1) I hope that your Realtor and/or your attorney included a rider clause that the sale price of the home would be pending a licensed home inspection?
2) There is no website that I am aware of that will provide the builders information for any building, whether residential or commercial or industrial that utilized aluminum wiring. I can assure you that you will not locate any public records for the use of aluminum wiring on any home that was wired with it.
3) Yes, you are correct...... aluminum wiring in single family dwellings was used extensively across the United States from around the mid 1960's up till the very early 70's. The reason aluminum was used was due to a long labor strike at the copper mines located in Arizona throughout this time frame. Copper wiring was at a high demand and an almost next to nothing supply, thus the reason numerous homes were wired in aluminum.
4) The biggest problems with the use of aluminum wiring during this time frame was that electricians and device manufacturers were not aware that aluminum conductors act differently compared to copper conductors. One of the biggest problems was that wire sizes for aluminum were undersized by 1 wire size as compared to copper.
For example: If a 15 amp branch circuit and copper is used, the copper wire needs to be 14 AWG. If aluminum was used for the same 15 amp circuit, 12 AWG aluminum should have been used (1 size larger required than copper). Many homes wired with aluminum were undersized. Under sizing of aluminum conductors will result in a faster heat build-up, thus a possible melting of the conductors if enough current is following thru them. Thus fires were caused by this. The other problem was that many of the receptacle and switch devices were not rated for aluminum wires and were only rated for copper terminations. Once again, a potential safety issue with a possible excessive heat build-up on the device. Another problem with aluminum was the improper splicing and preparation of the conductors. In order to properly splice aluminum conductors, special wire nuts or crimping devices need to be used. Majority of the time, electricians just used standard wire nuts during this time period.
5) I have never heard of a home that was built this new in 1988 and it was wired in aluminum. Whoever the electrical contractor and/or the local electrical inspector who installed and/or approved such an installation back in 1988 should have had their license and/or credentials revoked. Any home built in 1988 should have been wired in copper and not aluminum.
6) If you do not have such a rider clause in your real estate contract, I would highly recommend that you hire a state licensed home inspector to check out the wire sizes as well as the splicing methods used. It is very possible that the switches and receptacles may not be rated for aluminum conductors. A licensed home inspector can confirm this for you. A typical home inspection will only cost on average around $400 to $700. Unless you have specific knowledge what you are looking for to do a home inspection, I would highly recommend hiring a professional. There is a lot that goes into any home inspection and not just the electrical aspect of it.
I am a former State of Illinois licensed home inspector and my licensing exam was approximately 4 hrs in length not to mention that I had to take a class and pass another written exam prior to taking the license exam. These exams are not meant for an applicant to pass, they are written for an applicant to fail the exam. On a typical exam, there are numerous electrical and plumbing questions as these are areas in any home that may have been abused or not properly installed during the construction stages. There are also tons of structural, roofing and concrete questions. Typically, the average person will not have knowledge of the types of problems to look for in a home inspection unless they have a background in home construction and are aware of all the methods used.
Also as a former college electrical instructor and a former electrical inspector, I would tell my students that the electrical system in any building, whether it is residential, commercial or industrial is the most used and abused system as compared to any other mechanical and structural systems found in any building. And that's a fact!
7) If you do have a rider clause in the contract, suggest hiring a state licensed home inspector and have them write up their electrical code violations. Once the code violations are noted, seek out 3 licensed and insured electrical contractors to provide you with a price to repair and/or replace the aluminum wiring. Once you know the electrical contractors price, use this to lower your bid price on the home. Or have the existing homeowner responsible for the repairs and/or replacement prior to your closing on the home.
Hope this helps.........If you have any additional questions, let me know and I'll be glad to answer them for you.
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