Reducing the Risk of Aluminum Wiring Hazards

Evidence shows that aluminum wiring poses a greater risk of failure than copper wiring. Opinion is divided, however, over whether the risk can be minimized to acceptable limits. Some conclude that aluminum wiring is inherently dangerous. Others argue that with proper installation practices aluminum wiring is reliable.

Discussing the Issues

The full-text article that follows attempts to raise the level of awareness by identifying some of the problems associated with aluminum wiring and the ways these risks can be minimized. There are no blanket evaluations that can be made about aluminum wiring installations. Each installation needs to be evaluated independently and thoroughly in order to determine the risk it presents.

How Prevalent is Aluminum Wiring?

Many commercial and industrial facilities have aluminum conductors and bus in their main distribution. Although these conductors are aluminum and have undesirable properties, their application makes them far less susceptible to failure than aluminum branch circuit wiring. It is the differences in application and maintenance that really impact the susceptibility to failure.

Who is at Risk?

There is an extensive list of factors that can affect the amount of risk associated with a facility wired with aluminum. The only true way to determine what risk a facility presents is to have an inspector trained in aluminum wiring hazards conduct an extensive inspection of the electrical system. Some repairs that facilities may attempt could actually increase their exposure to electrical failure.

Risk Factors

The issues are complex. Refer to the full-text article for a more detailed discussion about the properties and problems associated with aluminum conductors. Below is a list of questions that need to be asked to assess risk. They are explored thoroughly in the full-text article.

  • Is the wiring "old technology" or "new technology" aluminum wiring?
  • Are the aluminum wires connected directly to the fixtures or have copper "pigtails" been installed?
  • For facilities that have installed copper pigtails on their aluminum wires, how were those connections "made up"?
  • Were wires joined with twist-on connectors abraded and pre-twisted?
  • How are the circuits loaded?

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1997 Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co.