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Question DetailsAsked on 5/1/2012

My house was built in 1973. It has aluminum wiring. Some of the receptacles have sparked and some are apparently loose. Is aluminum bad?

It is hard to keep some small appliances plugged in bending their prongs seems to help. Should I replace my aluminum wiring with copper? Or just have all the receptacles replaced by an electrician. Also ,there is a light fixture below a hall way.As my children run across the vibrations I think may loosen the bulbs and they flicker off and on which reduces the life of the chandelier bulbs. Any ideas?

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2 Answers


Yes, aluminum wiring inside a residence became illegal several years ago. It was popular in the 70's until it was attributed to many house fires. Aluminum is a very poor conductor and special care must be used when installing it. A special dielectric compound has to be used at the junctions, especially when connected to copper. Aluminum wiring heats up tremendously during heavy amp loads which is dangerous itself but it also causes expansion which then pushes and pulls on the connections, eventually resulting in a short. Get quotes from qualified master electricians to rewire your house and get the aluminum out. Replacing outlets isn't enough and can actually be worse if you don't know what your doing while connecting the aluminum wire to the copper terminals. In the mean time, put a smoke detector in every room for the safety of your family.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Actually, aluminum wiring is not illegal as a pre-existing condition anywhere that I know of - I thing Todd meant illegal for new installation, except for main feed to the circuit breaker panel from the main shutoff and meter, where it is still commonly used. Multi-strand aluminum wiring is also commonly used still for his-amperage applications like dryers and stoves and electric water heaters and furnaces and ir conditioners, though some jurisdictions have outlawed that use too through an excess of caution. It does require special installation procedures, and outlets and connections rated for aluminum use.

Here is a pretty good summary of the situation - from Canada, but the same story as here -

Obviously, as Todd indicated, total replacement is the safest bet - but that costs from around $2500-4000 typically for the electrician and his materials alone.

A cheaper alternative that gets away from most (but not all) of the connection issues is having aluminum to copper connectors put on every connection - these are add-ons that basically act as a converter from aluminum citcuit wiring, to a copper stub wire that is then connected to your device or outlet. Doing an individual connection is pretty quick and cheap - but multiply that times all the outlets and connections and switches and light fixtures in a house plus the fact the working conditions in electrical boxes are tight and commonly require larger boxes for the connections to fit, and it adds up to several to as much as five solid days work - so can cost about half a total wiring replacement (ballpark) in a normal house. Where it really saves money is in brick and concrete houses where the wiring runs through the walls, and multi-story older houses with complex geometries that limit access to the wiring, thus mandating a lot of holes in ceilings and walls that then need to be repaired and repainted. That is where a lot of people fail in estimating the cost of a rewire job - the wall and ceiling repair of the access points, and typically having to repaint pretty much the entire interior of the house to get matching paintjob can be as much as the rewire job.

The chandelier issue may be an aluminum wiring problem, may be just a loose connection, may just be that normal service bulbs commonly break filaments when peoiple run over the floor above. If the latter, try buying a couple of rough-service light bulbs that will fit your chandelier - that might solve your problem. The same issue occurs at porch lights where slamming doors greatly reduce bulb life, but rough-service bulbs can go far beyond the expected life.

As to outlets sparking and bending prongs - the inside of an outlet slot is a pair of spring metal tabs that the plug prong pushes aside a bit as it goes in, giving a tight contact on both sides. As they get older with use, particularly ones the vacuum cleaner and iron and countertop kitchen appliances and hair dryers and electric shavers are commonly plugged and unplugged from frequently, these springs get weak so teh contact is not so good. This makes for arcing - which is the sparks - and loose fit - neither of which are good because it sparks to the surface for one thing, and also causes overheating. However, this hasnothing to do with the aluminum wiring - it is just tired outlets, that cost very little, though it would mean an electrician coming out to replace those needing it.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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