical circuit breaker panel, known in the electrical industry as an ”Electrical Service Upgrade”. An Electrical Service Upgrade for your home from a reliable electrical service contractor will ensure that properly sized circuit breakers have been installed for each branch circuit and that each circuit breaker will trip (go to off) like they should if an overloaded condition or a short in the branch circuit occurs. Along as serving to provide a level of personal comfort and satisfaction in knowing your home’s wiring will be much more reliable and safer, it is also a selling feature should you decide to sell your property in the future.
If you have this type of wiring in your home you should have it checked out thoroughly by a licensed electrical contractor to ensure it is sound. The electrical contractor can perform a procedure known as “pig-tailing” wherein the aluminum wiring is spliced to a section of the same sized copper wire by means of an industry approved method. The copper wire then terminates to the outlet, switch, or light fixture to ensure a good reliable connection. Repair of aluminum wiring is an area best left to electrical licensed professionals with experience in troubleshooting electrical wiring and branch circuits and implementing these types of repairs. Purple wirenuts were the accepted form of copper/aluminum pigtailing as well as wirenuts with an anti-oxidant compound for years. Electric Doctor uses UL Listed AlumiConn Connectors for our pig-tailing projects.
Electric Doctor offers electrical safety inspections of the aluminum wiring in your home and will chart a course of action to ensure your home is electrically safe. Given our level of experience with correcting electrical issues you can rest assured that your electrical system is in good hands. Electric Doctor also offer panel maintenance services to avoid loose connections and future problems.
Electric Doctor will help you avoid electrical problems that can occur from defective aluminum wiring by giving your home and your electrical system some TLC in the form of preventative maintenance. Electric Doctor’s preventative maintenance service consists of a complete electrical system overview, check up, and tune up. We will provide you with a list of recommendations that may be needed or desired to keep your electrical system current and in peak operating condition. Our service is cost effective and will help to assure you that your electricity will be there when you need it most.