Many homes built from the mid 1960s until the early 1970s had aluminum as the main distribution wiring. In addition, older homes (1900 up to 1960) that have been renovated over the years may have had a mix of wiring, where aluminum was added.
The high prices and shortages of copper made aluminum an attractive alternative. In addition to being less expensive, aluminum was found to be an excellent conductor.
However, by the 1970s, there were a number of documented fires and deaths resulting from aluminum branch wiring in residential Canadian homes. The wire itself was not the issue. The connection points at switches, outlets, fixtures, lights and receptacles were cause for concern. Overtime, these connections failed, causing them to loosen, increasing the likelihood of electrical fires.
Aluminum wire becomes extremely hot as electricity run through it. When the connections fail or become loose, the likelihood of “fire-hazard conditions” increases significantly. This supports a survey released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, suggesting that homes built prior to 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections at outlets reaching fire-hazard conditions when compared with homes with copper wiring.
Naturally, this is a concern for insurance providers. Some companies may outright refuse to insure homes with aluminum branch wiring, largely due to the confusion around properly dealing with this issue. The situation then becomes problematic for homebuyers looking to switch insurance companies, or beginning a brand new policy.
As a result, any homes found with aluminum branch wiring will require safety upgrades by a licensed electrician before buyers can purchase home insurance.
It should also be noted that a failure to disclose “the presence of aluminum branch wiring” to the insurance company will likely result in a refusal of coverage, if a home burns down due to faulty aluminum-wired connections.
If you really have your heart set on a home with aluminum branch wiring, the situation can be safely upgraded, and it is not always necessary to rewire the entire home. There are a number of suitable options, and the method of repair will depend on an investigation by your electrician.
Once your electrician has sufficiently upgraded the home up to meet current electrical safety standards, you may have to call in an electrical inspector from your local authority will have to verify and sign off on the work. You should check with your city to see if this is the case.
The next step is to provide proof to the insurance company that your home is safe. This may involve presenting your insurance company a receipt from the electrician or a certificate from an electrical inspector. These documents can also be transferred on to the new owners if you decide to sell your home in the future.
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and keep the insurance companies happy is to be proactive. Take the necessary precautions for disclosing the presence of aluminum wiring. Have it repaired and provide the necessary paperwork to your insurance provider.
Good luck and be safe!