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Consumer Product Safety Information

. An ASHI Home Inspection and Construction Information Website for Home Buyers, Owners, Inspectors

Aluminum Wiring in Residential Properties: Hazards & Remedies

This website contains extensive information for consumers and building professionals regarding aluminum electrical wiring in residential properties. The contents are the result of study of this topic and represent the opinion of the author. Actual documents, authoritative research, and government resources about aluminum wiring are here. This is the most extensive and authoritative Internet information source for aluminum wiring and related hazards.

The Hazard

Larger Photo of overheating connection Aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's, is a potental fire hazard. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard. Problems due to expansion can cause overheating at connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at splices. CPSC research shows that "homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than are homes wired with copper. "Post 1972" aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire "alloys" in 1972 time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems. Aluminum wiring is still permitted and used for certain applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits.

Reducing Risk

As of the current date of this page only two remedies have been recommended by the CPSC: discontinued use of the aluminum circuit or, less costly, the addition of copper connecting "pigtail" wires between the aluminum wire and the wired device (receptacle, switch, or other device). The pigtail connection must be made using only a special connector and special crimping tool licensed by the AMP Corporation. Emergency temporary repairs necessary to keep an essential circuit in service might be possible following other procedures described by the CPSC. A special installation method is described in the article we posted on 1/31/96 below.

WANTED: Aluminum Wiring Failure Cases & Data for ongoing study on frequency and severity of occurrence of problems. If you have experienced any problem, or symptom of possible problem with aluminum electrical wiring, or have repaired or replaced it, please contact Dan Friedman using the contact information at the end of this page. All information is confidential. Study results will be provided to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and to the electrical industry. Real life aluminum wiring field ailure reports can be seen at wirefire.htm.

Siemens&Murray Recall visit CPSC's website

An ASHI Home Inspection and Construction Information Website for Home Buyers, Owners, Inspectors

Heater circuit burnup, FPE breaker failed to tripFederal Pacific Electric (FPE) Electrical Hazards Website

Information for building inspectors, home buyers, home owners, electricians exploring the background of possible hazards associated with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok circuit breakers and service panels.

Federal Pacific Electric "Stab-Lok" service panels and breakers are a latent hazard and can fail, leading to electrical fires. The problem is that some double-pole (240-Volt) FPE circuit breakers and possibly also some single-pole units simply may not work. We also have reports that independent of the breaker problems, there have been panel and panel-bus fires and arcing failures in some equipment. The failure rates for these circuit breakers were significant and are documented in the CPSC study. Additional independent testing and research are on-going and will be reported here - watch for articles marked .

Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok Circuit Breaker Articles and Failures Research

Siemens/ Murray circuit breakers and Panel recall Possible fire hazard Call us for more details.

Electrical Safety

Electricity is the most widely used energy source in the world and, unfortunately, is often taken for granted. We use electricity everyday for a variety of tasks - no wonder it is such an inconvenience when our power goes out! Electricity is so common that we often forget the importance of proper usage and safety practices. We should constantly remind ourselves and our children of the power of electricity. Following are some interesting facts and good advice:

Did You Know?
Most accidents involving electricity can be traced to three causes:

  • Lack of knowledge about using electrical equipment
  • Careless use of equipment
  • Faulty electrical equipment or cords


Did You Know?
The electricity needed to light a 7.5 watt Christmas tree bulb is enough to seriously or fatally injure an adult. Don't be fooled by low voltage electricity. A person may survive a high-voltage shock yet be killed by a low-voltage shock.

Some safety tips

  • Turn off lights when changing a bulb and unplug appliances to clean or service them
  • Turn appliances off or unplug them when not in use
  • Never use an electric appliance while wet, standing in water or in the rain
  • Never use an electric appliance that may be damaged or has a damaged electric cord
  • Teach children to stay away from electrical outlets and not to play with electric appliances
  • If an appliance has a third prong (grounding prong) on the cord, make sure it is plugged in to an outlet or extension cord that will accept the third prong. Never remove the third prong so that the appliance can be plugged into a two prong receptacle

In case of an electrical fire:

Call the fire department. Disconnect the breaker that provides electrical service to the appliance on fire or disconnect the main breaker. If you can safely unplug an appliance that is on fire then do so. Never try to extinguish an electrical fire with water. Use baking soda or an extinguisher rated for electrical fires. It is a good idea to make sure all adults and older children in the home know where the breaker panel for the home is and how to disconnect the main breaker. Breaker panels should be labeled as detailed as possible.


