The verdict is in - decades ago: Aluminum wiring connections present a major fire hazard in homes built during the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s.
"In fact, A national survey conducted by Franklin Research Institute for CPSC showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes wired with copper."
The aluminum wiring is fine, but the problem lies in the connections to electrical devices (like switches, outlets, ceiling fans, lights) and other electrical wiring - BOTH aluminum and copper.
Aluminum expands and contracts far further and faster than other metals. This coupled with aluminum's other properties can create scenarios where there is heat build-up in the connections. This temperature can increase so much that nearby dust, wood, other materials, and the connectors themselves can ignite.
Failures are occuring at a frightening rate. In every home where we repaired the aluminum wiring, there was at least one failure. In one home in Dalhousie, there were seven of them!
In one home, the inside of the roof was blazing and the fireman told the homeowners it was minutes from engulfing the home. In another case a customer told me about, the curtains in his dining room started to smolder from the heat radiating from the outlet (he found it before it caught fire).
According to the United States CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) and the top scientist in this field contributing to their decision, Dr. Aronstein, the ONLY way to remove these hazards is to:
1) Replace the aluminum with copper wiring, a time consuming, expensive and largely unnecessary endeavour.
2) Connect the aluminum wiring to copper wiring (called pigtailing) which, in turn, is connected to electrical devices such as receptacles (outlets), switches, lights, fans, etc.
The pigtailing method is far more affordable and, if done correctly with the proper connectors, proves to be just as safe and durable as replacement.
However, the 'proper connectors' are the operative words in this statement.
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Aronstein, there are connectors in the marketplace approved by UL and CSA available to electricians at electrical wholesalers and consumers at home renovation stores.
To be avoided is any twist-on type of connector like Marrette #63 and Ideal #65 Twister connectors. Although they are listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and certified by CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association), they are okay ONLY for temporary repairs. Dr. Aronstein says to inspect every connection the home annually because they have proven to fail.
The same applies to co-alr receptacles (outlets) and switches.
The only two products which have not failed in their respective times in existence are the Copalum and AlumiConn connectors. These two connectors are the only connectors approved and recommended by Dr. Aronstein and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for a permanent repair of aluminum wire connections.
They are also quick to install and far more affordable than the replacement of aluminum with copper wiring.
I work only with Josh Taylor of Taylored Electrical Services in Calgary because they are experts with the application of AlumiConns.
Scott Ryan writes for AluminumWiringRepair.com
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