I'm sorry, but this is long.
I've got a 1970's ranch house w/ about 1800 square feet. It's wired with aluminum wiring and the inspector said it was safe when we moved in 8 years ago and that the only thing we'd have to do if we wanted to was to change out the outlet behind the fridge. Well, now if we run a small heater, or anything with a heavy duty cord (heavy duty carpet cleaner) an outlet is likely to short.
The first time this happened, (about 2 years ago)we had a small space heater operating off a receptacle in the bathroom but the socket that shorted was in our den. A small flame came out of the socket, we turned off the breaker for that outlet and I replaced the outlet and had no problems until this Xmas. We were cleaning our carpets with a HD carpet cleaner (cord was 1/2" diameter) plugged into a socket in our hall when the circuit shorted. Lights on that circuit went out, but the breaker didn't trip. There were no flames and it turned out the outlet that shorted was one in our den that we didn't know was on the circuit, because the lamp that was plugged into it still operated.
The electrician found out which socket shorted, replaced the outlet and used copper wire which he crimped to the aluminum with a special tool. He said we should overhaul the entire house this way and that it would cost approx $3500. Two weeks after he replaced this outlet, the outlet next to it shorted, which my husband replaced.
My questions are this:
-Is my house in imminent danger of burning down?
Does $3500 sound like a reasonable price? (I'm in Greensboro, NC)
-Is there some way we can do this in stages? I don't have the money to do this and would have to put it on a credit card or put it on the equity line account I have for home maintenance/improvement.
-Is there something I can do myself to fix this?
If I had known this would be a problem, I never would have bought the house. My last house had knob and tube wiring, which an electrician friend told me was the safest type of wiring. I certainly will never by another house w/ alum wiring again.
Thanks for your help.