Aluminum wiring was commonly used for wiring homes throughout North America, built from the 1960s to the late 1970s, due to copper being high priced, and aluminum being a cheap alternative. Electrical devices such as receptacles, light switches, fans, and other fixtures, weren’t designed to be used with the aluminum wiring of this time period. Homes with the older aluminum wiring are more at risk of a potential fire hazard.
What kind of problems are associated with aluminum wiring?
Some of the more common problems found with aluminum wiring are non-compatible connectors, oxidizing, and overheating. The high expansion and contraction of aluminum wiring, resulted in what is referred to as “cold flow” or “creeping”. Cold flow or creeping, is when the electricity flows through the wire, causing it to heat up. Over time, the repeated expanding and contracting of the wire caused by heating and cooling, allowed for the wire to creep out from under the terminal screws. This resulted in loose connections and overheating.
Is there a solution to fixing the problem with aluminum wiring?
The best solution to fixing the problem with aluminum wiring is “pig-tailing”. Pig-tailing involves disconnecting the aluminum wire from the old receptacles, switches, etc., and then attach a piece of copper wire to it. Then, the wires need to be coated with an anti-oxidant paste to prevent oxidization. Twist-on connectors (marettes) rated for both aluminum and copper are then used to protect the connections. New receptacles, switches, etc., rated for copper are then attached to the copper wire and installed. These repairs should only be done by a licensed electrician.