With many competitors in an industry, there are always different techniques, methods, and strategies applied and in the electrical industry, there are many variations. Depending on how electricians were trained and the experience they have, some may try innovative methods only to later realize it was not ideal. When it comes to the wiring in your home or business, it could be wired with copper or aluminum. Where most may not note a difference in performance, there is one. With that in mind, we at Peterkin Electric would like to elaborate on Copper versus Aluminum Wiring used in your Orange County, California home or business.
Aluminum Wiring is No Longer Used in Houses
The major difference between aluminum and copper wiring is that copper is proven to be a far more stable metal. Unfortunately, some have chosen to cut corners and use aluminum wiring as it is a cheaper alternative than copper, but because of the severe issues that have come to pass, aluminum is no longer an option for the electrical wiring in commercial and residential buildings. Aluminum wiring was used briefly in the 1960’s when there was a big push to use it instead of the copper. The prices of copper were kept out of reach for home wiring when the shift in the materials occurred, because of copper shortages. In the construction of many track style homes aluminum was used as a far cheaper wiring replacement for copper. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered the aluminum wire was found to be dangerous in 1973. Since the aluminum wiring was still used in homes across the country up to 1973, it still poses a danger today.
How Bad is Aluminum Wiring in a House?
There are several issues stemming from aluminum wiring, but there are two more common and more dangerous that include heat expansion and oxidation.
Heat Expansion: The hotter the material transferring electricity will get as the electrical current increases; as heat is one of the biggest enemies of electricity. It is crucial for the metal to be stable during sustained use despite that many metals are suitable for transferring electricity. The longer electricity is applied on aluminum, which is one of the primary issues with it, is that it becomes less stable. Though aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity, the heat of electrical current causes it to expand and contract. Over time and use, the aluminum wire creeps and moves, causing it to become loose from the connections. The sustained used then causes the aluminum wire to possibly disconnect from outlets and switches, which then increases the risk of potential fires through short circuits or arcing.
Oxidation: Both aluminum and copper wiring will oxidize when it these wires are exposed to the air. When the copper oxidizes, most can see it visually as it turns green, but it does not alter the connection of the wires. A crust, however, builds up on aluminum wiring as it oxidizes. Problems leading to electrical arcing and heat buildup can occur because the crust is not conductive. As a rather serious fire hazard, the crust can easily accumulate to a ¼” thick.