Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is there a Aluminum Wire Killer Hiding in the wall of your 1960's era Home?

If you own a home built in the 1960's or had an addition added to your home in the 1960's you may well have a Killer hiding in the wall waiting his time to kill you.
You see he waits a long time he may never even strike. But he is there waiting to get you at any time day or night.
The killer I am talking about is Aluminum Romex type wiring which was substituted for copper during the copper shortage and strikes of the 1960's.
This type of Aluminum was used for wiring outlets and switches and came in 10 gauge Romex looking type wire.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission has outright banned it and recommends ripping it out where possible.
after a series of horrific fires and deaths in the 70's

This takes a properly trained electrician and expert to evaluate and repair not your cousin or brother in law want to be electrician or you can make things much worse.

The problem starts where copper and aluminum was tied together. The two metals are dissimilar and corrosion slowly starts till the wire starts working loose and a high resistance is caused which causes heat . any time you tie copper and aluminum you must use special marked connectors and lugs with AL/CU marked on them that physically separates the two metals

Aluminum also must be properly sized up to handle the amperage as well by at least 30% over copper that means number 10# wire vs 12# wire for a 20 amp circuit.

Additionally depending on the device or lug being used a special anti corrode paste such as Noalox must be applied to keep heat to a minimum .

Like I said this is no job for any one other than an expert to handle.

What can be done to protect your house is

1# if you can get to the wiring rip it out and replace it with copper where you can .

2# Replace outlets and switches with proper pigtailed copper devices and or device rated for aluminum

3# redo all splice points with proper connectors.

4# use anti corrode paste at all breaker and neutral bar connections etc.

5# Consider installing the circuits on Arc Fault breakers or outlets which detect problems and shut down circuits.

6# make sure your smoke detectors are working and adding additional units.

All of the Aluminum Romex I have come across is black jacketed and has the words Kaiser or Alcoa on it.

Do not confuse the large aluminum usually gray in color feeder wires in a house with the Romex aluminum

Size 6# and larger is still permitted to be used but must be properly installed .

Also older homes with knob and tube wiring may look aluminum it is really tinned copper but it still takes an expert to determine this.

signs of danger which goes with all wiring .

Dimming lights, sparking and crackling sounds ,items running half speed turning on and off warm areas around outlets If you suspect you have a problem call an expert qualified or licensed electrician do not play games your life could be on the line should you smell burning electrical smell turn off power if possible and notify 911 you have an electrical condition who will dispatch firefighter and electrical utility trouble shooter to your home.Do not play games and wait it may well be too late.

Do not attempt half witted repairs not doing the whole circuit and only repairing one part can lead to bigger problems the whole circuit must be traced out and fixed.

Stay alert stay alive in the pictures above a young couple who bought a 60's era house and smelled something was burning are alive today because they acted and called me otherwise they would be very dead.


  1. Thanks for sharing nice information about aluminum. Hope to get more interesting updated information from your side.

  2. I am a retired electrician, age 71. In my 40 years of a small owner owned business, I saw and witnessed several 'aluminum' wiring problems.
    Example: Trailer houses. If people used a 1500 watt heater or dehumidifier, on a receptacle that looked safe and if the house was wired with aluminum romex, there would be problems. Overheating and failure would happen sooner or latter. And not necessarily at the receptacle where the heater or dehumidifier was plugged in. It could happen anywhere between the receptacle being used and the fuse or breaker panel. I had a information board that I used for presentation and display, of defective devices. Anther problem is that some of the devices were just 'poked' into the terminal and not wound around the screw properly. Nuff said! Bad!

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