My Home Inspector Blog: My Home Inspector Said Aluminum Wiring Will Catch My House On Fire!

My Home Inspector Said Aluminum Wiring Will Catch My House On Fire!

My Home Inspector Said Aluminum Wiring Will Catch My House On Fire!


Single-strand aluminum wiring was installed in many homes built in the mid 1960's to early 1970's. After a decade of use, inherent weaknesses were discovered with the wiring. Neglected aluminum wiring connections become increasingly dangerous over time and may overheat and create a fire hazard. A good home inspector will always recommend that single-strand aluminum wiring be evaluated by a qualified electrician who is experienced with aluminum wiring problems.

 

 

Aluminum has certain qualities that make it an undesirable material as an electrical conductor. These qualities all lead to loose connections which creates a fire hazard. Here are a few of them:

 

1. Aluminum becomes brittle with age and will fatigue and break down when subjected to bending. Fatigue will cause the wire to break down internally and will increasingly resist electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive heat.

 

2. Exposure to the air causes oxidation at the surface of the wire which makes it less conductive. As time passes, oxidation can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard.  

 

3. Aluminum is a soft metal and highly sensitive to compression. After a screw has been over-tightened on aluminum wiring, the wire will continue to deform or “flow”. This deformation will create a loose connection and increase electrical resistance in that location.

4. Aluminum expands and contracts with changes in temperature. Over time, this process will cause connections between the wire and the device to degrade creating a fire hazard.

 

 

Here are some repair options if your home contains aluminum wiring: 

 

A. Rewire the home with copper wire: While this is the most effective method, rewiring is expensive and impractical, in most cases.

B. Replace receptacles and switches with CO/ALR devices which are compatible with aluminum conductors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. Install pigtails using a copalum connector: Copper pigtails are attached to the ends of the aluminum wiring circuits with a specially designed metal sleeve and crimping tool.  The copper wire is then connected to the receptacle or circuit breaker. Note: These wires should never be connected by simply using a wire nut!

 

 

 

It should be noted that multi-strand aluminum wiring is commonly used in modern construction. This wiring has proven to be safe as long as anti-oxidant paste is applied at the connections which prevents dangerous oxidation from occurring.

 

 

 

 

 

My Home Inspector Said Aluminum Wiring Will Catch My House On Fire!  Steve Stenros is the owner of First Choice Inspections. He is a CREIA home inspector with the MCI designation. Clients receive a FREE lifetime appliance RecallChek with every standard home inspection. Appointments can be obtained by calling 888-335-3040.

Originally posted at First Choice Inspections.


 


             Steve Stenros, MCI         Biz card photo

             Master CREIA Inspector #0115

             ICC Residential Combination Inspector #5251439

             Certified Infrared Thermographer #7791

                                       FHA/HUD Inspector- #V975

                                       203k Consultant #S0611

                                     888-335-3040

 

My Recent Home Inspector Blogs:


If You Have These Smoke Alarms, Get Rid Of Them!

The Three Most Common Write-Ups At A Home Inspection

May I Get You Some Carbon Monoxide?

La Jolla Home Inspector Offers Tips On Buying A Foreclosure

Home Inspection Tech Tips: How To Clean Your Rain Gutters

Vacant Homes: Turning Utilities On- San Diego Home Inspector

Sharp-Tipped Screws Are A Hazard To A Home Inspector!

San Diego Home Inspector Goes North

Have You Checked Your Egress Windows?- Encinitas Home Inspector

The New Carbon Monoxide Detector Law In California

"Four Tips For Garage Door Safety"- Encinitas Home Inspector

My Home Inspector Said Aluminum Wiring Will Catch My House On Fire!

