If you've recently moved into an older home or if you're considering buying one in the near future, you may find that aluminum wiring is part of the package. You've probably heard rumors about aluminum wiring, which may or may not be true. The answer to whether aluminum wiring is unsafe is not a simple yes or no. In some cases, aluminum wiring can serve well with a minimum of risk. In other cases, it poses a hazard and will need replacing. Here are three signs that aluminum wiring may be unsafe in your situation.
1. Its use isn't limited to appropriate situations
Although homes aren't wired entirely with aluminum today because codes require safer options that can handle higher loads, there are some applications where aluminum is still allowed and considered to be safe. Single purpose circuits, for example, may use aluminum wiring safely, such as those dedicated circuits that may be used for an AC unit. If you find aluminum wiring throughout the house, rather than limited to safer applications, you may have some cause for concern.
2. Too many connections are made
One of the reasons dedicated circuits are safer for aluminum wiring is because they don't have a lot of connections like branched circuits do. The fewer connections per circuit, the lower the chances are that a connection will work loose and start arcing. The safety issues with aluminum wiring are due to not the wiring itself, but how it interacts with the rest of the electrical system (especially when the aluminum is installed with devices rated only for copper wiring), so the more interaction there is, the more dangerous it becomes.
3. The wiring is from before 1972
If your house was wired in the era before 1972, it's not only extremely old wiring by this point and therefore more likely to develop faults; it's also a system that was likely installed unsafely. When aluminum wiring was installed back then, it was often used in conjunction with switches that aren't compatible with aluminum and tend to cause it to deteriorate. This is because aluminum was being used as a cheaper alternative to copper and was just swapped in without adapting the rest of the equipment to work well with the new material.
If your home has aluminum wiring, that doesn't necessarily mean it's unsafe. If the wiring is limited to a small dedicated circuit, is retrofitted with switches and devices rated for both copper and aluminum (co/alr devices), or was installed recently after co/alr devices were commonly used, the wiring system may not be any less safe than the wiring in your last home. If you're considering buying a home with aluminum wiring, however, check with your insurance company first; aluminum wiring has gotten such a bad rap that you may have difficulty insuring a house wired with aluminum. To learn more, contact an electrical company like Direct Current.