Arizona Home Inspectors Advisory
Homebuyers often raise concerns over the presence of aluminum wiring (AL) in their prospective home. AL wiring has received a significant volume of bad press due to a relatively large number of house fire incidents.
Single strand aluminum wiring has historically been problematic when installed at 120-volt branch circuits. The 120-volt circuits make up the majority of a home circuitry including general lighting and receptacles. Aluminum wiring was commonly installed in the 120-volt circuits from the mid-1960’s through the mid-1970’s. During this time period copper prices escalated and aluminum wiring was used to save on construction costs.
The specific problem associated with single strand aluminum wiring is due to the fact that aluminum expands and contracts at a higher rate than copper under load. This condition causes loose connections at devices like switches/outlets and at splices which can lead to overheating and fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) research shows that homes wired with aluminum wiring are up to 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than are homes wired with copper. Fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by aluminum wiring overheating.
The presence of aluminum wiring can almost always be detected during a standard home inspection. If a home inspector reports the presence of aluminum wiring it is prudent to consult with a competent electrician familiar with aluminum wiring problems for an exhaustive evaluation. All connectors and devices must be compatible for use with aluminum wiring and be free of the evidence of overheating. A standard home inspection should only be considered a first step in reducing the risk for your customer.
Remedies exist that have been recommended by the CPSC. For more information click here