Aluminum Wiring in Homes: What Are Your Options?

An estimated two million homes and mobile homes have been constructed using aluminum wiring since 1965. This means that there are two million homes that need to have a watchful eye for potential disaster due to the dangers associated with aluminum wiring. This kind of wire, though cheaper than the copper alternative, is connected with a number of house fires due to its ability to overheat easily.

If you’re concerned about the troubles caused by aluminum wiring, read how to determine your risk and how to eliminate the hazards in your own home.

Do I have aluminum wiring?

If your house was built between 1965 and 1973, you are among the most likely to have aluminum wiring in your home. This does not mean that you should go to your electrical panel and check right now, even if your house is in the time range for aluminum wiring. Unless you are a trained electrician, you should not be checking any wiring in your home, otherwise you run the risk of fatal electric shock.

My house has aluminum wiring- what now?

There is no need to panic, as this is a very fixable problem. It is important to note that having aluminum wiring in a house is not banned or illegal. There are some common misconceptions that aluminum wiring is not allowed, however, this is not true. Home insurance companies may require a certificate from a licensed electrician or other electrical authority if a home has copper wiring in order to insure the home.

Aluminum wiring is more likely to cause a fire than copper wire for a variety of reasons.

  • First, aluminum expands more than copper when there is an electrical current running through it, making it easier for aluminum to creep out from under terminal screws and to cause loose connections that overheat.
  • Next, the oxide that forms over aluminum wiring can cause overheating, whereas the oxide that forms on copper does not cause this same problem.
  • Last, aluminum is softer than copper, causing easy breaks in the wire that creates hot spots.

Aluminum wiring is known for being a firestarter. Typical homes can have 200+ connections, meaning that each individual connection is a fire hazard. If you have aluminum wiring in your home you need to watch for:

  • A warm light switch or receptacle face plates
  • Strange odor or smell of burning plastic by light switch or receptacle
  • Flickering of lights not associated with obvious external cause

How can I keep my home safe?

Once you know your home has aluminum wiring and you’re aware of the dangers associated with it, it’s time to make a choice regarding your next steps. There are several potential fixes that can keep your house safe. Keep in mind that all of these services must be performed by a trained electrician.

  • Your first option is a complete rewire of the house. This is the most expensive option and the most permanent. Rewiring your home requires that all of the aluminium wiring is replaced by copper wiring, vastly lowering your chance of an electrical fire. This option requires no upkeep.
  • Another option is to use a copalum crimp. This requires copper to be crimped into a pigtail connection with the existing aluminum wiring. If every connection is fixed this way, it can be a permanent repair.
  • If there is no clear sign of trouble, you may not feel the need to start any repairs immediately. If this is an option you choose, understand that there must be scheduled examinations with a qualified electrician. Doing nothing only borrows time, and should not be the final line of action for aluminium wiring in your home.

If your home has aluminum wiring, deciding your next steps may be difficult.  Contact the experts at Complete Electrical.

Our team will discuss your options and work to make your home safer to live in.

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