In recent years there has been an increase in the concern over the safety of aluminum wiring. In particular, purchasers or owners of homes built from the mid 1960’s to the late 1970’s with aluminum wiring are finding that many insurer’s will not provide or renew insurance coverage on such properties unless the wiring is inspected and repaired or replaced as necessary, and the work is inspected by the ESA (Electrical Safety Authority), and a copy of the certificate of inspection is provided to the insurer. In some cases the insurer may require replacement of the aluminum wiring with new copper wiring.
Many homes have a mixture of both aluminum and copper wiring.
Reported problems with aluminum wiring have been related to the overheating and failure of aluminum wiring terminations. This is due to the tendency of aluminum wiring to oxidize, and aluminum’s incompatibility with devices designed for use with copper wiring only. Aluminum has a higher rate of expansion than copper wiring, which can lead to loose connections, arcing and melting, eventually fire. Ware cover plates or discoloration of switches or receptacles, flickering lights or the smell of hot plastic insulation may be evidence of poor or improperly made connections.
All homes are wired differently and must be assessed on an individual basis. The Electrical Safety Authority recommends that the homeowner hire an authorized electrical contractor that is knowledgeable in the approved methods for working with, and repairing aluminum wiring.
We have what we call our “Aluminum Wiring Rejuvenation” solution.
Replacing all the receptacles and switches in the home, with ones that are rated for aluminum wiring (not available at any BIG BOX stores), and treating all other connections at light fixtures and junction points with an antioxidant, and replacing wire connectors with ones that are rated for aluminum.
It is interesting to note that the acceptable wire connection methods that are used in Ontario and Canada as well as many of the US States are not acceptable in other US States.
This probably poses a policy issue with International Insurance Companies.
The reality is however – that the Electrical Inspection Department of whatever jurisdiction has the final say as to what is acceptable.
Rewiring would be the best long term solution for eliminating problems associated with aluminum wiring, but it also represents a substantial investment. This may be the best solution in some cases. Like with K&T wiring, we would like to see a Government Grant / Rebate / loan to eliminate Aluminum wiring, especially since they allowed the use of it in Canada in the first place.
Aluminum in itself is not a dangerous material to be used for wiring – the terminations and connection points are where the trouble begins.
During the 1960s to the mid-1970s, a period when copper prices were exceptionally high, many residential builders turned to aluminum wiring for new home construction. This change was driven by cost considerations, and it led to the widespread use of aluminum wiring during that era. However, it's important to note that aluminum wiring has some unique considerations and potential issues, so homeowners with older properties featuring aluminum wiring may want to consider safety assessments and potential updates.
To recognize aluminum wiring in your home, examine your electrical panel and inspect cables in your basement or attic. Look for cables marked with "AL," "ALUM," or "ALUMINUM," as these labels indicate the use of aluminum wire. While visual inspection can provide clues, it's not the most reliable method. For a thorough assessment and enhanced safety, it's advisable to engage an electrician to inspect your home. They possess the expertise to confirm the presence of aluminum wiring and ensure your electrical system is secure.
Aluminum wiring exhibits certain drawbacks when compared to copper. It's softer and more susceptible to damage during installation. Additionally, aluminum expands more when heated, which can cause wires to loosen under screws and overheat. Unlike copper, aluminum forms an oxide layer that's a poor conductor of electricity, further increasing the risk of overheating. These properties have led to safety concerns with aluminum wiring in homes, making it important for homeowners with aluminum wiring to be aware of potential issues and take appropriate precautions to ensure their electrical systems remain safe and reliable.
Aluminum wiring refers to electrical wiring in which aluminum conductors are used instead of copper. It can be a concern in homes due to some inherent properties of aluminum. Aluminum is softer than copper, making it more prone to damage during installation and more susceptible to loosening when it expands and contracts with temperature changes. Moreover, aluminum forms an oxide layer that is a poor conductor of electricity, increasing the risk of overheating and potential fire hazards. Homeowners with aluminum wiring should be aware of these issues and take precautions to ensure electrical safety.