People worry about aluminum branch circuit wiring (i.e. the wires from the circuit breakers going to plugs, switches and lights) and with good reason. Wherever possible it should be replaced with copper. However, it’s sometimes not feasible to replace your aluminum wiring. If a house is being stripped down to bare studs for a renovation. Derfinitely replace your alauminum wiring with copper
The use of aluminum branch circuit wiring was widespread from the mid 1960’s until the early to mid 1970’s. 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.
Aluminum wiring connected to a plug approved for copper wiring only
Some symptoms of immediate problems with aluminum wiring 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.).
Aluminum wiring “pigtailed” with copper for connection to the plug
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.
As 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. Its 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
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 certfication letter to send to your insurer. Your electrical system will be safer and your insurance costs will be reduced
If you would like more information or would like to schedule a free estimate visit our website at http://www.pacificstarelectric.ca