Aluminum Wiring? Hands Off!

Have a house built in the 60s or 70s? Looking at a fixer-upper from that era? Chances are it may have aluminum wiring. And that could mean trouble.

But first, a little background.

The Aluminum Wiring Boom
Copper prices spiked beginning around 1964 causing many makers of household wiring to look for a cheaper alternate. They found one in aluminum, and for several years aluminum was used extensively for wiring homes and offices. It was cheap, lightweight, and a good conductor of electricity. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with aluminum wiring—as long as it’s used correctly. In fact, all of the high-voltage electricity coming from generating plants to your home is typically carried by aluminum wire.

The problem comes when homeowners or contractors connect copper to aluminum.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way
Aluminum and copper can be connected safely, but it should only be done by persons trained in the proper ways. Copper and aluminum expand and contract at different rates and connections can loosen over time, causing flickering lights and dangerous heat buildup due to arcing. There are fixtures and connectors specifically designed for the purpose. They’re marked AL/CU or CO/ALR and those are the only ones that should be used. Aluminum also oxidizes over time, forming an insulating coat on the wire that can impede performance.

Even if the fixture is designed for copper/aluminum connection, never use the push-in slots instead of the screw terminals. Again, the expansion/contraction cycle can cause the wire to loosen causing trouble.

Bottom line, there are codes, equipment, and special techniques, and procedures for safely connecting to aluminum wiring and those are best left to a licensed professional electrician familiar with them.

One Other Concern
Even if you don’t plan to connect copper to existing aluminum wiring, your aluminum connections should be checked periodically for looseness and oxidation. Allstar Electrical’s Residential Preventative Maintenance Audit is designed to offer homeowners true piece of mind. We perform a full range of electrical inspections along with repairs and maintenance of wiring, switches, outlets, and lighting. We put particular emphasis on safety, assuring that all systems meet current grounding and child safety requirements.

Prevention Saves Time, Trouble, and Money
Identifying, anticipating, and preventing electrical problems avoids costly and time-consuming downtime and keeps your home safe and comfortable. Allstar Electrical Services delivers the expertise and quality results you expect and deserve. We’ve served Colorado’s Front Range for over 20 years, are top-rated by the Better Business Bureau, and a recommended contractor by Angi’s Home Advisor.® So whatever your electrical needs may be, call Allstar Electrical Services at 303.399.7420 or visit our website to request an estimate or set up an appointment.