Your Light is Flickering. What Could It Be? Aluminum?

Real Estate Agent with Century 21, The Real Estate Centre, 410-665-0200 Office 634480

Your Light is Flickering.  What Could It Be? Aluminum?


A flickering light could be any one of a number of things.  The light bulb is burning out, the light fixture is worn out, the light switch or socket has a problem, or there is something wrong with the wiring.


Let's stick with the idea of wiring being the problem and, in particular, with the wiring be aluminum.


Many homes built around the 1960s and 1970s were constructed with aluminum wiring as a less expensive alternative to copper wiring.  Aluminum by itself is not a problem.  It only becomes a problem when it is connected in an inadequate way to a dissimilar metal.


The concern with aluminum wiring presents itself not just when a switch, outlet, or fixture stops working adequately, but, more important, that it creates a fire hazard. Very simply stated the two dissimilar metals, copper, of which the outlet is made, and aluminum, of which the wire is made, expand and contract at different rates such that over time the wires become loose at the outlet. This loose connection creates a higher electrical resistance, which creates heat. If enough heat is generated then it can cause a fire.


If your house has aluminum wiring, then I suggest that you not only fix the outlet which is currently giving you a problem, but that you fix all outlets, switches, and fixtures, including lights and ceiling fans.  You might not always receive a signal of a problem such as a flickering light, but might first be presented with the problem by having a fire.


You do not need to replace the copper wiring in your house to correct the problem. There is a cheaper and very reliable alternative. Basically, a short copper wire is connected to the aluminum wire such that the copper wire then becomes the wire that is connected to the outlet, switch, or fixture. It is important that the connection between the copper wire and the aluminum wire be a strong connection. There is a device that electricians use which is called a COPALUM. This crimps the two wires tightly together so that there is no high electrical resistance formed and no high degree of heat is generated. This is called “pigtailing”.


If you have aluminum wiring and have not had a problem, then do not assume that you are safe.  The problem gets worse with time.  Have it inspected by a qualified electrician to make sure.





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Kathryn Sparks
Zenith Realty - Baltimore, MD


It is a good point that just because someone has not yet had a problem does not mean that they will not have a problem.

Dec 17, 2018 09:39 AM #1
Karen Krzniak
Zenith Realty - Towson, MD


Thank you for posting.  It is dangerous to let a potential fire hazard go unaddressed.

Dec 17, 2018 09:41 AM #2
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Ron Trzcinski, 410-935-5844

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