Aluminum wiring in homes: A fire waiting to happen
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Aluminum is one of the most versatile metals in existence, its use in the construction and electronics industry is infinite, however, it does not mean that it will always work at 100 percent. Some of the most common wiring damages have to do with aluminum wiring in homes.
Usually, the wires are made of copper, but between 1965-1970, they were replaced by aluminum due to the rising price of copper. However, many homes, buildings, and residences suffered damage to their electrical installations caused by aluminum connections.
Due to inherent qualities in the metal, its use in electrical-electronics is limited; it wears out faster than copper, and aluminum connections such as sockets, plugs, and switches damage more easily. Poor aluminum wiring generates hot spots, overheats, and is a potential fire hazard.
It has a high resistance to the flow of electric current, which means that, if you have the same amperage, you will have to use a larger diameter aluminum than copper.
Aluminum fatigues when subjected to bending, causing permanent breaks in the wires. If not, the fatigue causes it to resist the electric current each time, producing hot spots and possible fire points.
Aluminum corrodes in the presence of humidity and other metals.
Exposed to the weather, aluminum oxides by oxygen in the air, which is less conductive than copper oxide. With the passage of time, it oxidizes the connections generating short circuits or fires.
Aluminum is malleable, it can be compressed. Once bolted, an aluminum cable can continue to flow. If it continues to deform, connections can become loose. More colloquially, the same cable loosens when it is bolted to a connection in excess and causes resistance to current flow.
Electric current causes cables to vibrate as well as trains to vibrate on a bridge. Because it is so malleable and has little resistance to bending, aluminum wire can come loose from connections or break.
Aluminum contracts with cold and expands with heat, more easily than copper. This will eventually cause the connections to loosen in the future and for that reason is that they screwed and did not make links type “bayonet” or “push”.
Problems with aluminum when wiring a house
Wiring the entire house is not an easy option, as it involves opening up walls, floors, and ceilings. Instead, something as simple as changing the connectors of the connections can make a difference. By joining the ends with copper wires you can make the connections to the devices more securely, you will need to do this to make sure they are secure. There are COPALUM connectors by the CPSC and they require qualified personnel to make these connections.
Will aluminum wiring pass inspection?
The Inter NACHI Home Inspection Standards of Practice required a home inspector to report upon single-strand, solid conductor aluminum branch-circuit wiring if observed by the home inspector.
What to do?
The first thing you should do at the time of an inspection is to check the material of the wiring so that it has something easy to recognize. If it’s aluminum, the connections can change, and that it does not have visible hot spots. Aluminum wiring in homes has the color of aluminum, easily distinguishable from copper and other metals.
Look for the connection terminals of wiring devices mark CO/ALR which means copper-aluminum revised, it is safe to make the connection change. If the wiring is visible you can look for the initials of the Al element on the plastic cover.
Homes built between 1965 and 1975 were likely wired with aluminum.
Inspecting aluminum wiring
Once the material identifies, you should look for hot spots, cable softening, breaks, connections, and stripped or melted cables.
According to the association, there are several options to solve this situation with aluminum wiring. The first and not very viable option is to rewire. This is not feasible due to costs and time. The second option is to change the connections to copper, but it must be verified that they are viable and safe. You can use COPALUM crimps. The crimp connector repair consists of joining a piece of copper wire to the existing aluminum wire branch circuit with a specially designed metal sleeve and a motorized crimping tool. This special connector can only properly install with the appropriate AMP tool.
Is aluminum wiring a deal breaker?
Totally a deal-breaker. Among its characteristics, the fact that it expands when hot and contracts when cold, makes this use impossible. Changing the connections to copper may make it safe to use aluminum wiring in homes.
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