Lights Flickering/Buzzing in Aluminum Wired House

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Old 02-14-10, 03:28 AM
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Lights Flickering/Buzzing in Aluminum Wired House

My wife woke me up at 5 a.m. this morning to tell me that the lights in my daughter's room were flickering and buzzing intermittently. The aluminum wiring has always concerned me (house built in 1970) but we were assured by our home inspector that it was fine.
Is the buzzing/flickering normal or is it a sign of failure? If the latter, is it a DIY project or should I call an electrician?
 
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Old 02-14-10, 06:31 AM
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This is a time to use main breaker

No it is not alright
If you do not know the problem then hit the main breaker and call the electrition.

THIS CAN BE DANGEROUS
 
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Old 02-14-10, 09:28 AM
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AU wiring

i agree
sounds like a loose connection, the buzzing you hear could be arcing
either at the switch, or the panel it self ( a lot of times on the neutral bus )
hav an electrician check it out and have him trace the run back to the panel.


i did a service call some years back, the wiring was copper, but the results were the same, flickering lights. the problem was at the panel, and oddly enough at the load side from the meter jaws. the small screw that held the lug that held the copper wire that fed the main breaker was loose, and thus the wire ( feeder ) was arcing, and has melted away the insulation from years of this behavior. i had to pull the meter jaw, replace the short feeder wire, clean the carbon from the lug and the main breaker, and re tighten the lug back down to the lower lad side jaws. That fixed the problem. But I have seen arced neutral wires on the neutral bus from the neutral wire coming loose at the bus. The problem with aluminum wiring is you can't over tighten the screws on the bus or any device for that matter, but you cannot under tighten them either. over time the aluminum can anneal and thus break off at screw terminals and busbar terminals, causing intermittant contact and arcing ( and the flickering behavior you mention )
 
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Old 02-14-10, 07:36 PM
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This is a problem to be taken care of sooner rather than later. I would suggest leaving this one to someone with experience with aluminum wiring and its charecteristics.
 
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Old 02-15-10, 12:03 AM
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Found sparking in outlet

I am going to call an electrician in the morning but in the meantime I checked all breakers and seem to be normal. Noticed sparking in one of the wall outlets. Immediately shut off power to that circuit, removed the outlet and capped the wires. Any other steps I should take? I am contemplating getting a new outlet at Home Depot and seeing if that fixes the problem before calling electrician. Stupid move?
 
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Old 02-15-10, 05:26 AM
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Any device installed on the aluminum wiring would need to be rated for use with the aluminum. These will be marked CO/ALR. Most devices are for use with copper only.
 
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Old 02-15-10, 09:14 AM
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Also arcing often damages the wire insulation and the wire itself. Simple replacement of the outlet may not be enough to fix the problem. Examine the wire insulation for hardening, melting, cracking, etc. New devices must be rated CO/ALR and will be quite a bit more expensive than the bulk bin receptacles. I also recommend cleaning up the aluminum with emory paper and applying non-oxidation compound to all joints.
 
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Old 02-15-10, 09:50 AM
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If it is aluminum wire you found in there and you heard about the hazards of Al (aluminum) wire then as a "doityourselfer" to a fellow "doityourselfer", I would get a pro in and have them install a new outlet using current best practice on Al wire.

I would also have the electrician, who should have a past experience with Al wire methods, check the rest of the outlets and wire.
There is even a different tightening torque to apply on the Al wire as oppose to copper wire.
New methods have been found to make it safer.

Not that I have experience with Al wire, but I have enough knowledge of it to fear and respect it.

If times a tough, in this economy, and money is short then even if an electrician can come in and show you what to look for, and how to do a proper receptacle changeout with Al wire then, it is better then doing a patch job on a (possibly) deteriorating system that is prone to failure.

The reason they did away with Al wire is it caused fires
 
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