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Aluminum Wiring - Special Precautions for the Homeowner
If you’re living in a house that was built between the years 1965 to 1973, there’s a good chance your home is at increased risk for electrical fires if it has aluminum house wiring. During that period, about 1.5 million homes were wired with aluminum wiring because copper wire was too expensive.
Unfortunately, this older aluminum house wiring proved to be a poor substitute for copper. Research conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than a home wired with copper. After 1973, copper once again become the predominant wire used in new house construction, renovations and rewiring.
For those homes that have aluminum wiring, a few simple steps can help prevent some of the potential hazards. The Leviton Institute recommends that homeowners consider calling in a qualified electrician to inspect all the switches and receptacles in their homes and, if necessary, replace them with devices made specifically for aluminum wiring.
These devices carry the designation of CO/ALR, which stands for copper/aluminum.
Underwriters Laboratory lists CO/ALR devices primarily for use with aluminum wire because they use special metals at the terminal areas that are compatible with aluminum wire.
Aluminum wiring has "Al" or "Aluminum" marked every few feet along the length of its insulating jacket.
CO/ALR wiring devices, like the one shown above, have special terminals designed just for aluminum wiring.
How can you tell if your home has aluminum wiring? One way is to visually inspect the bare wiring at the circuit breakers in the panel box. Look for the silver color typical of aluminum wire. You can also identify aluminum wire by visually inspecting any exposed house wiring, such as the wires in an attic, garage, or unfinished basement. Aluminum wiring has "Al" or "Aluminum" marked every few feet along the length of its insulating jacket.
Also watch for the warning signs that typically precede a serious electrical problem. These signs include faceplates on outlets or switches that are warm to the touch, lights that flicker on and off, circuits that no longer work, and the smell of burning plastic at outlets or switches. Because of the potential dangers posed by aluminum wiring, the Leviton Institute advises homeowners not to open, disassemble or touch any electrical panels, devices, or components if you are not familiar with aluminum wiring.
Other areas in the house that should be inspected include lighting fixtures, such as chandeliers and outdoor porch lights, and appliances that are wired directly to a branch circuit, such as an air-conditioning unit.
If you suspect that your home has aluminum wiring, have a qualified electrician conduct a thorough home inspection. Even room additions or circuits rewired or added between 1965 and 1973 may contain aluminum wiring.
Supplied for your information by Napoleon Home Inspections,
Certified Home Inspector for Barrie, Ontario and area.
Article SourceNapoleon Home Inspections - Barrie Home Inspector "Ask the Experts" advice forum for the home owner.