If your current, potential or home that you are selling has aluminum wiring, this does not mean that there is an inherent problem with the home. This type of wiring does however need to be addressed, because most insurance companies will not underwrite on homes with solid aluminum branch circuit wires, as it is considered a safety hazard. Aluminum wiring was used for a short time period from the 1960’s to the mid 1970’s due to the high cost of copper. However, over the years, it was noted that improper installation, incorrectly rated switches and receptacles, as well as oxidation and corrosion caused unstable wiring and overheating of terminals.
While the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is still evaluating the safety and potential hazards of aluminum wiring, they have noted some precautionary steps that should be followed if your home or potential home has this type of wiring.
If you find out that your home has solid aluminum branch circuit wires first contact your insurance company, as some repairs and replacements may be covered by the current policy.
Repairs should be completed based on their recommendations. Consumers who have not had thorough electrical training should not attempt to inspect their home wiring system or make any electrical repairs or adjustments before seeking expert advice. Serious or fatal electric shock could result.
Be observant for trouble signals associated with aluminum wiring, these include warm switch or receptacle face plates, strange or distinctive odor of burning plastic in the vicinity of the switch and flickering of lights not traceable to appliances or obvious external causes.
If it is necessary to replace wall switches and outlets be sure to only use devices that are designed specifically for use with aluminum wiring. These devices will be labeled with CO/ALR on the mounting strap.
While pigtailing (connecting a short piece of insulated copper wire between the aluminum wire and the switch or connecting terminal) is commonly used to improve aluminum wiring connections, it should be noted that the addition of more wires and splices is not recommended.
Proper installation of CO/ALR devices is critical and should be performed only by a qualified electrician or trained individual. Complete installation procedures are available by writing to Aluminum Wire Installation, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207 and more information can be found at cpsc.gov.
Integrity Home Evaluation Services is Northeast Ohio’s trusted home and property inspector. We have the knowledge and experience to address your home’s concerns and can guide you through what steps need to be done to address aluminum wiring.