Aluminum wires are better in electrical distribution and transmission. However, typical household wiring devices (GFCI, receptacle outlets, light switches, etc.) are not rated for aluminum wire. As a result, an aluminum wired house is more at risk to reach hazardous fire conditions at the outlet wiring connections rather than homes that are wired with copper wires.
Unfortunately, electrical aluminum wires rarely show signs of deterioration. However, If you detect any of the following signs:
Hot to the touch electrical outlet or light switches
Electrical circuit that does not work
The smell of burning plastic at electrical receptacles
You potentially have an aluminum wire problem and you should contact a licensed electrician to address it. Do not try to do it yourself. You could get electrocuted or cause an electrical fire.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) only recommends the following three methods to fix aluminum wire problems permanently
Completely replace your home with copper wire
Pigtail the aluminum wire ends with special crimp connectors called COPALUM
Rewiring your entire home with copper wire can be quite costly and impractical. As an alternative, the COPALUM and the AlumiConn methods are the most cost effective ways to address your aluminum wires.
The COPALUM and the AlumiConn methods consist of connecting copper wire to the end of the aluminum wire using a special COPALUM crimp connector or an AlumiConn wire lug connector. This process is often referred to as pigtailing. The repair must include all direct connections or splices involving aluminum wire in the home such as but not limited to electrical outlets, light switches, GFCIs, appliances, light fixtures and junction boxes. As a result, standard copper wiring devices (receptacles and dimmers) can now be safely connected to the home aluminum wires.
The COPALUM method can only be administrated by a certified COPALUM electrician who has been trained by the special dedicated tool and crimping die manufacturer. Please visit tooling.tycoelectronics.com/copalum/copalum_home.asp to find a certified COPALUM electrician near your area. The tool will not be available to you unless you have been trained by the manufacturer.
The AlumiConn method is the most accessible and cost effective solution to addressing Aluminum electrical wiring issues. Unlike the COPALUM method, any certified electrician can repair your Aluminum wires with the AlumiConn wire lug connectors. The process consists of pigtailing using a setscrew type wire lug instead of a COPALUM crimp connector. This process must be applied to all direct aluminum wire connections to copper wiring devices, electrical equipment and light fixtures.
CPSC also highly recommends that you DO NOT address your home aluminum wire problems with the following methods as a permanent solution:
DO NOT USE common
hand crimped connectors.
DO NOT PIGTAIL with any hand twist-on wire nut connectors.
These two methods are often recommended by some electricians, as they tend to be significantly cheaper alternatives. However, most crimped and wire nut connectors are not designed to address the overheating problems presented by Aluminum wires at the electrical device's connections.