Aluminum Wiring in Mobile Homes

The last aluminum wire was used in mobile homes in 1971 so this problem is rapidly becoming of little concern.

The problem arises because over time aluminum combines chemically with the oxygen in the air and forms a coating on the wire that is resistant to the flow of electricity. This resistance causes the wire to get hot and can lead to fire. The solutions to aluminum wiring problems are so exotic and expensive that they probably no longer make sense for a mobile home owner. You can buy a new home for less then the cost of a fix and then at least you will own something you can sell later on.

Aluminum wire is easy to spot if you are working on the electrical system. When you strip the wire, it will be the light gray color of aluminum rather than the copper color of pennies. It is not possible to use wire nuts or other common electrical components when working with aluminum. Special crimp tools and materials are needed, otherwise the best case scenario is that a connection will not be made successfully. The worst case is that enough of a connection will be made to let power flow, at which point the splice is likely to cause a fire.

The best idea is to avoid any home that has aluminum wiring. If you have one, it may be challenging to sell it without rewiring the home. But again, unless the home is 1971 or earlier, you shouldn’t see this issue. Owners of site-built homes are more likely to still have problems with aluminum wiring since the houses are more durable. Aluminum wire was cheaper than copper to install, but it’s a big hassle now if you happen to be stuck with it.

{ 4 comments… read them below }
Terry
I’m about to re-wire my mobile home, due to someone cutting the wires at the house and at the power pole. I went to Lowes to buy the wire and they had ‘mobile home wire” which is aluminum and there are 4 wires and mobile home also had 4 wires that comes off of the main panel. After reading your site on the subject of mobile home and aluminum wire, should I still install this wire that I brought from Lowes and this mobile home is made after the 80′s. And if I shouldn’t why would Lowes sell something that could (by your site0 cause a fire?
Thank you
Terry

Paul
I looked it up on their website and here is what they say about it.
“Southwire mobile home feeder consists of four quadruplexed type RHH or RHW-2 or USE-2 AlumaFlex TM AA-8000 series aluminum alloy compacted conductors. The cable contains a triple extruded white striped neutral conductor and a green grounding conductor to eliminate the need for field marking per the National Electrical Code Insulation is sunlight resistant”
The problem with aluminum was that it oxidizes over time which makes the connections fail. There are techniques to prevent this. However, they were not used in the original installation of aluminum wire into the homes themselves.
In this case it sounds like you bought a new feeder cable and it is constructed in such a way the aluminum is not a problem.

Sara
Does the aluminum wiring in a mobile home from the 70′s need to be replaced or is in “grandfathered” in?
Paul
Not that I know of. I would be really careful, and hire an electrician with experience if you have problems and need to replace switches, outlets, etc.

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