Homeowners looking to sell a house built between 1965 and 1973 often come up against an expensive obstacle: When building the house, the electricians used aluminum wiring.
Even when properly installed, aging aluminum wires can pose an increased fire hazard. Though replacing the aluminum with copper is not technically required by law, most sellers must address the situation before anyone will even look at buying their house. Insurance companies may threaten to cancel homeowner’s insurance or raise premiums on homes wired with aluminum.
Aluminum Wiring History
Aluminum wiring dates back to the late 1880s when electrical utilities first began stringing transmission lines across cities and towns. Wiring houses with aluminum became popular in the early 1960s. A shortage of copper caused prices to skyrocket right when our nation’s building boom began. Copper prices remained high until the mid-1970s, so builders outfitted more than two million houses in the United States with cheaper aluminum wiring. During this time, 14,159 residential dwellings were built in Escambia County with aluminum wiring, 2,808 in Santa Rosa County, 6,941 in Okaloosa County and 1,770 in Walton County for a total of 25,678 in the Northwest Florida region alone.
However, aluminum quickly became associated with an increased risk of house fires. This occurs due to the properties of aluminum, which can move and crack over time causing arcing and overheating. Additionally, many outlets, switches, lighting, fans and other electrical items are incompatible with aluminum wiring, causing connections to corrode. If your home was constructed during this time span, you should have the wiring inspected by a licensed electrician.
Fixing Aluminum Wiring
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, first alerted homeowners to problems in 1977. The report stated that connections with aluminum wiring were 55 times more likely to become a fire hazard than those with copper wiring.
To eliminate potential hazards caused by aluminum wiring in your home, a licensed electrician may opt to use any of these approved solutions:
Complete House Rewiring
This solution is just what it sounds like: a complete replacement of the aluminum wiring in the house with traditional copper wiring. Depending on the home’s size, age and ease of access to old wiring, you should plan to spend $10,000 or more for this repair. Installing copper dramatically lowers the risk of an electrical fire, the cause of 6.4 percent of house fires in the country. This is the third leading cause of house fires, behind cooking and heating, the U.S. Fire Administration reports.
The CPSC approves the use of COPALUM connectors as a permanent repair to limit the fire safety concerns of aluminum. A slightly less costly fix than rewiring, this crimps copper and aluminum wires into a pigtail connection, creating a cold weld between the aluminum and copper. However, installation of these connectors requires special tools in the hands of electricians certified by the manufacturer. Often, homeowners report running into difficulty finding certified local electricians.
AlumiConn Lug Connector
In April of 2011, the CPSC accepted AlumiConn miniature lug connectors as a permanent repair in houses with aluminum wiring. Similar in cost to COPALUM connectors, installing AlumiConn miniature lug connectors only requires a special torque screwdriver readily available to electricians. This relatively newer repair option requires proper torque on the connectors to pass muster.
Call Henderson Electric Today to Ensure the Safety of Your Home!
Even if after 45 years you have not experienced any indication of trouble with your aluminum wiring, it’s a good idea to have it repaired or replaced. Easily recognizable signs include flickering lights, hot light switch or outlet plates, dead circuits or even the smell of burning plastic. Don’t risk your family’s safety, call Henderson Electric today for repairs!