Many homes constructed or modified between 1965 and 1973, have some amount of single-strand (solid) aluminum wiring. This was often a substituted for traditional copper branch-circuit wiring in residential electrical systems. After almost a decade of use by homeowners, contractors and electricians, an inherent weaknesses was discovered in the aluminum metal that lead to its desuetude as a branch wiring material. Aluminum has been found to become defective faster than copper due to a few qualities inherent in the metal. Due to these deficits neglected connections in wall outlets, switches and light fixtures containing aluminum wiring become increasingly dangerous. Poor electrical connections cause aluminum wiring to overheat, which can result in a potential life threatening fire hazard. The presence of single-strand aluminum wiring may void a home’s current or future home insurance policy. When seen in a home, Home Inspectors may instruct their clients to talk with their insurance agent about whether the presence of aluminum wiring in their home is considered a potential fire hazard, a defect, and/or a problem that requires changes to their policy language if not replaced.
Where can I check to see if my house has aluminum wiring?
If you are looking to buy a house built in this era (1965-1973), you want to check for this type of wiring during your onsite home inspection and understand what options are available to mitigate the risk. The primary location to check for the type of wiring in your home is inside your home’s electric panel. This should ONLY be done by a licensed electrician or a Licensed & Certified Home Inspector. Do not do this on your own, You need to remove the dead front cover to the electric panel to see the wiring and this should only be done by trained professionals as it is a huge safety risk.
Home Inspector Facts and Figures
* On April, 28, 1974, two individuals were killed due to a house fire located in Hampton Bays, New York. “Fire officials determined that the fire was caused by a faulty aluminum wire connection at an outlet.” as stated in U.S. Depository Property U.S.G.P.O.D-295
* In 1972, manufacturers modified both aluminum wire and switches and outlets to improve the performance of aluminum wired connections.
* Homes built before 1965 are unlikely to have aluminum branch circuit wiring. Homes built, rooms added, and circuits rewired or added between 1965 and 1973 may contain aluminum wiring.
* According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): Houses wired with single strand of aluminum wire that is used for fifteen (15) and twenty (20) amp circuits are 50-60 times more likely to have (1) one or more connections reach “fire hazard conditions” than homes wired with copper. This wiring was primarily utilized in residential homes built/constructed between 1965 and 1972.
Identifying Aluminum Wiring
Aluminum wires tend to be the color of aluminum and are easily discernible from traditional copper and other metals. Since the early 1970s, wiring-device binding terminals for use with aluminum wire have been noted with CO/ALR, which represents “copper/aluminum revised. Look for the complete word “aluminum” or its’ initials “AL” on the plastic wiring jacket. Aluminum wire could have the word “aluminum,” or a specific brand name, such as “Kaiser Aluminum,” printed on the wire jacket. If the labels are difficult to read, shining a light along the length of the wire, can help identify them.