Aluminum wiring was used mostly during the 1960s and the early part of the 1970s as a way to combat the rising cost of copper at the time. Instead of providing a good replacement to copper wiring, aluminum wiring posed a serious fire risk to the occupants of a home. If you suspect your house has aluminum wiring, contact your local electrician for an inspection.
Aluminum does not make as good of a wiring material in a house or any building as copper, which is used for most electrical wiring. Aluminum is a softer metal than copper, meaning it can become damaged more easily by over-tightening a screw when making connections for a light switch, for example. The damaged aluminum wire will come apart, leading to arcing and the potential for a house fire.
Aluminum wires resist electrical flow more than copper, meaning copper is a better conductor. Because of this higher resistance, aluminum wires must be thicker to conduct the same amount of electricity. The wires will also grow hot when copper wires stay cool. This problem of overheating becomes more of a risk when you place the house's electrical wires under heavier-than-normal loads by using a space heater or hairdryer for a prolonged period.
Corrosion of aluminum wires is also a concern. When aluminum wires are introduced to moisture, as can happen accidentally in a wall, the wires will begin to corrode where they contact some other types of metals at electrical connections. The wires will also oxidize, leading to the outside of the wires breaking down so connections can come loose.
Aluminum wiring has led to houses catching on fire without warning or with subtle warnings, leading to the deaths of innocent people. When the connections between aluminum wiring and the rest of a house's electrical system occurs, the result will be electrical arcing and a possible fire if the electricity contacts a flammable object. If you suspect or know that your house has aluminum wiring, you need to contact a qualified electrician in your area to have the aluminum wiring replaced as soon as possible.
Signs of Failure
Failing aluminum wiring does not always give indications that a failure is about to take place, but some signs may indicate the presence of aluminum wiring that is about to fail. Look for hot electrical plugs or switches, electrical outlets or appliances that work intermittently, lights that brighten or dim when you turn on other electrical devices or the smell of burning plastic or wires.
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