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Aluminum Wiring

Most electrical wiring is copper. In the early 1960's the price of copper began to rise and aluminum wiring was commonly used for residences from the late-1960s through the mid-1970s. There are several million homes in Canada with aluminum branch circuit wiring.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF ALUMINUM WIRE FAILURE?
Signs of trouble in aluminum wiring systems include warm-to-the-touch face plates on outlets or switches, flickering lights, circuits that don't work, or the smell of burning plastic at outlets or switch. Unfortunately, not all failing aluminum wired connections provide such easily detected warning signs; aluminum wired connections have been reported to fail without any prior indications or problems and these are the same symptoms found in problems with copper wiring. If you detect any of these syptoms, call Lloyd Francis Electrical Electrical immediately for a complimentary consultation.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RISKS WITH ALUMINUM WIRING?
There is no problem with the aluminum wire itself within the walls; the problem is at the connection points. First, aluminum expands and contracts more than copper when it heats and cools. This can cause fasteners to loosen. More importantly, aluminum oxidizes easily and the oxide is a poor conductor. This causes overheating at the connection points (the main source of trouble). A further problem with some aluminum wire is fatigue. The wire becomes brittle and breaks if bent back and forth only a few times. Do not pull outlets and switches out of the wall to examine them yourself. Lloyd Francis Electrical can conduct an assessment of any potential risks and upgrade any problematic wiring that might be found.

These problems can create overheating and arcing at connection points which have led to fires resulting in injury and deaths. 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" aluminum wire is also a concern. A change in the aluminum wire alloys in 1972 did not solve all of the problems.

Problems with connections are not normally visible on the face plate. You need to check every connection throughout the house to know if a hidden problem is lurking somewhere (this is not included in a standard home inspection). Even if the home inspector does not report any other problems with the aluminum wiring it is prudent to consult with a licensed electrician who is thoroughly familiar with aluminum wiring problems for a more extensive evaluation. A standard home inspection is only a first step in reducing risk.

WHAT IS THE METHOD OF CORRECTION?
Currently, only two solutions have been recommended. The first and most sound solution is to replace the aluminum wiring with copper. The second solution uses a special connector to splice a short piece of copper wire (called a pig-tail) between the aluminum wire and the electrical device (receptacle, switch, light, etc.). Proper use of this method requires specialized training, and Lloyd Francis Electrical Contracting has years of experience in correcting aluminum wire failure.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO REPLACE THE WIRING?
A typical replacement for a full house will take approximately 2 weeks. During this time, there will only be a short span of no more than 2-4 hours when the home will be without power. Lloyd Francis Electrical will fully disconnect and remove (where accessible) the aluminum wiring and replace it with a modern electrical system.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I BE AWARE OF?
As a homeowner, you should have the peace of mind that your electrical system is safe. If you decide to replace your aluminum, you should be aware that in some cases Lloyd Francis Electrical may need to cut into some ceilings and walls. This will mean that you may have to some minor repair work to be done. Our goal is to contribute the minimum necessary damage to your walls and ceilings.