Last time, we looked at why aluminum wiring can be a fire waiting to happen and how to determine whether you might have it. If you do, here’s what you can do to correct the situation.
An obvious step is a complete rewiring of the house. Unfortunately, that’s neither easy nor inexpensive. It’s a massive job, and involves cutting into walls and ceilings.
Since the main weakness in the system is at junction boxes, attention there can solve the problem. Aluminum outlet boxes and switches exist, but they don’t solve the problem completely. Pigtailing copper wires to the outlet with ordinary twist-on connectors is another flawed repair.
The only method â€“ besides rewiring â€“ recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission is pigtailing with the COPALUM crimp. This special connector is installed by an electrician with special tools which crimp copper to aluminum with 10,000 pounds of force. The resulting “cold weld” is considered a permanent bond, which will eliminate arcing or overheating connections.
One other method has gained some acceptance â€“ but also requires careful work by an electrician. The 3M Scotchlok method involves applying non-flammable oxide inhibitor to the aluminum wire, and then applying the special connector, which has a non-flammable shell, a metal shell around the spring, and a heavier spring wire.
None of these methods are cheap. But considering the risk of fire (as well as other potential fallout, such as insurance costs or problems selling), the repair is well worth it in peace of mind.