If you see someone being electrocuted:

Disconnect the power if you know and have access to the source.  call 911 and be prepared to give the location (address). Never touch a person that is being electrocuted or in contact with electric power lines. You will not be able to assist the person until power has been disconnected and you could possibly be seriously or fatally injured. Call for medical help (local hospital or 911), and administer first aid if you know how.
Respect electricity and use common sense!

Additional safety measures.... the GFCI: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
GFCIs can help prevent electrocution. They should be used in any area where water and electricity may come into contact. When a GFCI senses current leakage in an electrical circuit, it assumes a ground fault has occurred. It then interrupts power fast enough to help prevent serious injury from electrical shock. Test GFCIs regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions to make sure they are working properly.

To help reduce the likelihood of injury due to electrocutions inside and around the home, the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) has been developed. The GFCI is designed to disconnect power much faster than a typical household circuit breaker or fuse. Most new homes are equipped with at least one ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). The most common GFCI is a special type of receptacle (outlet), usually located in the garage, kitchen or bathroom (usually where water is most likely to be present or where ground faults are most likely to occur). However, GFCI's may also be part of a special circuit breaker or a portable device that can be installed on most standard outlets. Sometimes more than one outlet may be connected to the same GFCI. For example, your home may have a GFCI outlet located in the garage, but the outlets for the bathrooms, kitchen and outside may all be tied to that GFCI. If there is a problem at any of these outlets, the GFCI will disconnect power to all of them.

GFCIs have a TEST and RESET button which should be used to test the GFCI each month. To test the GFCI, press the TEST button. Power should be disconnected at that location. Press the RESET button to restore power. If the TEST button does not cause the power to disconnect, call an electrician to check it out. If your home does not have a GFCI, you may want to consider having one installed.
REMEMBER - A GFCI is not a substitute for good safety practices!

Electric Safety and Appliances

Extension Cords

  • If one must be used, place it in a "No trip zone" and never under carpets or rugs.
  • Connecting multiple cords or using damaged one may cause overheating and fires

Space Heaters

  • Keep heaters and fans at least 3 ft. away from curtains an furniture.
  • An adapter must be used when plugging in a heater with a three prong plug in a two hole outlet.
  • Space Heaters are meant to supply supplemental heat.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 ft. away from any combustible materials such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture, and rugs.
  • . Don't use in rooms where children are unsupervised and remember to turn off and unplug when not in use.


  • Would not recommend the use of. Recommend proper breakers

Receptacle Outlets

  • Do not use outlets or switches that are hot to the touch. Call a qualified, certified electrician.

Small Appliances

  • All power tools should have a three prong plug.
  • Unplug small appliances when not in use (irons, toasters, etc.)
  • Do not tuck in or squeeze the wires on electric blankets.
  • Never go to sleep with a heating pad on or space heater turned on.

Light Bulbs

  • Use the proper watt bulb called for by the lighting fixture.

General Advice

  • Place hearing aids next to the bed.
  • If clothing is on fire, "DON'T RUN! STOP, DROP, AND ROLL."
  • Keep smoke detectors in working order by checking monthly and replacing batteries every six months.


  • Check for outlets that have loose fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire.
  • Replace any missing or broken wall plates.
  • Make sure there are safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children.


  • Make sure cords are in good conditions, not frayed or cracked.
  • Make sure they are placed out of traffic areas.
  • Cords should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard or to another object.
  • Do not place cords under carpets or rugs or rest any furniture on them. Check to see that cords are not overloaded.
  • Additionally, extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring.
  • Make sure extension cords have safety closures to help prevent young children from shock hazards and mouth burn injuries.


  • Make sure your plugs fit your outlets.
  • Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three prong fit a two conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock.
  • EVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN'T FIT. Plugs should fit securely into outlets.
  • Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.

