Back in the 1960s and 1970s, many homes were built with aluminum electrical wiring. Due to a copper shortage linked with the Vietnam war, using aluminum as a viable alternative made sense at the time because of this material’s availability and lower cost over copper wiring. Unfortunately, we now know today that aluminum wiring presents a high risk of electrical fire.
If you’re in the market for a resale home and any of your prospects were built between 1965 and 1972, there’s a good chance that the home may have been wired with aluminum. But should that automatically disqualify the home? Here’s what you need to consider.
How Dangerous is Old Electrical Wiring?
While aluminum wiring itself is not inherently unsafe, the fact that electricians treated this material in the same way as they would copper is where the problems began.
So what’s wrong with aluminum wiring?
- Aluminum wiring is softer than copper. If the wiring becomes pinched, crimped, or damaged in any way, the wire can overheat.
- Oxidation makes the wiring less conductive. Unlike copper, which does not lose conductivity as it oxidizes, aluminum does. The resistance this oxidation creates is another source of overheating.
- Aluminum wiring is susceptible to expansion and contraction, which can lead to electrical arcing. Aluminum wiring heats and expands as electricity flows through it, and cools and contracts when the flow of electricity is cut. This constant expansion and contraction can weaken the wiring over time and cause it to loosen from its fittings. This can lead to electrical arcing, in which electricity flows through the air between two conductors. This is a major fire hazard, particularly if there are flammable materials nearby.
Recommended Reading: The Biggest Signs Your Electrical Wiring is Out of Date
What to Do Before Buying a House with Old Wiring
Just because the house you’re thinking of buying has aluminum wiring doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy it! Quite the contrary, if the property is perfect in every other way, then there’s no reason not to move forward with the purchase.
That said, we advise that you make it an absolute priority to have the wiring replaced or retrofitted as soon as possible. Factor in the cost of aluminum wiring mitigation as part of the total purchase price of the home. If it still fits within your homebuying budget, then by all means, buy the house!
Before purchasing the home, just make sure to take the following steps:
- Have an electrician, in addition to a home inspector, inspect the home to ensure that there are no urgent problems with the wiring that would make the property immediately unsafe.
- Call a local electrician to request an in-person estimate for whole-house rewiring or an aluminum wiring repair method such as copper pigtailing. You may be able to use this quote to negotiate the price of the home.
- Find insurance coverage. Keep in mind that many insurance companies will not insure homes with aluminum wiring because they are so high risk, so don’t make the purchase until you’ve secured coverage for the property as-is or found a company that will insure as long as you have an electrician make pre-approved modifications to make the property safer.
All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical is the Inland Empire’s source for professional wiring and rewiring services. Questions about this post? Feel free to call us at (909) 253-0664 or click below to contact us online.