Does Your Weep Screed Weep?- Temecula Home Inspector

Deck Repair Gone Awry!- Del Mar Home Inspection

A Home Inspector's ActiveRain Success Story

Comment balloon 40 commentsSteve Stenros • June 11 2011 03:33AM

Comments

I've always heard aluminum wiring isn't very good.  Hope everything is okay

Posted by Steven Wright, CRS - Home Real Estate - 720-989-5283 (Home Real Estate) about 7 years ago

I find quite a bit of it, Steven! Many times it can be safely upgraded and still used. Some of it can become very brittle and dangerous, though!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago
Nice informative update on aluminum. We don't see too much of this in residential wiring of Homes for Sale in Charlotte, NC. We recommend Buyers hire a licensed electrician if considering a home that has aluminum wiring.
Posted by Daniel H. Fisher, MCRP - Charlotte Real Estate, NC or SC (www.FisherHermanRealty.com (704) 617-3544) about 7 years ago

Good idea, Daniel. Thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago
Aren't airplanes made out of aluminum? I don't think I'll be flying anytime soon. I'll stick to the ground.
Posted by EC, JF, Double R and Zoey the Cool Cat (Russel Ray Photos) about 7 years ago

Eric: Take along your anti-oxidant paste and you'll be fine!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Good Morning Steve, excellent input for the home owner on a very important safety issue.  A poor substitute for copper.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) about 7 years ago

Excellent advice for home owners, Steve. We have a few neighborhoods in our area that were built with aluminum wiring. I'm reblogging and "suggesting"

Posted by Toni Weidman, 26 Years Selling Homes in New Port Richey, FL (Sailwinds Realty) about 7 years ago

I don't understand the technical issues surrounding aluminum wiring, but I have experienced aluminum wiring wreak havoc on real estate closings.

Kudos to home inspectors who discover the problem for the protection of their clients.

Posted by Dave Halpern, Louisville Short Sale Expert (Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827) about 7 years ago

Dan: It really is a poor substitute!

Toni: Thanks for the re-blog and "suggest"!

Dave: The discovery of aluminum wiring during a home inspection protects all parties from liability.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Nice article Steve. I got here via Toni Weldman's re-blog. One area that you did not cover was the high coefficient of expansion property of aluminum and how that can lead to loose connections. Experienced electricians know to mitigate this by turning the wire around the screw before tightening the screw. 

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) about 7 years ago

Great information for sharing Steve!  Thanks!

Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) about 7 years ago

Thanks, Robert. More loose connections!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Thanks for stopping by Jeanne & Ralph! And thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Steve.... I've had first hand experience with this aluminum wire problem.  An older manufactured house I inherited from a Uncle has aluminum wiring.... after smelling burning plastic odor for a few days, off and on, I thought it was just old vinyl vertical blinds exposed to direct sun (through single pane old window). Finally, I pulled the bed out from the wall, and the receptical was melted and an orange glow was in the wall........YIKES! Those wires were HOT! And for the exact reasons you have presented here.  I had the entire house rewired and new receptacles  and switches installed. Also installed new light fixtures and had the ceiling fans wired too. Almost burnt the place down... we were not living here full time when this happened! Homeowners need to understand how their house performs electrically and if it is "up to par" or at least to code.... keep yourselves safe! Now I know the old water heater is about to go (propane) and I want to get a solar, self-draining, super-insulated, type.... any suggestions? Or CA State programs to help with cost?

Posted by TERI LINDSAY, STAGELIGHT HOME STAGING CO. about 7 years ago

Wow, Teri, your experience about says it all! Thanks for sharing.

Folks, if you have any doubt about the dangers of aluminum wiring, read Teri's comments! Just because you've had no problems up to this point does not mean your home is not in danger!

Sorry Teri, I don't have any recommendations for a solar water heater for you. CA used to offer a rebate for all EnergyStar rated appliances- I'm not sure if the program is still in effect.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Another EXCELLENT inspection minute Steve.  I don't see a lot of aluminum wiring in my travels, but once up in N. Raleigh I did and the buyers had the whole house rewired. 

Well done,
Pamela

Posted by Lee & Pamela St. Peter, Making Connections to Success in Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522) about 7 years ago

Thanks for stopping by Lee & Pamela, and thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Hi Steve

Good blog...good explanations.  I am sometimes not sure if the aluminum wires have the oxide paste on them or not...what do you look for?

