Is Aluminum Wire Safe?
Is aluminum wire safe? Mission Viejo, Irvine, Lake Forest, and Dana Point California have tens of thousands of homes constructed using aluminum wire. Below is important information on aluminum wiring and its dangers to your home and family.
- Homes built with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely than those with copper wiring to go up in smoke. The odds of a fire increase every year.
- Each year more than 24,000 home fires are cuased by faulty electrical, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Orange County home builders used aluminum wire (“AL” type Romex) extensively prior to 1970.
- Aluminum wiring was used in homes from the mid 1960’s to the early 1970’s (before 1972) and is a serious fire hazard.
- According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), aluminum wiring has caused fires and deaths.
Is aluminum wire safe? Problems associated with aluminum wiring include:
Arcing – The aluminum wiring connectors can cause overheating at the connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at aluminum wire splices. The connections can become hot enough to start a fire without ever tripping a circuit breaker! This is the most common and frequent issue I see in Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, and Irvine.
Wiring expansion – Aluminum wire expands much more than copper wire. This constant expanding and contracting causes connections to loosen, arch, and start a fire. This wiring expansion will become so hot it melts the wiring and the switch or outlet (eventually starting a fire). This is the second most common issue I see in Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, and Irvine.
Micro-fretting – Some metals, when they come into contact with each other, form surface oxides over time. These surface oxides can cause mechanical damage and/or deformation of contacts leading to arching, excessive heat, and fire.
- See CPSC Repairing Aluminum Wiring for more information on fixing dangerous aluminum wiring.
The illustrated photos are not the most dramatic catastrophes linked to fires caused by aluminum wiring. But these are conditions that are found in many homes with aluminum wiring, confirming that this is a real, common, and widespread fire hazard.
Is aluminum wire safe? CPSC research shows that “homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than are homes wired with copper.” Post 1972 per CPSC “aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire “alloys” in the 1972-time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems.”
Aluminum wiring is still permitted for certain applications. This includes residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits. The fire risk from single purpose circuits (direct wired appliances such as ovens and cooking ranges) is much less than for multi-purpose branch circuits (switches, receptacles, lighting fixtures).
If you have aluminum wiring, lights that flicker, outlets or extension cords that are warm to the touch, or circuit breakers that trip repeatedly, you have a problem. If you hear buzzing sounds, smell odors coming from your electrical system, or your GFCI outlets trip regularly, you have a serious problem. You may need a new service panel.