Can I make my home’s aluminum wiring safe?

Westland Electric 2014 Ltd. |

Blog by Westland Electric

Aluminum wiring was commonly used in homes built in the 1960s and 1970s, but no longer meets electrical code and is no longer used. If you have recently purchased a house that has aluminum wiring or if you suspect your current home might have it, there are things you can do to eliminate the hazard and reduce the risk of overheating or house fires.

The problem with aluminum wiring
Aluminum is a good conductor. In some applications, it can be safe. The problem is with the connections. It expands at a higher rate compared to copper and can oxidize when exposed to air. The expanding and oxidizing can make connections within your electrical system overheat, become loose, or sometimes both. These issues can cause arcing, melting, and in the worst cases, a fire. Because it’s frail at the connection, even the smallest error during installation can increase the risk of a serious hazard.

How do you check for aluminum wiring?
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to determine if your home has aluminum wiring. Head to your electrical panel, or somewhere that might have visible wires like a crawlspace or basement. Check the wires for abbreviations like AL, ALUM, ALUM ACM, or AL AMC. Sometimes the wire will say ALUMINUM right on it. Do not remove the panel cover on your electrical panel to do this. If you can’t find any markings, contact Calgary electricians to check for you.

Options for fixing the problem
If you do have aluminum wiring, there are a few options to make sure it’s safe.

Pigtail the aluminum wiring with copper at the connections
Choosing to ‘pigtail’ the aluminum wire with copper at each connection in your electrical system is the most cost-effective way to fix the issue. To do this, the electricians in Calgary will install copper wires between every outlet, switch, and connection, connecting to the aluminum wiring using a special connector. The copper pigtail will provide a safer wiring option at the critical connection points.

Replace the aluminum wiring with copper
Replacing the aluminum wiring with copper is the safest solution, but rewiring an entire home can be time consuming and expensive. If you are doing a major renovation and have open walls and ceilings, it might be worth replacing your aluminum wiring completely. Otherwise, it might not be a practical solution, and you should consider pigtailing with copper instead.

Always leave electrical work to the professionals
Never attempt to install or retrofit your wiring yourself and always hire a professional electrician to do the job. Faulty wiring is a significant cause of house fires, and DIY electrical work is often not compliant with home insurance policies. To ensure the work is done correctly, safely, and to code, contact Westland Electric.