Everything You Need to Know if You Have Aluminum Wiring in Your House

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If your house was built in the 1960s or early 1970s, you might have aluminum wiring in your house. Many contractors at the time used it as a lower-cost alternative to traditional copper. You can address the issue by updating the wiring with copper ends or rewiring the house. 
Unfortunately, aluminum wiring presents a severe fire risk in the home—the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that homes with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely to have “fire hazard” conditions than homes with copper wire.
That’s why Jerry, the home and car insurance super app and insurance broker, has created this comprehensive guide to aluminum wiring in your home. 
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Why do homes have aluminum wiring? 

Aluminum wiring was introduced to American homes in the late 1960s. Traditionally, builders have used copper wire since the introduction of electricity in the late 1800s—but unfortunately, it can be pretty costly. In addition, Department of Defense usage around the Vietnam War drove the cost even higher.
When motivated home builders began to look for a more cost-effective and readily-available alternative, aluminum seemed like the ideal choice. But what they thought was safe and reliable quickly became highly dangerous—aluminum proved to have several safety hazards—including fire and other dangers. 

Are homes with aluminum wiring safe? 

If you have an older home with aluminum wiring, you may be wondering if it’s safe. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut answer
The aluminum wiring itself may be safe, but problems such as fire may occur when builders or homeowners install the incorrect receptacles or conductors. For example, when connected to light switches, outlets, or even other wires, the aluminum wiring can deteriorate and pose a fire risk. 
On occasion, oxidation can also cause the aluminum to become less conductive. The oxidation, in turn, can reduce the flow of electricity, causing the wires to overheat. This does not occur with copper, as it remains electrically conductive even after oxidizing. 

What does aluminum wiring look like? 

Not sure if you have aluminum wiring? You can tell by looking at your electrical panel or the cables running through your basement or attic. The cables (the sheathing around the wire) should be marked ALUMINUM, ALUM, or AL if you have aluminum wiring. In addition, copper wire is a reddish color, while aluminum is silver gray. 
If you cannot determine what type of wire you have through visual inspection, call a licensed electrician to help out. While there are other means of identifying wiring, they are dangerous for the average homeowner to perform. 

What to do if your home has aluminum wiring

If you recently purchased or already live in an older home and have aluminum wiring, you have a few options: 

Pigtailing

The most common method for dealing with aluminum wiring, pigtailing is the practice of adding short copper wires to the ends of existing aluminum wires. There are several ways to create copper pigtails, but they’re not all legal in every jurisdiction. 
Keep in mind, aluminum wire and copper wire should never come directly in contact as this will cause a chemical reaction between the dissimilar metals. There are special connectors designed for just this purpose. 
Your best bet is to contact a licensed electrician or check out local building codes and zoning requirements first if you plan on making the repairs yourself. 

Rewire the entire property

Rewiring the entire property is by far the best and safest solution if you have aluminum wiring. This repair option requires running new copper wire throughout the house—from the service panel to all the switches and outlets.
Unfortunately, rewiring can run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 and require sheetrock repair, which will add to the cost. 
Key Takeaway The best option for dealing with aluminum wiring is to rewire the entire house, but it may be cost-prohibitive for many people. 

Remodeling homes with aluminum wiring

Remodeling or reconfiguring homes built in the 1960s or 1970s and have aluminum wiring can be dangerous if the remodel affects the wiring. 
The best solution would be to rewire the house with copper wiring during the renovation process. If you can’t afford to add another $15,000 (or more) to your budget, there are other choices. 
Because aluminum wire is no longer allowed in residential branch circuit wiring due to its hazards, you will have to pigtail aluminum and copper wiring together at a minimum. 
In addition, any devices you install (switches, outlets, etc.) that you will connect to aluminum wire need to be listed for that application. There should be a marking somewhere on the device that says CU/AL or ALR
Pro Tip If you need to make renovations that will require the rerouting of wires, the safest option is to hire a licensed electrician or contractor. 

Homeowners insurance and aluminum wiring

Homeowners insurance typically covers damage to electrical wiring or the damage it causes, but the type and condition of your wiring can impact your rates. 
Some insurance companies will also deny coverage for homes with older wiring, such as aluminum or knob-and-tube wiring because aluminum wiring is considered outdated and is no longer up to building codes in many areas. 
If you’re insuring an older home with aluminum wiring, your insurance company likely will want to perform an interior inspection before offering you a policy. Inspectors will look for visible signs of wear and tear, and the insurance company may require you to make repairs or upgrades. 
If you can’t afford to make the necessary repairs, consider getting coverage through an excess lines insurer that specializes in insuring risky properties denied by most other companies. 

Finding affordable homeowners insurance

No matter your insurance needs, home and car insurance super app Jerry can help you find the right coverage. 
Jerry is the easiest and most effective way to find an insurance policy customized for you.
After providing you with a comprehensive cross-analysis of the best policies across providers, Jerry will handle the phone calls, paperwork, and renewals for your top pick so that you don’t have to. They can even help cancel your old policy! So why do all that extra work when Jerry can do it better?
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FAQs

If you are financially able, replacing the aluminum wiring in your house is the best option. Aluminum wiring is a safety hazard and should be replaced if at all possible.
If you have a home built in the 1960s or 1970s, it may have aluminum wiring. However, its use was completely phased out by the mid-70s.

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