Aluminum Wire in the Home

aluminum wring

Some homeowners become concerned if they find out that they have aluminum wire in their home. They automatically assume that aluminum wiring is unsafe and copper should always be used.  Is it true that aluminum wiring is less safe than copper wiring?

It became popular in the 1960s to use aluminum for home electricity wiring. This was because it was generally cheaper to use than copper and still conducted electricity fairly well. However, just because it is cheaper, doesn’t automatically mean that it is unsafe to use and that you need to get your home rewired.

Aluminum Wire vs Copper Wire

For its ease of use and ability to effectively conduct electricity, copper is the best kind of wiring for your home. Copper wiring is more stable than aluminum and smaller conductors are needed to transmit power loads. Overall all it is more durable and performs better than aluminum wiring.

One of the disadvantages of copper wiring is its cost. So, if extensive wiring is required, the cost of using copper could be too expensive for some homeowners.

There are, however, many advantages to using aluminum wiring. Aluminum is much lighter and malleable than copper and therefore, makes it easier to work with. Being a cheaper metal, it can be more cost-effective to install aluminum wiring as it will generally work out around half the cost of copper wiring.

The disadvantage of aluminum wiring is that it must be installed correctly to avoid the risk of house fires. When a current runs through aluminum wiring it causes the metal to expand. This creates a cycle of expanding and contracting called “cold creep.” In time, this can cause connections to become loose and spark. If the wires heat up too much, they could even melt fixtures and cause a fire. This can be easily corrected and the hazard avoided by replacing the connection cap with one rated for copper and aluminum and ensuring the final connection to the device is made with copper.  This is a cost efficient alternative to rewiring your house, and is an accepted method recognized by insurance companies. 

In the end, both types of wiring have their advantages and disadvantages. In some electrical installations, aluminum wiring has its place. However, because copper wiring is generally safer and conducts electricity better, more people choose copper wiring over aluminum when rewiring or installing a new electrical system in their homes.