How to Safely Replace Aluminum Wiring in Your Home

I want to replace the outdated aluminum wiring in my home, but I'm concerned about doing it safely. Aluminum wiring requires special precautions to avoid fires and electrocution. Here is a comprehensive guide on how I can safely replace aluminum wiring in my home.

Dangers of Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring was commonly installed in homes built between 1965 and 1973. Compared to copper wiring, aluminum is more likely to overheat, arc, and melt which can lead to electrical fires.

The main risks of outdated aluminum wiring are:

These risks are exacerbated by improper installations and outdated wiring devices. Frayed wires, loose connections, and faulty outlets increase fire hazards.

Why Copper Wiring is Safer

Copper is the safest option for residential electrical wiring because:

Replacing outdated aluminum wiring with new copper wiring eliminates fire risks and improves conductivity.

Preparing for an Aluminum Rewire Project

Before starting an aluminum rewire, I need to take several preparatory steps:

Proper planning and preparation will ensure my aluminum rewire project goes smoothly and safely.

How to Rewire with Copper

The basic process for replacing aluminum wiring with copper is:

1. Turn Off Electricity and Install New Panel (If Needed)

The power must be shut off at the main breaker before any work can begin. If the electrical panel needs an upgrade, the electrician will install a new copper bus panel.

2. Access the Wiring

Walls and ceilings may need to be opened to access hidden wires. The electrician will remove drywall, insulation, etc. to reach all the outdated aluminum wiring.

3. Replace Branch Circuits with Copper

The electrician will remove aluminum wires exiting the panel and replace them with new copper branch circuits. All accessible aluminum wiring will be removed.

4. Install Copper Pigtails

Any wiring that remains inaccessible will be fitted with copper pigtails. These short copper wires are connected to aluminum wires to eliminate unsafe connections.

5. Replace Devices with CO/ALR Models

All outlets, switches, and fixtures will be replaced with devices labeled CO/ALR. These are designed for use with both copper and aluminum.

6. Repair Walls, Ceilings, and Floors

Once rewiring is complete, drywall, insulation, and other removed building materials will be replaced and repaired.

7. Restore Power and Test Circuitry

The main power can be turned back on once the electrician verifies all connections are secure.Circuit testing will check for faults.

Cost to Replace Aluminum Wiring

The cost to rewire an average home with copper wiring ranges from $8,000 to $15,000. Factors impacting the cost include:

Rewiring is a major project, but it’s worthwhile to eliminate fire risks from outdated aluminum wiring.

Can Aluminum Wiring Be Made Safe?

While rewiring with copper is ideal, there are less expensive ways to make aluminum wiring safer. However, these come with some drawbacks:

Rewiring the entire home with copper remains the best permanent solution. But budget-friendly options can provide an interim safety improvement. An electrician can advise on the best approach.

Safely Working with Existing Aluminum Wiring

If rewiring the entire home with copper isn't feasible, I can take steps to manage the safety risks of aluminum wiring:

While aluminum wiring can never be entirely without risk, proper maintenance and CO/ALR upgrades can reduce hazards until rewiring is possible.

Is Aluminum Wiring Still Used?

Due to the risks associated with residential use, pure aluminum wiring is no longer allowed by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for branch circuits in homes. However, modern AA-8000 series aluminum alloy wire is permitted.

Advantages of AA-8000 alloy aluminum:

When properly installed, new aluminum alloy wiring is considered safe for residential use. But pure aluminum wiring has long been banned from building codes.


  1. Outdated aluminum wiring can be a dangerous fire hazard due to overheating, arcing, and melting. Copper wiring is the safest option.
  2. Replacing all accessible aluminum wiring with new copper branch circuits is the best permanent solution.
  3. Less expensive alternatives like pigtails and CO/ALR outlets can provide interim improvements only.
  4. Proper maintenance and avoiding overloads reduces risks if aluminum wiring remains.
  5. New aluminum wiring is safer but the old type should be fully replaced with copper whenever feasible.

Rewiring a home with copper wiring is a major undertaking. But it provides substantial safety benefits by eliminating the significant risks posed by outdated aluminum wiring. With careful planning and the expertise of a licensed electrician, I can have peace of mind knowing my home's electrical system is safe and reliable for the long-term.