Transitioning from Aluminum to Copper Wiring

An estimated 450,000 homes in Canada built between the mid-1960s to late 1970s were wired with aluminum rather than copper wiring. During that time, aluminum wiring was considered safe to use and viewed as a cost-saving alternative. Studies have shown that homes with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely to have existing fire hazard conditions compared to homes that are wired with copper.

Dangers of Aluminum Wiring

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The biggest danger with aluminum wiring is that fire hazards occur from the oxidation and deterioration caused at the termination points. This can cause overheating and arching that will trip a circuit breaker, but can also cause a fire.

Newmarket, Aurora, Bradford, and Barrie have many homes still wired with aluminum.

Some signs that may indicate a problem with aluminum wiring include the following:

  • Outlets and switches that are warm to the touch
  • Flickering lights
  • Circuits that don’t work or constantly trip the circuit breaker or fuse
  • The smell of burnt plastic
  • Receptacles that do not work even when the circuits are on
  • Static electricity from electronic equipment, such as the TV or computer

Any of these signs can be a potential fire hazard for standard aluminum wiring.

Aluminum to Copper Wiring

Aluminum wiring should be inspected by a qualified ESA Approved Electrical Contractor who is experienced in correcting aluminum wiring problems.

When working with aluminum wiring, the following three options are safe methods of installation:

1. Installation of CO/ALR or AL/CU Devices
This involves replacement of receptacles and switches with devices that have a rating for safe use with aluminum wiring. This takes care of both the metal expansion/contraction and corrosion issues. Unfortunately this choice is limited to some older style, standard devices as the popular decorator style decora devices and the new Tamper Resistant receptacles are not available in CO/ARC form. This method alone does not address connections in lighting fixtures.

2. Copper Pigtails With Specialized Twist-On Connectoraluminum to copper marret, antioxidant, aluminum wiring
The most common method of addressing this problem is installing a new copper pigtail wire between the existing aluminum wire and any electrical device. By doing so, this cost-effective method is a good start in improving the safety of your home’s electrical system. All connections using approved wire connectors and anti-oxidant paste will increase conductivity and prevent corrosion.

3. Complete Home Rewire Using Only Copper Wiring
Obviously this is the best and safest long term solution to the aluminum wire dilemma. For obvious reasons, it is also the most time consuming and expensive method. When coordinated with other major renovations, the overall costs will decrease.

Only a trained and certified electrician should perform any three of these methods to ensure proper, and safe installation of your homes wiring. Depending on the circumstances, MDC Electric may recommend one or a combination of the above options.

Call MDC Electric if Your Home has Aluminum Wiring

Only an experienced electrician can accurately determine the level of danger a home with aluminum wiring faces, and then fix the problem in an efficient, timely manner.

If your home has aluminum wiring, we recommend that you call MDC Electric or contact us through our online form. At MDC Electric we will evaluate the wiring in your home to determine the best option to make your home as safe as possible. Our electricians have over 10 years of experience reconditioning aluminum wiring in the York Region, Newmarket and Barrie areas. MDC Electric will do the job right the first time, every time.