Between 1964 and the mid 1970s, many homebuilders and electricians used aluminum wiring in place of more expensive copper. If properly installed, aluminum wiring can be safe.  But if the wiring is not properly installed, it can be very risky.  In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, homes wired with old technology aluminum wire are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach fire hazard conditions than homes wired with copper.

Why?  Any type of wiring will expand and contract as heat is generated from the current passing through it.  The heat can soften the wire and loosen the electrical connection points. This generates more heat and can cause electrical fires! And since aluminum is lighter and softer than copper to begin with, it will expand and contract much more rapidly, increasing the risk.

As a result, most if not all municipalities in the North Shore now prohibit the use of aluminum wiring in new construction.

How Can You Tell if Your Home Has Aluminum Wiring?

Before problems occur, you may be able to tell if your home has aluminum wiring by checking to see if wiring visible in the attic, basement, or crawl space is marked with the word “Aluminum” or an abbreviation such as ALUM, AL, etc.

If you cannot tell, there are also some symptoms that may suggest you have aluminum wiring, and that there is a problem.  These symptoms include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Plugs that do not work
  • Unusual static
  • Switch plates and receptacles that are warped, discolored or warm
  • Circuit breakers or fuses than frequently trip
  • Odors similar to burning plastic around switches and receptacles
  • Smoke or sparking around electrical devices

How a Licensed Electrician Can Help

If you are not sure your house has aluminum wiring, or if you know it does and want to make sure you do not have problems, a licensed electrician can help in the following ways:

  • Determine if your house indeed does have aluminum wiring
  • Make sure wiring is properly connected
  • Remove “push-in” terminals and replace them with screw connection terminals
  • Ensure any connections between aluminum and copper wire are properly connected
  • Install short, copper “pigtails” to connect aluminum wiring to non-rated receptacles