Something that we see pretty frequently, especially on older homes, but even on newer homes, is the lack of anti-oxidant gel on the stranded aluminum cables. Whether it’s the main service cables or smaller amperage cables that are going to a component in your home, aluminum has the ability to oxidize when it comes in to contact with the air. The more moisture in the air, the more oxidation. Oxidation causes resistance in the current, which then generates more heat, which can then lead to a fire.
While inspecting, we most frequently call out the lack of this gel at any exterior panel board enclosure (breaker panel). The NEC (National Electric Code) does not require this gel, but it is required by many wire manufacturers and may be required by your local code enforcement agency. The NEC as well as the IRC (International Residential Building Code) recommend throughout the codes that manufacturer recommendations should be followed. Often, markings can’t be seen on these wires to show us who manufactured the wire. The safe bet is to just have it installed.
So what do I do to fix it?
The fix is pretty simple and cheap, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it yourself. To apply the gel, you have to remove the dead front cover from the panel board enclosure. They call it a dead front cover for a reason. You can literally die if you touch the wrong thing. Hire a licensed electrician to get this done for you.
A final note.
Some newer stranded aluminum cables are built with an anti-oxidant coating on them from the factory. Again, as noted above, it may not be possible to determine the manufacturer of the wire. Safety is the key. As momma always says, better safe than sorry.