What’s Wrong with Aluminum Wiring?

aluminum wiring

When you bought your home, what was on your shopping list? Three bedrooms, two baths, large kitchen, and a nice neighborhood? It’s not likely that the type of wiring was important to you as long as the lights worked. However, if you’re considering buying a home with aluminum wiring, you might think again.

Aluminum wiring has been around for over a hundred years, but it wasn’t until recently that it because a cause for concern. So, what’s the big deal with aluminum wiring? Let’s take a look.

What is aluminum wiring?

Although copper has always been the wiring material of choice, aluminum has traditionally been considered a safe and effective alternative. In the 1960s and 70s especially, the price of copper became so high that it simply wasn’t an option for many new homes and offices built during that time. Instead, aluminum wiring was used.

What’s wrong with aluminum wiring?

Aluminum wiring works in the same way copper wiring does, with one major (and problematic!) difference. When electricity passes through the connections in aluminum wiring, the connections expand almost three times as that of copper connections. In other words, it has a much higher rate of thermal expansion. When the electricity is turned off, the wires cool down and contract back to their original size.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal. After all, pretty much everything undergoes expansion and contraction, right? Well, not exactly. Over time, all of this expanding and contracting will eventually open up a gap (kind of like a crack in the sidewalk) and expose the wire to air. The air causes the aluminum to oxidize, which makes the connections even hotter. This leads to dangerous loose connections and fire hazards.

Aluminum Wiring Warning Signs to Look Out For

If you live in a home with aluminum wiring, should you be worried? The short answer is that you don’t need to worry, but you do need to watch out for a few warning signs. Aluminum wiring warning signs to look out for:

• Unexplained static on the TV or radio
• Flickering lights
• Noticeable plastic odor from your outlets when you plug something in to them
• Sparking outlet
• Buzzing sound from an outlet
• Unusually warm outlets or faceplates
• Frequently tripped breakers

If you live in a home with aluminum wiring, knowing what to watch for can make a big difference. Electrical problems are not on the list of home maintenance issues to ignore. If you notice any of the warning signs above, call an electrician immediately. These could indicate a fire hazard and that’s just not a chance you want to take.

Even if you aren’t seeing any of these warning signs, it is worth mentioning that a home with aluminum wiring might have different insurance needs than a home with copper wiring. If you are considering buying a home with aluminum wiring, you might want to check with your insurance company to see if there are any specific requirements in regard to wiring type. Some insurance companies are unable to insure your home unless the whole home is required, while others will just want to verify that proper connections have been used and the home has been inspected by a licensed electrician. Other companies may agree to insure the home, but with a higher premium.

What should I do if I have a problem with aluminum wiring in my home?

The first step in diagnosing problems with aluminum wiring is to call a licensed electrician for an inspection. In many cases, aluminum wiring can be safe as long as the proper connections have been made. An electrician will be able to tell if you just need to retrofit a few suspicious wires with a copper-aluminum connection, or if the problem requires rewiring.

As with most things, regular inspections and maintenance will help keep your wiring operating safely. The licensed electricians at White’s Electrical will be able to diagnose, fix, and maintain your home’s electrical system for your peace of mind. If you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above, or just want verification that your home’s electrical system is in good health, give us a call today.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Old Electrical Wiring?

cost to replace old electrical wiring

Individuals tend not to think about the cost to replace old electrical wiring running through their building. They tend not to think about the wiring at all. Every time they flip a switch or turn on an appliance, they’re thinking about their job, not electricity. But it’s good to consider the building’s electrical system from time to time because if it’s old or is damage, it can cause problems. Electrical fires, for instance, are a consequence of degraded wiring, and they occur too often.

Recently, vacant house in Lebanon, Indiana, caught fire because of bad electrical wiring. Although firefighters extinguished the blaze within 20 minutes, the flames did an estimated $30,000 in property damage.

Replacing wiring can be an expensive investment, but it’s important that you be able to identify old and damaged electrical wiring before serious damage or harm comes to your building.

Signs of Bad Electrical Wiring

Frayed Wires

Wires become frayed from age, wear and tear, heat, and corrosion. Damaged wire casing (the plastic covering) exposes the wires, which, when live, can ignite fires and puts people at risk of shock or electrocution.

Bad Outlets

Every year, 4,000 people are treated for electrical injuries. Bad outlets are one such cause. According to the National Fire Protection Association, discolored outlets (which turn colors when poorly wired circuitry heats up) — conduct electricity, meaning they can carry an electric current. If you notice an outlet turning colors, immediately call an electrician.

There are other indicators of an electrical problem with an outlet. Sizzling noises, popping sounds, and the smell burnt plastic all indicate that you should contact an electrician.

Tripped Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are the main distribution source of electrical circuits in a building. They provide power to all appliances and protect wiring from a becoming overloaded. When the breaker “trips” — when it shuts off the power — it’s protecting the circuit from overheating and causing damage.

If you must constantly reset your circuit breaker, it’s a sign circuits are overloaded and that a professional should asses them.

Costs of Upgrading Electrical Wiring

If you have electrical wiring that is isn’t functioning well or is damaged, it’s time to consider replacing it. Costs for upgrading electrical wiring  depend on a number of factors:

  • The price of the electrical wires
  • The cost of other materials including panels
  • The price of your electrician’s hourly rate

According to Home Advisor, new wires typically range from $6 to $8 per foot. Breaker boxes (also called electrical panels), if required, are priced separately. These appliances vary in price depending on what your budget and building necessitate. The average cost of breaker boxes by amperage are:

  • 100 amp: $800 to $2,500
  • 200 amp: $1,300 to $3,000
  • 400 amp: $2,000 to $4,000

Home Advisor also lists average labor costs for electrical jobs. In Indianapolis, Indiana, the average labor cost for basic home wiring ranges from $3,330.87 to $4,037.42. The supplies for such a job average between $1,322.31 to $1,504.22. Prices will vary depending on location and exact job parameters, of course. Ultimately, you will have to ask a licensed electrician for a quote to learn the cost.