Light Bulbs

  • Check the wattage of all bulbs in light fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture.
  • Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you don't know the correct wattage, check with the manufacturer of the fixture.
  • Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely; loose bulbs may overheat.

Circuit Breakers/Fuses

  • Circuit Breakers and fuses should be the correct size current rating for their circuit. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the size to be used.
  • Always replace a fuse with the same size fuse.

Water and Electricity Don't Mix

  • Don't leave plugged in appliances where they might fall in contact with water.
  • If a plugged in appliance falls into water, NEVER reach in to pull it out even if it's turned off.
  • First turn off the power source at the panel board and then unplug the appliance.
  • If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person.


  • If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker, or if it has given you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.

Entertainment/Computer Equipment

  • Check to see that the equipment is in good condition and working properly; look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs, and connectors.
  • Use a surge protector bearing the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency.

Outdoor Safety

  • Electric powered mowers and other tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass or in wet conditions.
  • Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed power cords, broken plugs, and cracked or broken housings.
  • If damaged, stop using it immediately. Repair it or replace it.
  • Always use an extension cord marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools.
  • Remember to unplug all portable power tools when not in use. Since metal ladders conduct electricity, watch out for overhead wires and power lines.


  • During an electrical storm, do not use appliances (i.e. hair dryers, toasters, and radios) or telephones (except in an emergency)
  • do not take a bath or shower
  • keep batteries on hand for flashlights and radios in case of a power outage
  • use surge protectors on electronic devices and appliances.

Halogen Floor Lamps

  • Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb.
  • Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials.
  • Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time and never use torchiere lamps in children's bedrooms or playrooms.

Keep an eye out for downed power lines!

  1. Keep an eye out for downed power lines!
  2. Stay clear of overhead power lines. Never assume an overhead power line is insulated. Again, metals and wet objects conduct electricity.
  3. Keep construction crane booms, grain augers used in farming operations, flag poles, long handled tree trimming tools, and long handled swimming pool equipment away from overhead power lines.
    • Don't build a tool shed underneath a power line.
    • Don't install a swimming pool underneath a power line.
    • Don't put swings and playground equipment underneath power lines.
    • Never climb utility poles, towers or substation fences.
    • Never put up a ladder beneath a power line or lean a ladder against a power line pole.
    • Never climb over the fence into a substation.
    • If you are involved in a traffic accident that results in power lines touching your car, do not get out of your car unless it is on fire. It is a myth that the tires protect you the metal of your car conducts electricity around you, as if you are a bird sitting on a power line. If you must get out of your car because of fire or other immediate life threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Then shuffle away from the car, keeping both feet close together, to minimize the path of electric current and avoid electric shock. If you are at the scene of such an accident, do not approach a car that is touching power lines. Remain a safe distance away, keep the victim in the vehicle calm and wait for emergency personnel to handle the situation. Never drive over downed power lines. Even if not energized, they can become entangled in your vehicle.
  4. Never touch downed power lines or use any object to move power lines, including brooms, boards, limbs or plastic materials. Although wood is non-conductive, if even slightly wet it will conduct electricity, causing electric shock or electrocution. Power lines can also slide down such objects when lifted.
  5. Never touch a person who is in contact with power lines or other objects that are touching power lines. You cannot help them by being electrocuted yourself.
  6. Do not attempt to cut or remove a tree that is, or could become entangled with power lines. Contact 939-3282 for assistance and wait for a professional tree removal crew to do the job.
  7. Do not allow children to play in trees close to power lines, or to swing on guy wires. If there are downed lines in your neighborhood after severe weather, keep your children inside. Teach your children about electrical safety as early as possible. Reinforce it as they grow.
  8. Anyone planning to dig, excavate, bore, tunnel, blast or otherwise disturb the earth where buried utilities are located must notify Public Services before starting the work.
  9. Do not plant vegetation to grow up or near utility poles or guy wires. Do not throw objects up into power lines, which can cause short circuits that could result in injuries. This includes items you might not consider conductive, such as ropes and strings.
  10. Report the downed power lines to 939-3282. or to local law enforcement. Only qualified electric utility workers should attempt to move downed power lines.

