Please Note: We offer this article for informational purposes only. Jackson Electric provides a variety of services for your electrical needs; however due to liability reasons, and as part of company policy, we do not work on lighting, switches, outlets or branch circuits that are wired in aluminum or copper-clad aluminum in branch circuits as described below. We also do not install COP-ALUM fixtures. These issues are costly and dangerous to repair, and require much higher levels of maintenance. There are several companies in the Austin area that choose to handle aluminum wiring.
If your Texas home was built between the mid 1960’s and mid-1970’s, there’s a chance that you have aluminum wiring in your home instead of copper. Aluminum was and still is approved in the National Electrical Code (NEC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rated, but it is now required in Texas that homes have copper wiring in its branch circuits. While aluminum wiring isn’t necessarily directly dangerous, it can pose a multitude of safety issues that most homeowners may not be aware of.
The problem with the 1350 series aluminum alloy used in the 60’s and 70’s was that the aluminum wire was designed for power transmission and not for branch circuitry. A straight run of 1350 aluminum alloy wire did not pose the safety hazard. However, when homes were being wired with aluminum on a branch circuitry, every connection made to a junction box, outlet, and switch, posed a safety and fire risk, and almost all homes wired in the 60’s and 70’s today still have the original aluminum wiring.
Aluminum wire has approximately a 30 percent higher expansion/contraction rate than copper (it moves more), leading to looser connections at the terminals. When aluminum wire is exposed to the atmosphere, aluminum oxide forms on the metallic surface and acts like an insulator (it looks like rust, except it’s white). As the oxidation continues to build, it builds resistance. Heat comes with the resistance, melting the insulation. The expansion/contraction rate of aluminum wire loosens the connection points cause arcing and short circuits, these two in turn causing overheating. In some cases, it can lead to fires.
If you have an older home, consider having a complete inspection of your wiring by a competent, licensed electrician to ensure you don’t have faulty or failing wiring. We provide free estimates, and we regularly rewire homes and buildings that are in need of it. Let us know if you require assistance in this matter.