Should You Replace Your Aluminum Wiring?

A home owner in Guelph Ontario told me that she and her husband had recently purchased a home with aluminum wiring. They were planning a major renovation and would be gutting the main floor and had a drop ceiling that gave them access to the…

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A home owner in Guelph Ontario told me that she and her husband had recently purchased a home with aluminum wiring. They were planning a major renovation and would be gutting the main floor and had a drop ceiling that gave them access to the basement ceiling. She asked me if I thought it was worthwhile, during this major renovation, to replace the aluminum wiring with copper wiring. I told her what I’m about to tell you-

Here are the seven things to consider that will help you make the right decision:

  1. If your home was built and wired before 1972 it will have utility grade aluminum conductors that contributed to most of the problems associated with aluminum wiring. The first aluminum conductor developed for residential use was first manufactured in 1972. The older wire is more susceptible to problems and requires more care and knowledge when rewiring. The date of the original wiring is worth considering since there is a greater benefit to removing the older wiring than the newer aluminum wiring.
  2. Insurance companies generally require special assessments of the electrical system by an electrician to show that it is in good condition; even then, they may charge higher premiums. Insurance companies may ask you to have your system checked in the future, even if they have insured you for years. Some companies will not insure homes with aluminum wiring at all. So with that being said, it is a benefit to replace the aluminum wiring if insurance companies ask for extra assessments or higher premiums.
  3. There may be a benefit if aluminum wiring affects the value or saleability of your home- now or in the future. Talk to your realtor about how aluminum wiring is perceived in your market. Ask them if an upgrade to copper wiring would be reflected in the value of the home.
  4. Electrical codes have changed since the 1960s and 70s. Rewiring to fit the present codes is a definite benefit.
  5. These days we use more electronic devices that place a larger load on old circuits. Generally the older homes do not have as many circuits, lights and electrical outlets. This is why we see more extension cords in older homes. Rewiring allows you to install as many lights and outlets as you need and specify where you need them. Replacing the aluminum circuits is better than reconfiguring the existing ones since there may not be room on the current circuits for extra outlets or lighting.
  6. Convenience and cost effectiveness. If you are opening up the walls and ceiling, this is the time to replace that aluminum wiring. A major renovation removes the biggest reason not to replace the wiring since you wont have to pay added costs to rip up and repair walls later down the road.
  7. Who is going to do the work? Licensed electricians who know the codes related to aluminum wiring and have experience working with it is going to ensure your safety an peace of mind. Aluminum wiring is not something an untrained homeowner should work on. If you plan to keep the aluminum wiring, rework and add to it- I recommend you hire a licensed electrician.
    In BC a homeowner is generally allowed to pull a permit and do electric work in their principal resident provided that the system is 200 amps or less. If the electrical authorities in your area allow you to do electrical work in your home and you have the knowledge and time to wire your own home you could save yourself a significant amount of money.

I think you would agree that replacement is the best choice. If you are only doing a partial renovation try replacing whatever you can. Your home will be safer, wired to current standards and customized to your needs. And remember, electricity can kill someone, so you want to make sure it is done right.

To conclude, I want to emphasize, any work done on aluminum wiring should be done by a licensed electrician who understands aluminum wiring. If you don’t know how to design the system or you have any doubts about your ability to complete this work, please talk to an electrician.  Don’t replace what you have with a poorly designed system. You could be giving up some of the benefits of rewiring.

If you have any questions about this topic, other aspects of a home inspection, or would like to book an inspection, please contact Bob at Building Pro Inspections. My email address is [email protected] and I can be reached at 250-862-1054.