The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff and other government Officials have investigated numerous hazardous incidents and fires throughout the nation involving aluminum branch circuit wiring. The Franklin Research Institute conducted a national survey for the CPSC. The survey showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets that reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes with copper wire.
The fire hazard investigated by CPSC occurs at connections with aluminum wire, including receptacles or switches and junction boxes; or the hazards occur with major appliances, including dishwashers or furnaces, for example. There are several deterioration processes in aluminum wire connections that cause increased resistance to the flow of electric current, resulting in damage that is cumulative in effect. That increased resistance causes overheating, sometimes at hazardous levels, when current is flowing in the circuit.
Signs of electrical system problems include receptacles or switches with face plates that are hot-to-the touch; inoperable circuits; flickering lights; or the smell of burning plastic at outlets or switches.
Aluminum wiring can be replaced or repaired to effectively and permanently reduce the possibility of fire and injury due to failing wire connections and splices. It is highly recommended that you hire a qualified electrician, familiar with aluminum solid branch wiring, to perform this remediation.
Replacement of the aluminum branch circuit conductors with copper wire eliminates the primary cause of the potential hazards, the aluminum wire itself. Depending on the architectural style of your home, it may be relatively easy for a qualified electrician to rewire your home. A new copper wire branch circuit system would be installed, and the existing aluminum wire could be abandoned inside the walls. This is the best method available; but for many homes, rewiring with copper is impractical and/or prohibitively expensive.
Frank Carr is the Owner / Inspector at First Choice Home Inspections in Deltona, FL serving Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Lake Counties. Formerly in the building trades, Frank’s focus is a safe home and building FCHI. We believe that consumers have the right to expect the highest standards of thoroughness, fairness and effectiveness from their home inspector and that is exactly what we provide.
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