Applying Scientific and
Engineering Principles to
Home Inspections and
Aluminum Wiring and
Professional Engineer Inspectors
Applying Scientific and Engineering
Principles to Home Inspections
and Building Inspections
Pre-Purchase Home, Building, Condo, and
Co-op Inspections in Manhattan, Queens,
Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau,
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Improper aluminum wiring is a fire hazard. In fact, any improper wiring is a fire hazard. Homes built between 1964 and 1973 may have branch circuit aluminum wiring. In 1974, two persons died in a home fire caused by faulty aluminum wiring. After an extensive investigation of the cause of the fire, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued Publication 516, Repairing Aluminum Wiring.
Aluminum wiring is typically marked with the word ALUMINUM or the symbol AL. Since most homes initially wired with branch circuit aluminum wiring have had additional wiring installed, it is important to examine visible labeling on the wiring. However, even a careful examination may fail to turn up the presence of branch circuit aluminum wiring.
The aluminum wiring that is of concern is branch circuit wiring (12 AWG and 10 AWG wire) manufactured before 1973. The hazard exists when aluminum wiring is improperly used in devices designed for copper wiring. Copper-clad aluminum wiring (usually marked CU-CLAD AL or CU-CLAD ALUMINUM) is not considered hazardous. When this branch circuit aluminum wiring was improperly attached to devices such as switches and outlets that were not designed for aluminum wiring, the junctions can become warm due to a poor connection. This heating can result in a fire. Over time, multiple factors cause the risks to increase.
Aluminum wiring is commonly used to provide electric power to larger equipment (air-conditioning compressors, sub-panel feeders, electric dryers, etc.). Aluminum wiring is also used to connect the electric meter to the circuit breaker panel, and as the main electric service drop from the power company to a building. Although you may not be able to tell from this photograph, the large wires connected to the circuit breaker at the top of the photograph to the right are aluminum. You can also see the aluminum neutral wire in the lower right-hand corner of the picture.
Aluminum wiring is widely used in electric power transmission. Aluminum wiring is found in industrial and other settings where large amounts of wire are needed. As long as the aluminum wiring is properly installed, it is not hazardous.
Any aluminum wiring manufactured in the United States after the early 1970s is likely of a different alloy than the hazardous aluminum wiring, and is at a lower fire risk than the earlier residential aluminum wiring. If the computer that you are reading this webpage on is plugged in, it is receiving electric power that is being transmitted through aluminum wiring.
Most houses that were originally wired with branch circuit aluminum wiring have had an extensive amount of copper wiring added. It is often virtually impossible to find the aluminum wiring unless the house is completely vacant. Because so much copper wiring has been added, the old method of opening a few boxes and looking for aluminum wiring often fails to find the aluminum wiring. Even opening a circuit breaker panel may fail to find aluminum wiring in a rewired house.
If the house you are purchasing was built between 1964 and 1973,have a Licensed Electrician remove the covers from the outlets and switches, and look for branch circuit aluminum wiring. Unfortunately, this may not be possible until after you own the house. This is because finding the branch circuit aluminum wiring requires opening multiple electrical boxes, many of which are blocked by furniture during the pre-purchase inspection.
The old trick of opening circuit breaker panel (which a Home Inspector should never do for safety reasons) often fails to find aluminum wiring. In any house that has been renovated or extensively rewired, it may not be practical to locate aluminum wiring during a pre-purchase inspection.
If the house is wired with Romex and was constructed between 1964 and 1973, it may have aluminum wiring. A house wired with metal-armored cable is unlikely to have branch circuit aluminum wiring. Since the use of Romex is limited in the City of New York, you rarely find branch circuit aluminum wiring in homes within the City of New York.
Historical Note: Aluminum (and steel) wiring was reportedly used in some homes during World War II due to the copper shortage. If aluminum or steel wiring was used, it is rare and there are no reported incidents of problems with this wiring. The rumors of wartime aluminum and steel wire are likely based on homeowners who were unable to obtain copper wire, and improvised with whatever metal was available.
Only a Licensed Electrician should open a circuit breaker panel. A Licensed Electrician can correct hazards created by opening electrical panels. A responsible Home Inspector will not open electrical panels.
Communities require electricians to be licensed, and prohibit anyone other than a Licensed Electrician from performing electrical work. (Exceptions are made for homeowners wiring their own home.)
Our Professional Engineers determine the condition of the wiring by visual examination. The question is why do some Home Inspectors insist on opening the circuit breaker panel when it creates a hazard.
Applying Scientific and
to Home and
Contact Heimer Engineering℠
Heimer Engineering℠ is happy to help you. Senior Staff members are available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. After 5 PM, please leave a message. Messages are checked during the day on Sunday, and Sunday evening through Thursday evening. Inspections are performed seven days a week.
Heimer Engineering's℠ inspection fees are competitive with non-Engineer Home Inspector's fees, especially when you consider that many non-Engineers charge extra for termite inspections, swimming pools, etc.
Inspection orders are taken by senior staff members. A real estate purchase is complex and you should be able to speak with someone who can answer your inspection questions.
To set up an appointment for a pre-purchase inspection or to find out about Engineering services or expert court testimony email [email protected], text 888.769.6910, or call 646.757.4500. If no staff member is in the office, leave a message.
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Heimer Engineering℠ serve the Greater New York area, including New York City (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island), Long Island (Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Upstate New York (Rockland County, Putnam County, and Westchester County).
In the event of a life-threatening emergency call 911. Emergency situations need to be handled by first-responders who can evacuate buildings, shut utilities off, and take other steps necessary to preserve life.
Standards of Practice
and Code of Ethics
Heimer Engineering's℠ Professional Engineer Home Inspectors substantially adhere to the InterNACHI® Code of Ethics, to Subpart 197-4 of the State of New York Code of Ethics and Regulations for Home Inspectors, the ASHI® Standards of Practice, and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE®) Code of Ethics. In the event of a conflict, the Professional Engineer Home Inspectors use Engineering judgment to decide what standard or Engineering principle takes precedence. All State of New York Licensed Professional Engineers are bound by New York State Education Law Article 145.
Ask about a web discount. Discounts are also available for referrals (attorney, real estate broker, mortgage broker, co-worker, friend) first time buyers, senior citizens, military (army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard), first responders (police, ambulance, fire), municipal employees, security personnel, and union members.
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Heimer Engineering PC℠ performs home inspections, building inspections, condo inspections, and co-op inspections in the State of New York. Expert witness services are provided regarding playground injuries, parking lot, walkway, and stairway slip, trip, and fall.
The Heimer Engineering PC℠ website was designed and is maintained by Harold Krongelb PE. The contents of this website were written by Harold Krongelb PE. This website is not intended to offer Engineering opinions or advice. Sitemaps and indexing information can be found at Page Sitemap, Image Sitemap, Mobile Sitemap, and Video Sitemap.
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Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island: 646.757.4500
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