In the 1950’s to 1970’s, many homes were outfitted with aluminum wiring systems due to the rising price of copper. Aluminum provided a cost-effective and highly conductive alternative, making it a popular choice at the time. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that aluminum was not as safe as copper, presenting multiple electrical hazards. As leading providers of quality residential electrical services, the team at Expert Electric has provided a comprehensive guide on the dangers of aluminum wiring and what to do if your home has aluminum wiring.
In addition to aluminum wiring, all homeowners should know why knob and tube wiring is bad.
The Dangers of Aluminum Wiring
When people are doing a renovation or purchasing a home, one concern they have is “what will be behind this wall?” Some homes have not had their walls opened since they were built, meaning that the original wiring is still in place. The main reason this is a concern is because of aluminum wiring and the many hazards it can present.
Despite the reduced cost and increased conductivity, aluminum wiring has many potential issues:
- Aluminum wiring is much softer than standard copper wiring, making it easier to cut and damage.
- When aluminum corrodes, it is not as conductive as copper. The copper that corrodes can remain conductive and continue to provide a standard flow of power. This is not the case for aluminum, as the standard flow of electricity can be greatly reduced or even stopped altogether.
- Aluminum expands and contracts when it becomes hot. This constant flux in size can result in the connections between wires coming loose.
These factors all make aluminum wiring more prone to overheating and electrical fires.
If you are unsure if there is aluminum wiring in your home, there are some warning signs that you can watch out for:
- Lights flicker without an apparent reason or cause.
- Light switches and electrical outlets have become warm or discoloured.
- Smoke or sparks occur when connecting electrical devices to an outlet.
- Constantly tripping breakers or blowing fuses.
While these problems may seem annoying at first, they can result in serious damage for your home or safety risks for your family if they are left unattended.
Other Electrical Dangers of Older Homes
Older homes generally have a character quality that cannot be seen in newer houses. These homes offer great value, and renovation improvements can bring new life into them. Unfortunately, the electrical wiring is often not inspected during these updates. To ensure that all your hard work does not go to waste, look for these common hazards that are often found in older homes.
Knob & Tube Wiring
Knob and tube wiring was used in homes in the early 1900s and even as early as 40 years ago. It is possible that homes constructed in the 50s to 70s still contain knob and tube wiring in them. This wiring can be dangerous as it is more likely to crack and result in electrical fires.
The dangers of these two out-dated wiring systems are that they were installed without proper precautions and any hazards were not discovered until years later. These systems lack any moisture resistance and do no have a ground wire, making them a poor choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and any other room where moisture can build up. Knob and tube wiring systems also cannot handle the power requirements of modern homes and devices. Thus, they are often overloaded, posing a substantial fire hazard.
Improper Wiring Updates & Additions
Homes often experience many renovations and additions over the years (new rooms, additional bathrooms, hot tubs, etc.). If a licenced electrician did not perform these additions, there can be a mess of improper wiring connecting them to the existing wiring in the home. This can result in severe electrical hazards and constant breaker tripping.
This is extremely dangerous as the electrical panel is responsible for keeping your home safe from electrical hazards. It is especially important that the electrical panel is upgraded in order to provide optimal and safe flow of electricity throughout the entire house. This also means the panel is properly labelled so it is easy to maintain if further updates are made.
Bringing Your Home Up to Code
At times, building codes can seem like a hassle that only creates more work. The truth is that these codes are put into place to keep us safe. Just as a poorly formed foundation can cause massive damage to your home, cutting corners in electrical wiring could cost you your entire house. Whether you have purchased a new home or are trying to sell your existing home, it is important to understand all relevant electrical codes and standards.
Target Critical Areas
The best way to start bringing your home up to code is to target critical areas. These are places that see heavy electrical usage and potentially hazardous situations. Areas such as bathrooms and kitchens are prime examples of these locations. In the bathroom, moisture can damage wires and outlets which can cause electrocution. Meanwhile, the kitchen consumes a large amount of energy when using various appliances and devices. Each of these locations should be thoroughly inspected by a licensed electrician to ensure that they are up to code.
In addition to these locations, there are several other places that should be targeted:
- Wiring – Older homes may use aluminum wiring or knob & tube wiring systems that will need to be updated.
- Main Electrical Panel – Electrical panels can be added onto and updated over the years. If these updates are not done properly, you can experience several problems throughout your home.
- Home Additions – Rooms that are added onto a home after the original plans can be prime locations for electrical issues. New wiring should be added on to circuits and the electrical panel properly by a licensed electrician.
Get An Expert Electrical Inspection
The best way to ensure that your home is up to code is to have a home inspection by a professional. With the long list of potential problems, only a professional can accurately identify the work that needs to be completed.
To learn more about the dangers of aluminum wiring and other electrical hazards for older homes, get in touch with team at Expert Electric. Our professional electricians can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to assist you.