What’s Wrong with Aluminum Wiring – A Guide

By February 23, 2020October 16th, 2020Electrical
What's wrong with aluminum wiring

An Introduction

You may have heard of aluminum wiring, so what is the deal? Why do insurance companies require me to replace it? Can it actually lead to a fire?

Aluminum wiring is actually used quite frequently in commercial and in residential use. The use of single strand aluminum is the issue though. Multi-Strand aluminum wiring is a non-issue, but single strand aluminum wiring is the source of the confusion.

Multi-Strand Aluminum wiring with anti-oxidant paste.
Multi-Strand Aluminum Wiring with Anti-Oxidant Paste to Prevent Rust Pictured Above

Single Strand Aluminum wiring was mainly installed in the 1970’s as a replacement to copper wiring, but it can be found in the 1960’s. Aluminum was cheaper than copper at this time. However, several issues were discovered later.

The issues with Aluminum Wiring Discovered

  1. Aluminum is softer to work with. A soft metal can be easily nicked. A nick can be hazardous, as the current needs sufficient space to flow. Ultimately, since the metal is cut wrong, that space can heat up more than other areas. This can lead to a fire.
  2. Aluminum expands and contracts faster than copper. This can lead to weak connections and potential fires/sparks at the connection points.
  3. Aluminum rusts differently than copper. When copper is exposed to oxygen, it creates a rust that is actually more conductive. Aluminum on the other hand develops a rust that is less conductive. That is why in the picture above there is anti-oxidant paste on the multi-strand wire.
  4. Aluminum has greater resistance. This means a larger wire is needed in order for the same amount of electricity to flow.
  5. Aluminum is less ductile. This basically means the wire can be easily broken.

What to do next?

So, if your house has single strand aluminum wires, you really should look into remediations. There are two types.

Repair options for aluminum wiring

Replace it all Single Strand Aluminum

This is by far the most costly option, however, it is the best option to receive insurance and guarantee safety. The cost of replacement can be dependent on the size of the home, so be sure to call a few electricians in your area. A area can have very different price points, so be sure to look local.

Remediate the Connections

The second option to repair of this wiring is having an electrician add special connectors wherever there is an aluminum junction. This means every outlet, switch, fan, light, every wire that enters the panel, must have a connector.

Alumiconn Connectors for aluminum wiring
Alumiconn Connectors Pictured Above

There are two types of connectors being highly used right now. They are copalum and Alumiconn. More information about them here.

Have more questions about aluminum? Comment below or contact us.

Aaron Shishilla

Author Aaron Shishilla

Aaron Shishilla is the youngest registered professional inspector in Florida. Coming from a family-owned home inspection company and now the marketing manager at Waypoint.

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