The Question

Is this house safe if it has aluminum wiring installed?

Electrical fire

This is the predominant question asked by home buyers and Realtors when aluminum wiring appears on the Home Inspection Report.

For most houses, the answer is yes, the house is safe.

Aluminum wiring is not as big an issue today as it was in the 1960s and 1970s due to improved installation methods and using electrical connections designed for aluminum wiring. v

Aluminum wiring was used as a substitute to copper during the mid 1960s thru 1970s. It was used because the cost of copper was so high.

The qualities of aluminum as a metal are not the same as copper; yet, aluminum wiring was installed using the same methods as copper. As a result, house fires did result and, unfortunately, several deaths did occur due to aluminum wiring. That was in the 70’s. Once the cause and cure for aluminum wiring issues was discovered, most homes have been retrofitted to make them safe.

One of the problems with aluminum is that it is softer than copper and continues to depress even after the screws are tightened. It also expands more than copper when an electrical current is applied. This results in loose electrical connections which can cause sparking or arcing. Aluminum is not as good a conductor as copper. As a result, larger wires are required to carry the same amount of electrical current. Electrical fixtures in the 1960s and 1970s did not take this into account.

Oxidation and galvanic corrosion could eventually create a fire hazard. Galvanic corrosion occurs when aluminum comes in constant contact with certain metals. Oxidation is a natural process for both copper and aluminum.

Aluminum wiring could be used today, but the scare of the 1970s has moved copper as the most common wiring installation. Many homes still use aluminum as the primary supply to the electrical panel and use copper from the electrical panel to the wall sockets, light switches, and ceiling lights (branch circuits).

Home Insurance

Some home insurance companies may charge more or may require a certificate from a licensed electrician or electrical authority stating the house is safe. Check with your home insurance company if aluminum wiring is reported.

The Fix

FLIR Thermal Imaging

FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera detecting hot spots in wiring.

(We provide FREE thermal imaging inspection with EVERY home inspection).

Rewiring a house will fix the problem, but probably isn’t necessary. The concern is at electrical connection points in wall sockets, light fixtures, ceiling lights, and in the electrical panel. There are products on the market that can correct all of these problems without rewiring the house.

Summary

  • Most homes have been corrected and are completely safe with aluminum wiring.
  • We recommend always having a licensed electrician inspect the electrical panel, wall sockets, light switches, and ceiling lights to verify or correct any problems if aluminum wiring has been installed in the house. It is better to play it safe.
  • Check with your home insurance company to determine what their requirements are if a house has aluminum wiring.

This blog was intended to provide a high level overview of aluminum wiring issues and to provide an answer to the question, “Is this house safe if it has aluminum wiring?” For more details, check our sources below.

Source

National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI)

Carson/Dunlop

Inspectapedia