Frequently Asked Questions About Aluminum Electrical Wiring

There are many myths surrounding aluminum electrical wiring, with the majority of them being negative. As such, if a home inspector finds it in a home you are considering buying, or an electrician sees it in your home, you may be very nervous. Getting answers to frequently asked questions about aluminum electrical wiring can help you learn the truth about many of these myths.

Can a Fire Start Because of Aluminum Electrical Wiring?

One of the most negative stigmas associated with aluminum electrical wiring is that it can lead to fires in your home. And unfortunately, there is some truth to this. Traditionally, copper wiring is used instead of aluminum. Copper is able to conduct electricity better and is less likely to lead to an electrical fire compared to aluminum. However, there are things that can be done to aluminum wiring and if they are done, the risk of an electrical fire is no great with aluminum wiring compared to copper.

What are the Concerns Associated With Aluminum Electrical Wiring?

There are three main concerns that are associated with aluminum electrical wiring. These concerns are the main reasons why aluminum wiring that has not been updated is dangerous. These concerns are:

  1. The Softness of the Metal—One of the downsides to aluminum wiring is that it is a soft metal. This not only makes it hard for electricians to work with, but can also lead to overheating problems in the future. Because it is so soft, it is more likely to ding, dent, or splice and unfortunately, damaged wires lead to hot spots, which lead to overheating.
  2. How Quickly the Metal RustsAnother issue with aluminum wires is that they are more likely to rust than copper. When the metal rusts, the rust interferes with the flow of electricity. And unfortunately, this interruption can cause the electricity to sit in one part of the wire, which leads to overheating. Overheating can ultimately lead to electrical fires.
  3. The Way the Metal Contracts and ExpandsThe last problem with aluminum wiring is that it expands and contracts more than copper does. This expansion distorts the wires over time, which can lead to overheating.

What Needs to Be Done if There is Aluminum Electrical Wiring in Your Home?

Because there are many concerns with aluminum wiring, you will want to call in an electrician if your home has aluminum electrical wiring. They will need to check out your home and determine if the wires have been updated. If they have, there is nothing else to worry about. If they haven't they will need to be brought up to code.

In order to bring aluminum wiring up to code, it will need to be fitted with aluminum and copper connectors. These connectors are always labeled as "AL-CU" or 'CU-AL." These connectors integrate copper into the electrical wiring connections, which helps prevent the overheating issues seen when these connectors are not in place. 

Is Aluminum Electrical Wiring Illegal?

Aluminum wiring that has not been upgraded with copper and aluminum connectors is not up to code. This does not mean that it is illegal. However, a home cannot be sold that is not up to code and you can't upgrade or make changes to your electrical system without bringing the system up to code.

Many people hear that their home has electrical wiring and they assume the worst. However, aluminum wiring is not necessarily a bad thing, if it has been brought up to code. If you are unsure of your situation or if would rather get a professional, second opinion, consult with an electrician from companies like McDonald Electric.