Common Question from a very concerned customer:
My home is 35 years old and was built in the 70's. Aluminum wire was used during that period because I think there was an issue with the copper wire during that period. I have experienced outlets becoming hot and I can feel this by touching the outlet. I can also smell the "bake light" burning smell. My remedy is to replace the bad outlet with the outlet designed for the aluminum wire. Years ago they also recommended to pigtail copper wire to the aluminum wire and then install the copper wire to the outlet. Can you provide suggestions? I am wondering if I should replace all my outlets with the outlets designed for aluminum wire or use the pigtail method?
Yes, do something now!
Here’s where your trouble lies:
Hot electrical outlets and especially the bake-lite smell (a heat indicator) is the pre-fire warning from arcing aluminum wiring. The heat is the result of arcing from loose electrical connections.
In order to remove yourself and your home from immediate danger, you must immediately change to the approved aluminum devices or the approved pigtail method in this house and have this house checked by an experienced electrician right away!
The heat concerns me. A safety check from an electrician is warranted when you detect that bake-lite burning smell which is ozone like pungent odor.
You may also get some help from your Fire Department. Your Local Fire District is very knowledgeable and may have a thermal sensing heat detector “gun.” The firefighters use this tool to detect “hot spots” in enclosed walls at fire scenes to locate problems and identify where another hot smoldering area is so it doesn’t start later.
John's Electric also provides this service for safety and repair purposes. We use a thermal sensor or infra red thermal device to identify areas that need attention, find pipes and wires in walls and generally “see through things.” Just a thought.
If you are living with aluminum wiring in your home, you are putting yourself, your home and your family in danger. Aluminum wiring in residential homes carries an increased risk of starting a fire when compared with the much more common copper wiring.
The US Consumer Products Safety Commission (US CPSC) investigated this threat in the 1970s and found that many home fires were caused by overheated connections involving aluminum wiring. The weakness is not with the wire itself, but rather in the wiring junctions and connections between the aluminum wire and things like light fixtures, switches and outlets. While aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity, it expands and contracts more than copper and is much more prone to corrosion at connection sites; this can cause increased resistance in connections, which, put simply, means more heat that can lead to fire.
Please do yourself a favor and give me a call to schedule a thorough wiring inspection of your home. Remember, it only takes a few seconds for one bad wiring incident to destroy your home and your possessions.