Posted by Kim Carnes, Carnes Home Inspections - Indianapolis Metro Area and beyond - (Licensed - Certified Home Inspectors (317) 753-7098) about 7 years ago

Kim: I would say "If in doubt, call it out." You can usually see the paste at the circuit breaker connections or at the feed wire lugs (only good for multi-strand aluminum wiring).

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

A great post on a topic that I am sure home buyers will be interested in. 

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Good evening Steve. Nice post covering use of aluminun wiring. I usually leave that stuff to the inspector but now I know I will share.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) about 7 years ago

The home I just inspected yesterday was full of aluminum wiring. No need to fear. The buyers just need a qualified electrician to evaluate and make the appropriate upgrades.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Steve, what a great Blog.  Very informative; excellent use of photos and drawings.

   When I was in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970's, I was a power lineman.  We maintained the airfield lighting, plus the substations and power lines on the base. 

    The "old guys" at the time warned me about aluminum wiring - said it was a mistake done to save money.  They were right!

   
Posted by Fred Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Well, Fred, if you're an Air Force guy, you can't be half bad! I served 10 years in the USAF starting in '82. Thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Great info for sharing, and a timely reminder about aluminum wiring hazards. Another item used to save money. False economy!

Posted by Jon Quist, Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996 (REALTY EXECUTIVES TUCSON ELITE) about 7 years ago

Jon: Isn't that the truth!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Good morning Steve. Enjoyed the Inspection minute video. This is something I can share with my clients. Brilliant idea by the way to record your home inspection. Have a great weekend. Great post.

Posted by Lanre-"THE REAL ESTATE FARMER" Folayan, I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES (Keller Williams Select Realtors-Buy a home in Washington DC. Sell a home in Washington DC) about 7 years ago

Lanre: I'm glad it is useful for you! Thanks for the comment.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Fascinating post. I learned more about aluminum wiring in this one blog than in all the time I've spent in real estate! I had an older home listed for sale, and after a home inspection was performed and aluminum wiring was discovered, a replacement of the main service panel was required. I now better understand the risks associated with that form of wiring!

Posted by David Companik, Realtor ▪ The WoodlandsTX ▪ davidcompanik.com (Keller Williams Realty - The Woodlands) almost 7 years ago

Thanks, David. Panel replacement is fine, but what was done with the aluminum wiring circuits? Were they evaluated or upgraded with copper pigtails?

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Actually, looking back on that transaction in more detail, it seems the service panel had several defects that needed to be corrected (thus the replacement), and the aluminum wiring was located in a workshop in the back yard. I'm not sure how it was all addressed by the electrician.

Posted by David Companik, Realtor ▪ The WoodlandsTX ▪ davidcompanik.com (Keller Williams Realty - The Woodlands) almost 7 years ago

Steve - Aluminum wiring was called out on a property that I sold a few years back and before my clients could rewire the house, it DID almost burn down.  The house is all rewired now!!

Posted by Steve Hall, Make the Call to Hankins and Hall (RE/MAX United) almost 7 years ago

Steve: I'll bet it is!!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Definitely going to bookmark this one.  I thought that whole thing about pigtailing was an urban myth, good to see there IS a right way to do it.

Posted by Joetta Fort, Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder (The DiGiorgio Group) almost 7 years ago

You bet there is, Joetta! An electrician should check the condition of the aluminum wiring first. Thanks for your comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

All the more reason for a buyer to have a home inspected by a qualified inspector.  

Posted by Kathy Sheehan, Senior Loan Officer (Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021) almost 7 years ago

Absolutely, Kathy! All home inspections are not the same. When purchasing a home inspection, you are buying the Inspector's experience and knowledge.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Steve,

Great post. Lots of spam here, I'll help clean it up.

Posted by Pete Xavier, Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide (Investments to Luxury) over 5 years ago

Thanks Pete. Is there an easy way to delete a few dozen spams with the click of a button?

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) over 5 years ago

Participate