If you’ve purchased a home, your main concerns were probably the number of bedrooms, the amount of closet space, and the layout of the kitchen. You likely weren’t thinking about what type of wiring was installed. But some older homes have a little-known hidden danger woven throughout – aluminum wiring.
Most common in Alberta homes built in the 60s and 70s, aluminum wiring is a hazard that needs to be rectified. This type of wiring is prone to overheating, which can produce a deadly electrical fire hazard. Serious fires can occur when this type of wiring is connected with other components of your electrical system, which contain different types of metals. Aluminum is also prone to shrinking and expanding easily, which can result in overheating and sparks.
If your home has aluminum wiring, a Calgary electrician should be contacted to make essential improvements and reduce the risk of a fire. The skilled professionals at Sun Electrical will provide you with a comprehensive assessment of whether you’ll need to repair or replace aluminum wiring.
Sun Electrical provides aluminum wiring replacement and repair in Calgary, AB, and surrounding areas.
Our Aluminum Wiring Replacement Guarantee
We’re not happy until you’re happy. To prove it, we guarantee the electrical work we perform. Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee applies to all repairs and installations. That means if your electrical system is not working as designed, we’ll repair or replace it for free.
With years of on-the-job experience, and a long list of satisfied customers, we are confident enough to offer you that promise.
What is Aluminum Wiring?
If your Calgary home was built in the 1960s or 1970s, chances are you’ve got aluminum wiring. Due to rising copper prices, aluminum’s lightweight properties, and overall affordability, this type of wiring was used extensively during this time.
However, the problem with using aluminum is its connections. Heavy-loaded circuits (which is a more common occurrence in our tech-savvy world) can overheat the connectors, which is a huge fire hazard. Although it has not been used since the late 1970s, it was never recalled or made illegal. Unless your home has been rewired, it may still contain this electrical danger.
If you’re not sure whether or not your home has aluminum wiring, take a look at any exposed wires you have, such as in the basement or attic, or near the electrical panel. If the wiring was manufactured before May 1977, the wire covering will be marked every 12 inches with the word ALUMINUM (or some abbreviation such as ALUM, AL). If the wire was made after May 1977, the marking might be slightly different (such as ALUMINUM ACM, ALUM ACM, or ALACM).
Safety Concerns with Aluminum Wiring
Aluminum wiring (as compared to copper wiring) is more sensitive to temperature changes, vibrations, metal fatigue, deformities, and deterioration. Expanding or contracting wires will inevitably loosen at the connections (called “creeping out”), which can lead to overheating – a sign of an electrical fire. Aluminum also oxidizes fairly easily; while all wires oxidize over time, aluminum oxidation in particular is a poor conductor, leading to points of resistance and overheating. Aluminum wiring replacement shouldn’t be something you DIY!
Some signs you might need to repair or replace aluminum wiring:
- Frequent breaker trips
- Flickering lightbulbs
- Lightbulbs or appliances don’t last as long as they should
- Electrical outlets and switches feel warm
- Static on your radio, TV, or computer
- Sizzling noises, or melted or burnt smells, from any electrical component—this is an emergency as it could indicate an electrical fire!
Aluminum Wiring Services
Aluminum Wiring Repair
This will be a less expensive option than a complete replacement of your wiring. This method involves adding a connector to merge copper and aluminum wires. This results in the copper wire being attached to your household’s electrical connections instead of the aluminum wire.
There are two methods to fix aluminum wiring: connectors, or aluminum rated marrets.
- Alumiconn Connectors: this is an easy-to-install and less expensive option. Using a special connector, your electrician will “pig-tail” your wires with a short section of copper cable. This process essentially replaces your aluminum connections with copper ones, without having to remove all of your existing aluminum wiring.
- Aluminum Rated Marrets: Like any standard marret, these devices connect two wires together. In this case, it would be copper wiring to the aluminum circuit. They will limit galvanic corrosion and have antioxidant properties to limit oxidation issues.
Even though the aluminum wiring remains a part of your electrical system, this is considered a safe and permanent repair method, as it removes the main fire hazards: loose connections and a splice involving aluminum wire. However, it doesn’t address any issues with the aluminum wires themselves, such as thermal expansion or galvanic corrosion.
Replacing Aluminum Wiring
Total replacement of your aluminum wiring is a far more extensive and invasive process than pigtailing or repairing your wiring. This method requires an electrician to completely remove the wiring throughout the house and replace it with copper cable.
Due to the fact that wiring is run behind walls and between floors, you can imagine how many holes will have to be made in order to properly replace all the wiring! While this is a major project, it’s the surest way to both keep your home safe and maintain its value.
Aluminum Wiring Inspection
Having aluminum wiring doesn’t automatically mean you need to replace all of it. Sun Electrical’s electricians are highly-trained and can determine what, if any, repairs or replacements you need. While aluminum wiring does fail more frequently than copper at its connection points, the wires themselves might still be safe to use for power distribution.
If you’re not sure if you will need to replace or repair aluminum wiring, give us a call with any questions you have. We’ll perform a safe, accurate assessment of your entire house, and determine what type of wiring was installed, and how safe your system is.
How Much Does Aluminum Wiring Cost?
Re-wiring or replacing aluminum wiring costs can vary significantly, depending on several factors, such as the size and age of your home, as well as the accessibility of your wiring. While the materials are relatively inexpensive, the labor involved is significant.
Every home will have its own recommended aluminum wiring solution, and the cost will vary depending on the option the homeowner decides on. A repair of pigtailing with connectors or marrets will be the most cost-effective option, but it may not be a permanent solution if the aluminum wiring begins to degrade.
Rewiring the entire wiring system with copper wire will be the most expensive and time-consuming option, but will need no further maintenance.
Regardless of the method you choose, aluminum wiring requires complex work to mitigate fire hazards. Only a certified, experienced professional should be doing this kind of work. Rewiring or repairing your aluminum wiring works is a major project, but it’s the best way to keep your insurance premiums down, maintain the home’s resale value, and—most importantly—keep your home safe.