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Is Aluminum Wiring Safe for my Home?

If you live in a home that was constructed in the mid-1960s or 70s, you may have an electrical system that uses aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring was commonly utilized in this time period as a cost-effective alternative to copper. At BNR Electric, we often receive a similar question from homeowners: is aluminum wiring safe for my home? Though it is a safe option for most homes if proper connections are in place, there are several precautions and considerations to keep in mind. That is why our team at BNR Electric has created an outline of the defining qualities and potential hazards of aluminum. This information can be used to determine if you need to update your old electrical system.

Qualities of Aluminum and Potential Hazards

Though aluminum and copper can be reliably used for electrical systems, there are several significant differences between them.

  • Electrical Resistance: Aluminum has a higher electrical resistance than copper. This means that aluminum conductors or wires need to have a larger diameter to have the same effect.
  • Ductility and Softness: Wires often need to be bent or shaped during installation, so ductility is crucial. Copper is more pliable than aluminum, meaning that it will not break down or wear as easily. Aluminum is also softer than copper, making it more prone to damage during installation.
  • Thermal Expansion: Metal expands and contracts with changes in temperature. When comparing aluminum and copper, the former is more susceptible to changes in size when external temperatures change. This means that aluminum wiring is safer for “screw-in” systems rather than “push-in” or “stab” configurations.
  • Corroding: Both copper and aluminum will corrode over time, but the way they oxidize is significantly different. Corrosion on copper is green and highly conductive, while corrosion on aluminum is white and barely conductive. This means that copper wiring remains conductive even after corroding while aluminum wires start to become less conductive.

Aluminum wiring can result in flickering lights, loud static on televisions, and exceptionally warm faceplates or outlets. Hot outlets or faceplates can pose a large risk for an electrical fire, so it is important to check them often.

How to Effectively Address These Hazards

First, it is important to determine if your home uses aluminum wires. This can be determined by checking the electrical panel. If any of these wires are marked with ALUM, ACM, or AL, then they are made of aluminum. After determining this, it is best to contact a professional, such as the team at BNR Electric, to perform an in-depth electrical inspection.

Issues with aluminum wiring tend to occur at connection points rather than within the wire. This means that our team may be able to replace key connection points instead of replacing the entire system. Reach out to BNR Electric today to ask about an inspection or to learn more about how we can keep your electrical system safe.

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