How to Safely Handle Aluminum Wiring in Your Home

Aluminum wiring was commonly installed in homes built between 1965 and 1973. While safe if properly installed and maintained, aluminum wiring does carry risks like overheating that require special safety precautions. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know to handle aluminum wiring safely in your home.

Dangers and Risks of Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring carries higher risks of overheating and fire compared to copper wiring. This is due to a few key factors:

These factors mean that homes with aluminum wiring require thorough safety checks and upgrades to remove fire hazards. Left unchanged, degraded or faulty aluminum wiring connections can overheat, spark, and ignite fires.

Checking Your Home for Aluminum Wiring

To stay safe, you first need to check your home's electrical wiring to see if aluminum wiring was used. Here's how to identify it:

If you discover aluminum wiring, it's crucial to take proper safety steps covered in the next sections.

Upgrading Electrical Panels for Aluminum Wiring

One key upgrade is replacing standard breakers in your electrical panel with arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).

Unlike standard circuit breakers, AFCIs:

Replacing all standard circuit breakers with AFCIs adds a critical level of fire prevention and protection.

Replacing Outlets and Switches with COPALR

COPALR refers to outlets and switches specifically designed for aluminum wiring. These have setscrews that grip and connect to aluminum wiring better than standard devices.

It's vital to:

This removes connections that are prone to overheating. Always hire a qualified electrician when replacing outlets and switches.

Using COPALR Connectors and Pigtails

At wiring connections, special COPALR connectors should be used when joining copper and aluminum wires. COPALR connectors and wire segments called pigtails help form safe, secure joints in wiring.

COPALR connectors have tapered teeth and a special compound to bite into and grip aluminum wires. Standard twist-on connectors often don't grip adequately.

Pigtails are short wire segments attached to outlets, switches, and other connections. They prevent directly splicing copper and aluminum wires together.

Used properly, these specially designed connectors and pigtails help prevent loose connections and overheating risks with aluminum wires.

Hiring a Licensed Electrician

Due to the fire risks of improperly installed aluminum wiring, it's highly recommended to have all inspections, repairs, and upgrades performed by a licensed electrician experienced with aluminum wiring.

Although more costly than DIY, an electrician has the proper:

Don't take chances with do-it-yourself electrical work when aluminum wiring is involved. Hire a professional electrician to ensure your home's wiring is safe.

Regular Safety Inspections

Even after upgrades, it's wise to have your home's aluminum wiring inspected regularly. Over time, expansion, contraction, and degradation can loosen connections. Frayed or damaged wiring can also occur.

To stay vigilant:

Staying on top of inspections, repairs, and maintenance is crucial for ongoing safety.

Is Rewiring With Copper Necessary?

In some cases with extensive aluminum wiring, rewiring an entire home with copper may be recommended. Factors include:

Your electrician can advise if a full rewire is the safest option. Although costly, it may be worthwhile to prevent the risk of fires.

In Summary

With the right safety upgrades and ongoing maintenance, aluminum wiring can be managed safely in your home. But regular professional inspections and fixing hazards is essential.