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Aluminum Wiring in Houses: What Homeowners Need to Know

People worry about aluminum wiring in houses and buildings and with good reason. In this blog, we’ll talk about why aluminum wiring is bad, the dangers of aluminum wiring, the cost to replace aluminum wiring with copper wiring, and safe methods and tools for using aluminum wiring in your house.

Why Is Aluminum Wiring Bad?

Why Is Aluminum Wiring Bad

The use of aluminum branch circuit wiring was widespread from the mid-1960s until the early to mid-1970s due to its lower cost and lightweight compared to copper wiring. Problems began to occur because aluminum is prone to breakage due to improper stripping of the wires, over-tightening of splices, cold forming, etc. Most problems show up in the electrical splice.  Aluminum will also oxidize when exposed to the air which causes poor conductivity and heat build-up. Because of this, there is a risk of an electrical fire with aluminum wiring, and it was subsequently banned for use in branch circuit wiring.

The Dangers of Aluminum Wiring

Is aluminum wiring safe? No, aluminum wiring is not considered safe for use in residential electrical systems. Here are some of the dangers of aluminum wiring in your house:

  • Tendency to Overheat – Aluminum expands and contracts much more than copper, which can cause the wire to loosen at the connections. This can result in a significant increase in electrical resistance, which can cause the wire to overheat and start a fire.
  • Fire Hazard – Houses with aluminum wiring are up to 55 times more likely to experience a fire than homes with copper wiring. This is because aluminum wiring is more prone to arcing, which can cause sparks and ignite nearby materials.
  • Electrical Shock Aluminum wiring poses a great risk of electrical shock. Over time, the aluminum can corrode, leading to an increased risk of electrical shock. This is particularly dangerous in damp or wet areas, where the risk of shock is increased.

Aluminum Wiring Connected to A Plug Approved for Copper Wiring Only.

Aluminum Wiring in Houses

Some symptoms of immediate problems with aluminum wiring in houses are lights flickering or plugs that will not work even with all the circuits turned on or plugs that work intermittently. All insurance providers will require that a home with aluminum wiring either have the aluminum wiring replaced with copper or be inspected and certified by a licensed electrician. This involves physically inspecting all of the connections, installing approved connectors, using approved aluminum devices or copper pigtail wiring, and using an anti-oxidant compound. If your wiring has been inspected, repaired, and certified then the aluminum wiring system will outlast most other systems in your home (plumbing, roof, perimeter drains, windows, etc.).

What is the cost to replace aluminum wiring with copper wiring?

The cost of replacing aluminum wiring with copper wiring in Canada can vary greatly depending on several factors such as the size of your home, the complexity of the electrical system, and the cost of labor in your area. On average, the cost of rewiring a home with aluminum wiring can range from $10,000 to $15,000 or more.

It’s important to note that rewiring a home with aluminum wiring is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge and experience. It is essential to hire a licensed electrician who is experienced in handling aluminum wiring in houses to ensure that the job is done properly and safely.

Safe applications of Aluminum Wiring in your house

Aluminum is still in widespread use today for distribution wiring. It is an excellent conductor, lightweight, strong, and much more cost-effective than copper. The BC Hydro supply lines that come to your home are aluminum, as is almost the entire power grid. Aluminum is commonly used as main distribution wiring within multi-family buildings (townhouses, condos) to bring power from the main service to the individual units. It is also used within houses to bring power from the main electrical panel to sub-panels, stoves, or other large loads. 

What follows are some of the methods and tools using aluminum wiring that are safe to use in your house:

Aluminum wiring “pigtailed” with copper for connection to the plug

Aluminum pigtailing

Aluminum pigtailing is a method of connecting aluminum wiring to a device, such as a light fixture or outlet, using a special type of connector. When done correctly and using the proper materials, aluminum pigtailing can be a safe method for repairing or upgrading electrical connections in homes with aluminum wiring.

Alumiconn Connectors

Alumiconn Connectors

As the industry pushes to develop new methods to tackle aluminum wiring in houses, Pacific Star remains ahead of the curve when it comes to incorporating new designs and technology into our work. A new type of connector, the Alumiconn Connector, is already in use in the field today. It’s an aluminum-to-copper lug connector, which is sometimes preferred over the pigtailed method. Alumiconn refitting is approximately 5x more expensive than a refit using the approved copper-to-aluminum connectors and anti-oxidant compound in the photo above.

Aluminum Rated Plugs and Switches

Aluminum Rated Plugs and Switches

There are plugs and switches which are manufactured and approved for use with aluminum wiring. They will be stamped with AL on the device. These plugs are safe and rated for aluminum. Insurance companies usually do not approve these as a plug can be replaced in the future with a standard plug rated for copper only

Aluminum is an excellent choice for main distribution wiring, NOT for branch circuit wiring.

We have completed many aluminum wiring refits for our customers. We go through your entire electrical system, do any minor repairs, then convert to copper wiring at the outlet boxes. Once everything is complete we provide you with a certification letter to send to your insurer. Your electrical system will be safer and your insurance costs will be reduced

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