The problem with Aluminum Wiring

Electrical problems due to aluminum wiring in residential homes are a growing concern for many homeowners who live in homes built between 1965 and 1973. It is not that the aluminum wire itself is a problem but the problem is when the aluminum wiring attaches at the receptacle such as a: Light Switch, Wall Plug, and Light Fixture.

When told that aluminum wiring is bad many home owners fear the worst, that they need to replace the wiring within the walls of their homes but that is simply just NOT the case. The Electrical Safety Authority has come up with guidelines that allow you to safely convert your aluminum wiring to copper using a process called Pig-Tailing.

This website has been created to help you find out all you need to know about solving this problem. This site is indented to provide you with information regarding residential aluminum wiring issues only. We do not provide electrical contracting services nor are we licensed electricians. The information provided on this site is to help you with this problem and at all times we recommend that you enlist the assistance of a licensed electrician prior to doing any modifications to your household wiring.

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Buying a house with Aluminum Wiring

What ever you do when you are looking to buy a home built between 1969 and 1973 check to see if it has aluminum wiring in it. If it does have it – do not fret – as this site shows yo, the issue is completely under control if you take the appropriate steps. When you are putting in your bid for the house you can stipulate that the aluminum to copper pig tailing be performed by a licensed electrician and that the house be certified prior to the closing date. I have heard from friends that loved a particular home but decided not to buy because it had aluminum wiring and they had heard that they had to replace all of the wiring in the house and it would cost tens of thousands to do. This simply is not the case – the wires in the wall stay put and the only thing that does need to be done is that you need to properly pig tail each outlet.

Don’t let your dream home slip through your fingers just because of aluminum wiring.

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What does it costs to get this fixed?

This is on the minds of each and every home owner when presented with this task. We cannot speak for every electrician out there and what they would charge to get the job done but here is a general rule of thumb – $20 per outlet. Now keep in mind that an outlet is a wall plug, light switch or a light. Sometimes it can take 5 minutes to fix a fixture and sometimes it can take 45 minutes it all depends on the damage, how many outlets are in the electrical box and especially if the light fixture is a struggle to take down and put back up.

Most single family 3 bedroom homes have on average 100 outlets so you can budget for $2k to have an electrician come in and fix this problem.

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Can you fix Aluminum Wiring yourself?

Without a doubt we do most of the repairs in our home, from plumbing to dry-walling, shingling the roof – you name it we feel good about doing it. However when it came to this task we hired a professional to do it. Not because we did not know the steps but more because we were not sure of what other issues were lurking within our electrical system. Our house had been renovated by several previous owners and each time they tried their hand at doing things and often times they did it incorrectly and we had to fix it. So when it came time to do the aluminum to copper pig tailing we decided we wanted a licensed electrician to do it.
Would I pay to have an electrician do it again? 100% yes! The pig tailing was straightforward but what was not was diagnosing issues that came up because of improperly wired renovations. Each outlet was opened and inspected and some of them had upgraded copper wiring – however it was done incorrectly and I would have never known.

One of the most troubling findings was that the outlet in our daughter’s bedroom – right beside her night table was black as if someone took a blow torch to it and it was just ready to catch on fire. The electrician fixed the electrical box – removed all of the damaged wiring and set things up to be 100% safe. That box could have caught on fire as my 14 year old daughter slept – I am glad we did it right and had a professional take care of our wiring issues.

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Why is aluminum wiring all of a sudden getting so much more attention?

Due to an increase in electrical fires because of aluminum wiring faults within residential homes Insurance companies are now requiring that all homes have this problem addressed. For many home owners they have had the same insurance policy for years so they have never been asked what kind of wiring they have in their home. They find out that they have an issue when the want to change their exciting policy or decide to go with an alternate insurance company. Also new home buyers are asked when they get home insurance if there is aluminum wiring in their house. The issues is if you don’t disclose that you have aluminum wiring and your house burns down because of an electrical failure it can be your fault and then you are not covered.

