Will Aluminum Wiring Cause a Fire in My Home Featured Image

Aluminum wiring was predominantly used in residential wiring between 1968 and 1975, particularly in homes with unfinished basements where the main floor was wired with aluminum. As the homes were sold, owners eventually began developing the basements, transitioning to the use of copper wiring.

When you open an electric panel from the 70s today, you may notice a mix of aluminum and copper, distinguishable by examining the neutral bar where the white wires terminate. The stripped wires reveal the core metal conductors, and a close look can determine whether the conductors are silver (aluminum) or copper-colored, providing a reliable indicator of the wiring material.

Aluminum Wiring and Fire Hazards

Aluminum Wiring Caused Fire in a Wall Receptacle Image

A quick Google search confirms that aluminum wiring is associated with fire hazards. For homes built between 1968 and 1975, it’s crucial for a home inspector to open the electrical panel and inspect the internal wiring, specifically checking for the presence of aluminum.

The primary issue is known as “cold flow,” occurring when aluminum conductors compress under a screw on the side of a plug or switch. Aluminum’s characteristic expansion and contraction when electricity flows through it can cause it to loosen under the screw, leading to arcing, heat generation, and, under extreme conditions, fire.

Clarifying Misconceptions

There’s a common misconception about the safety of aluminum-rated devices. Even if the homeowner has installed devices rated for aluminum, it does not guarantee safety. While these devices have metal contact surfaces that do not oxidize when in contact with aluminum wiring, the core problem lies in the compression of the wiring under the screw, causing arcing, melting, and potential fires. Addressing oxidation alone does not ensure fire protection.

The Solution

The recommended solution to prevent fires is the installation of pigtails. This method involves creating a secure connection between the aluminum wiring and a short length of copper wire, mitigating the risk of loosening under screws and the associated fire hazards.

For a comprehensive solution to the aluminum wiring issue, contact us for a free quote today at (780) 238-8195. Your safety is our priority.

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