Electrical Problems in Older Structures

Aluminum wiring

Aluminum wiring was used approximately from 1965 to 1973, and while it has not caused serious epidemic problems, we cannot assume that it is completely safe. Aluminum wiring deteriorates and creates a fire hazard, and there are other things to watch out for. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) estimates that more than two million homes in the United States were built or renovated with aluminum wiring. Unless exact safety procedures are performed, every outlet, every light switch and every junction box connected to such circuits is a fire lying in wait. CPSC believes that aluminum wiring still presents very serious potential fire hazard. Significant number of homeowners whose homes still have aluminum wiring have not taken the steps required to make their homes safe. According to the CPSC, fires and even deaths caused by this hazard have been reported. Problems due to aluminum wiring expansion, and even more likely micro-fretting and arcing at the aluminum wiring connectors can cause overheating at the connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at aluminum wire splices. The connections can become hot enough to start a fire without ever tripping the circuit breaker!

Aluminum wire conditions in many homes have created a real, very common and widespread hazard. CPSC research shows that “homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes wired with copper wiring. Post 1972 aluminum wiring is also a concern since the aluminum wire alloys introduced in 1972 didn’t solve most of the known connection failure problems. Aluminum wiring is still used today for selected applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single purpose higher amperage circuits. These are primarily 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits, because the fire risk from single purpose circuits is much lower than from the branch circuits. Significantly fewer connections (4 to 6 rather than 30 to 40 per circuit) result in statistically much lower chance of a connection failure. However, field reports indicate that even these connections still frequently cause fires.

Aluminum wiring connections

While a continuous aluminum wire run does not present any problem, anytime this wire is connected to outlets and light switches, and even to other wires in junction boxes, these connections can deteriorate and create a fire hazard. Typical home with 200 or more connections is a very serious potential fire hazard. Aluminum oxidation and other factors cause overheating anywhere the wire is connected at splices, outlets and light fixtures. Typically none of this will not burn a fuse or trip a circuit breaker (because those devices are activated by excess current), but enough heat can be created to start a major fire. And the longer the wire connection is allowed to deteriorate, the more likely it is that a problem will occur. The best way to determine whether a home has aluminum wiring is to hire a professional builder.

If a home has aluminum wiring CPSC recommends only two options: Complete replacement of all wires, which is typically too expensive for most homeowners (since it can cost $10,000 or more), or replace every connection in every outlet, switch and junction box with a copper pigtail using a special Copalum connection made exclusively by Tyco Electronics. Copalum is a short piece of copper wire bonded to the aluminum wire using a tool specifically designed for it. Only Tyco trained electricians can rent or own the special tools required for this installation.

Information about aluminum wiring hazards is on the CPSC Web site: www.cpsc.gov.

More information about aluminum wiring is at: Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair

http://www.inspectapedia.com/aluminum/aluminum.htm

Appliance failures caused by aluminum house wiring

Over the years we repaired many problems in aluminum wired homes. Inordinate amount of appliance failures may be related to your home electrical system and its connections. Problems in your electrical system can cause electrical equipment failures in two ways: First, there may be one or more high resistance or open connections in the neutral and/or ground wiring. This may occur at the power utility’s transformer, in your main circuit breaker panel, in a subpanel, or somewhere in between. High resistance or open connection in the neutral wire causes low voltage on heavy loads on one side (normally 120V) of the split 240V system and high voltage on the other side (also normally 120V).

This can cause early failure of motors which tend to overheat at low voltages, or electronics and lamps which are sensitive to overvoltage. This condition can be identified by loading one side of the system and checking voltage on both sides. If there is only a small change in the voltage balance when one side is heavily loaded, then the neutral leg is probably OK. If there is a substantial change you have one or more high resistance connections in the neutral leg of the system.

Second, for similar reasons high resistance connections in the branch circuits can also be the cause. Even some 240 Volt circuits may have unbalanced loads. For example dryer motors typically run on 120 Volts even though the appliance connects to a 240 Volt plug.

Remember that abnormalities in the electrical system may pose a fire hazard in addition to the equipment reliability problem. If you see any of these symptoms have your system checked as soon as possible to guarantee your safety. You can read about aluminum wiring at:

http://www.inspectapedia.com/aluminum/aluminum.htm

If your home is older and its wiring has not been upgraded, you may have only two wire (ungrounded) AC power outlets. In addition you will probably not have enough circuits and circuit breakers, and your kitchen and bathroom may not have GFCI outlets required by the current UBC. Today’s appliances and electronic equipment draw far more power than the house was designed for, so you might want to have some new circuits added to the living room and kitchen. You should also check to verify that you have GFCIs in the kitchen, bath, garage and all exterior outlets. As far as the main panel (sometimes called the “breaker box”) make sure it is not a fuse box or a Federal Pacific (FPE) brand. Ideally you want a 200 Amp service, and hopefully someone has already upgraded it for you. Also check if you have “rag wires” which may have deteriorated and become unsafe.

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/house/128515-buy-50yr-old-house-what-problems.html#ixzz1fUucaqlL

 

If you have any of these old standards in your home please call or text us at (949) 310 4442 or click here for your free consultation