Content provided by King Contracting
Why Aluminum Wiring was Installed in Homes
From 1965 through 1972 copper was in short supply and was very expensive, mostly because copper was being used for ballistics by the military for use in the Vietnam War. Production could not keep up with demand, so builders turned to aluminum wiring during that period.
The Problem in Residential Home Installations
Very little information was disseminated to the end users about aluminum wiring’s “creep rate,” the measure of expansion and contracting. There also was little information being shared about the proper installation techniques – that being how to connect to other copper connectors. Underwriters Laboratories previously had approved interior aluminum wiring in homes as early as 1945.
The issue is with the connection points of branch circuitry wiring, common in homes because of the number of small devices being serviced. These devices, the switch and receptacle connection points, were rated for copper. The copper in the screw terminals caused oxidation, heating, expansion and contraction with the aluminum wire, which presented a fire hazard.
Had those lugs, crimp sleeves and screw terminals been metals that were compatible with copper and aluminum or had been coated with an oxide inhibitor, we would not have the issue that we have today.
Myth About Aluminum Wiring Debunked
Aluminum wiring is unsafe – absolutely false!
Aluminum wiring is in widespread use today, mostly when used as feeders to large equipment, electrical panels, appliance circuits and even with large branch circuits in buildings. The key is using proper materials at the connection points.
Solutions for Homeowners
If your home contains aluminum branch circuitry wiring (remember, it is OK if it’s a direct feed to a large appliance such as range, electric furnace, etc.), there are three ways to rectify to meet most insurance company requirements.
Rewire the entire house – This is very expensive because it is not just the electrician’s cost, you also will have plaster/drywall repairs and painting. The average cost for this option is $10,000 to $15,000, or higher in larger homes or homes with flat roofs.
COPALUM Method – This involves connecting the copper to aluminum using special tools and a connector called COPALUM. This requires special training of the electrician, and they usually are hard to find. They must be COPALUM certified by the manufacturer. This method has been thoroughly proven by over 25 years of use. The average cost for a home is $3,000 to $5,000.
AlumiConn Connector – This method is proven in tests, and most insurance companies accept it as a repair. It does not have a long history, since its introduction was in 2006. It also is approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It involves twisting the copper and aluminum wire together, inserting into a conductive gel and sealing the container with a set screw. This must be performed by a qualified electrician to be accepted by insurance companies. The average cost for a home is $2,500 to $3,500.