We have undertaken some renovations in our home and the contractor has noticed that the wiring in our house is aluminum. I have heard that this is unsafe. Should I be worried and how should I go about dealing with it. My contractor says he doesn’t want to touch it.
What a great question. Not something that I’ve had the opportunity to touch on yet. The answer is no; aluminum wiring is not something you have to be worried about.
Aluminum wiring was used as a low cost substitute for copper in the 60’s and 70’s. Though aluminum has a lower melting point and is a poorer conductor of electricity than copper, the conductors are slightly larger to compensate for the reduced efficiency. Although aluminum is not considered acceptable for residential wiring anymore, you do not need to worry if your home has existing aluminum wiring. The only real considerations you need to make are during renovation. Be mindful that aluminum is much more brittle than copper and does not like to be flexed back and forth. This can cause the wire to break and create hazardous connections. Also, when adding or changing switches and receptacles or adding new wire to a room with aluminum wire remember your high school science teacher when he taught you about galvanic reactions. This basically means that when two dissimilar metals (ie copper and aluminum) are in contact with one another in the presence of heat and an electrolyte (air/humidity) one metal will corrode the other based on their galvanic capability. Copper and aluminum have vastly different galvanic potentials thus make a great galvanic couple; great for batteries terrible for residential wiring. Excessive corrosion means increased resistance. Increased resistance means increases heat. And increased heat in a residential wiring context means danger of fire.
Best thing to do is trust this situation to a licensed electrical contractor. They will know the appropriate methods of dealing with this miracle of nature. Things like anti-corrosion compound on the wire connection and using aluminum approved connectors, breakers and devices.
If there is ever any doubt, leave it to the pros. Their years of training and experience will help you stay safe through all your renovation adventures.
Thanks for your question; it was a great one,
Don’t forget to stop by and visit Adams Home Services at the Spring Home and Leisure Show, April 12, 13&14. Grab your copy of the The Seeker at our booth and have all your renovation questions answered.
Hope to see you there. Keep watching here each week for more household tips and renovation advice. It’s FREE to submit a question and you can email them to: Aboutthehouse@adamshomeservices.ca. or, Text them to 613-551-5932.
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