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Why was aluminum wiring used?

In the late 1960′s and early 1970’s the prices for copper were abnormally high and aluminum was cheaper. To reduce the cost of new homes new home builders went with aluminum wiring to keep costs down. At the time there was no known issue with aluminum wiring so builders had the option to go with either copper or aluminum. When problems started to crop up the building code in many jurisdictions was changed and the use of aluminum wiring was halted.

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How do I wire an outlet properly?

Wiring an outlet properly requires that you do many specific things. We must emphasize that we are not electricians and we are merely providing information so that you understand the process that is involved.

  • Step 1 – Turn off the power to the outlet
  • Step 2 – Check to make sure the outlet does not have and power going to it
  • Step 3- Remove the old outlet
  • Step 4 – Clip and strip the aluminum wiring leaving at least six inches of wiring within the electrical box
  • Step 5 – Get the proper guage copper wire and take off the external sheathing and then you are left with a white wire, a black wire and a exposed ground wire
  • Step 6 – Make sure you have a minimum of six inches on the copper wire and strip both ends of the black and white wire
  • Step 7 – Attach the white copper wire to the white aluminum wire with an appropriate aluminum to copper connector/marrette.
  • Step 8 – Do the same for the black wire.
  • Step 9 – Connect the white copper wire to your plug outlet – Note be sure that the white wire is connected to the hot side of the plug (hint that is the side that the ground terminal is on). Then connect the black copper wire to your plug outlet. Then attach your ground wire to the outlet and then to the electrical box.
  • Step 10 – Make sure that the connectors/Marrette’s are on properly and then put the electrical outlet back into the electrical box.
  • Step 11 – Put on the faceplate
  • Step 12 – Turn the power on and check to make sure you have the correctly polarity on the plug. (That means you put the hot wire to the hot terminal)
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What does the inspector look for in a house with Aluminum Wiring?

Once you have done all the pig tailing of each and every outlet in your home you will then be required to have an electrical safety inspection. This process involves opening up a work order, outlining what you have done and then having an inspector come by your home.

When the inspector arrives he/she will go to your fuse panel and inspect to make sure that your main fuse box is in good order/condition and that there are no glaring issues.

They will then wander through your home and randomly open up electrical outlets and inspect to ensure that you have had the appropriate work done. If you do it yourself they will open up many of the boxes and inspect – if you hire a licensed electrician they will open far fewer. The reason they do not check the work of electricians as rigorously is that a licensed electrician is taking a massive risk by doing a poor or incomplete job. Should an electrician be foudn to have done a improper ob they are opening themselves up to losing their license and thereby losing their livelihood.

Once the inspector is satisfied that the job is complete they will issue you a certificate and you then present that certificate to your insurance company and you will then be in good standing with them.

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My insurance company says they won’t insure me!

Insurance companies do not want to deal with aluminum wiring because in many cases it is a lack of understanding as to how to solve the problem. When we started with the process our insurance broker did not have a clue what the issue was and how to solve it. Having said that rest assured you can get home insurance and you can get peace of mind. Once you have done the conversion you will need to get your house inspected by your local electrical authority and have it certified. Once certified that certification stays with the house and when you sell your home the new owners will not have to go through this process.

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Why Aluminum Wiring is bad

The wire itself is not bad – what is bad is where the wire meets up with the receptacle. Aluminum expands when it gets hot and contracts when it cools down. Over the years this expansion and contraction makes the connection to the receptacle loose. What then happens is that the wire starts to arc because the connection is not tight. Think of your spark plug in you cars engine. Also the wire itself starts to vibrate every so slightly but under heavy load it can get hot – really hot! It is not uncommon to open up the face plate and see a black electrical box and that the wire shielding/insulation burnt right off. The issue of aluminum wiring is not a myth or just a money grab on the part of your local electrician – it is real!

When we had our home converted there were many outlets that were black and burnt and giving off a tremendous amount of heat. It was only a matter of time before the load was too high and the heat to hot that we would have had a fire.

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