Aluminum wiring: why is it unsafe, and what can you do about it?

Aluminum wiring: why is it unsafe, and what can you do about it?

Aluminum wiring was widely used in houses built in the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. The aluminum wire itself is safe and reliable when used in the right applications, but it has issues in the connections. These issues can cause overheating and could be a fire hazard in your home.

Westland Electrical in Calgary shares more:

Why is aluminum wire unsafe?                                                           

Aluminum expands at a higher rate than copper. It can also oxidize when exposed to air, and this causes overheating. Oxidization and expansion can cause connections to become loose, overheat, or both. When that happens, so can arcing, melting, and even electrical fires. Because of aluminum wiring’s fragility at connections, small errors during installation, like over-tightening splices or not stripping the wires correctly, can cause serious hazards.

As a result of these issues, aluminum wire is no longer used for residential wiring. If your home has aluminum wiring, you need to get it inspected by electricians in Calgary. They can make recommendations to ensure your home’s electrical system is safe and to current code.

How can I tell if I have aluminum wiring?

Most of the time, the wiring will have a label on it indicating if it’s aluminum. Head down to your basement or crawl space, or check out your electrical panel, for any visible wiring. Without removing the panel cover, see if the wires are marked with abbreviations like ALUM, AL, AL AMC, or ALUM ACM. It might even have the word ALUMINUM right on it. If you can’t find any words or markings on your wiring, contact Calgary electricians for an electrical safety inspection.

What do I do if I have aluminum wiring?

If you’ve determined you have aluminum wiring, you have a couple of options.

Rewiring the home with copper wiring: You might decide to have the home completely rewired with copper wiring. While this is the safest solution, with the most long-term results, it is also the most expensive option. It is extremely labour intensive and disruptive to your home since your wiring is behind the walls. If you are doing a significant renovation and your walls and ceilings are open, a rewiring job will be more convenient and cost-effective. Otherwise, it might not be a practical solution for some.

Pigtailing with copper wiring: More commonly, homeowners choose to ‘pigtail’ the aluminum wiring at every connection. Pigtailing is when electricians in Calgary install copper pigtail wires, using a special connector, between every outlet, switch, and connection and the original aluminum wiring. This copper wire will provide a safer wiring option at the connection points, which is where most hazardous issues occur with aluminum wiring.

Any electrical work, including installations and retrofits, should always be done by a professional electrical contractor in Calgary. Hiring a professional will ensure your electrical work to code, that it is safe and compliant with home insurance policies.

If you suspect you might have aluminum wiring or are purchasing a home with aluminum wiring, contact Westland Electric.

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