Portable Generators

Maybe you want to make sure the food in your freezer stays frozen if there's a power outage. Or you need to power the well pump that provides you with drinking water. Or you want to be able to use your gas or oil furnace when the power's out. Or your at home business requires that you have power to run computers or other equipment.

Whatever the reason, whenever there is an extended power outage, there is also the urge by many customers to fire up the portable generator to get electricity flowing to certain appliances. But, if not used properly, that portable generator can pose a severe hazard to line workers and your neighbors. In addition, the generator itself also can be damaged if it's not connected properly.

Here are some common questions, and answers, about portable generators and using them safely: How do I select a portable generator?

  • The first step in purchasing a portable generator is to identify the things you absolutely cannot live without during a power outage.
  • Usually high on the list will be the refrigerator and the freezer, a well pump, the furnace fan if you have natural gas or oil heat, or maybe some lighting.
  • Consider your list carefully, because the bigger the portable generator, the more expensive it will be.
  • Once you have your list, calculate how much electricity those items need. Look at the wattage of each item on the equipment nameplate or in the owner's manual, and add it all up.
  • Keep in mind that your generator should not be run continuously at more than 80 percent of its rated capacity and take into account that appliances that operate with a motor (like the refrigerator and freezer) can require two to ten times their listed wattage in order to start.
  • Once you factor in those conditions, you can determine the size of the portable generator you'll need.



Here is the wattage of a few common items, just as a guide:

  • Furnace Fan- 500 to 2,350 starting watts, depending on its size
  • Well Pump-1,400 to 2,100 starting watts
  • Sump Pump-1,300 to 2,150 starting watts
  • Garage Door Opener-1,100 to 1,400 starting watts
  • Electric Fry Pan-1,300 watts
  • Coffee Maker-1,750 watts
  • Microwave Oven-625 to 1,000 watts


What can happen if I don't use the generator properly?
The most common problem is something called back feed. This occurs when a generator is connected to the home's wiring system. The problem typically occurs during a power outage when a homeowner with a forced air natural gas or oil fired furnace tries to operate the furnace fan by plugging the generator into an electrical outlet and feeding power into the home's electric system. That's when back feed happens./p<>
The electricity from the generator will flow through the home's wiring, out of the house through the electric meter, the voltage will get increased to about 12,500 volts as the current passes through the transformer outside (yes, it works in reverse), and then it will flow into the  electric system posing a potentially fatal shock hazard to anyone working on the power line or coming in contact with a line that might be sagging or on the ground.

Can this also damage my generator?
Yes, it can. When our utility workers work on a power line, they routinely use a grounding system to protect themselves. If a portable generator is back feeding to that ground, the generator could be severely damaged. Also, when we restore power to a home that has a portable generator connected to the wiring, the sudden flow of utility power into the portable generator could burn out the machine.

How can I prevent back feed?
There are two ways. The easiest solution is to simply plug items you want powered by the generator (for example, your freezer) directly into the generator. But, that doesn't solve the problem of getting electricity to something that is hardwired into the house, like the furnace fan.
If powering the furnace fan is your objective, you'll need to use something called a transfer switch, which disconnects the home's wiring system from the wiring system and also allows the homeowner to direct the flow of electricity from the generator to any circuit in the house, such as the one powering the furnace fan. A transfer switch should only be installed by a licensed electrician and requires an electrical permit and an electrical inspection. Most electricians or dealers that sell portable generators can arrange to get one installed in your home.

Can't I accomplish the same thing by throwing the main breaker?
Not safely; Simple circuit breakers do not make a positive disconnection between the home electric system and Power system. What's more, they've been known to fail. And, the consequences are pretty high if it does fail. The only safe way to create a positive disconnection between the two electric systems is through the use of a transfer switch.

Is there other safety tips I should keep in mind?
Yes. Make sure extension cords are adequately sized to handle the electricity. If you're not certain, ask the dealer who sold you your generator or check with an electrician. Also, the generator itself should always be placed outside in a well ventilated area and you should never refuel it when the engine is hot. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes to minimize the danger of fire.

Instructions on how to properly use a portable generator are included in most operating manuals. You should read them carefully.

E-mail Us JHatton5@fuse.net

Location / Phone Numbers 513-235-4397