Many homes built in the 60’s and early 70’s have aluminum interior wiring systems. Unfortunately, these systems can present a high potential for starting electrical fires in the home. Aluminum is a lower-cost alternative to copper which was traditionally used by home builders for a home’s electrical wiring system.
Copper wiring has been the standard for wiring homes for a long time but In 1965 there was a copper shortage due to heavy use by the defense department during the Vietnam war. Copper prices were high and copper was scarce, this motivated home builders to look for lower-cost alternatives.
Aluminum wiring appeared to be a safe and effective alternative to copper wiring but problems began to occur soon after people began living in these properties. The aluminum wiring was creating fire hazard conditions, the aluminum wiring itself was safe if properly connected and terminated at the electrical panel, outlets, switch, or light fixture.
The problem was that home builders and electricians were treating the aluminum wiring, in the same manner, they would copper wiring. This created three opportunities for the wire to fail and cause a fire.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are approximately two million homes and mobile homes constructed using aluminum wiring since 1965. If you are shopping for resale homes, and they were built between 1965 and 1972, there is a good chance that you will end up looking at homes that have aluminum wiring.
If you have purchased a home with aluminum wiring you won’t really know if the home has it unless the home seller discloses it, or your home inspector discovers it during the property inspection.
If you have purchased a home or are considering buying a home with aluminum wiring you have a couple of options:
If you are using a mortgage loan to purchase your home, the lender is going to require that you purchase “homeowners or hazard insurance” to protect your home/their investment. Many insurance companies won’t insure homes that have aluminum wiring. You may need to shop around a little to find an insurance company that will still insure homes with aluminum wiring.
The best course of action is to perform one of the approved repair methods and then obtain certifications that repairs have been completed for the insurance company.
If you are selling a home with aluminum wiring, it would be in your best interest to go ahead and have any potential repairs made prior to putting the home on the market. This way potential buyers will know the repairs have been made. If you supply them with a certification from a licensed electrician, you will make the process of obtaining home insurance easier for them. Waiting until after the home inspection to deal with aluminum wiring can delay closing.
Additionally, some buyers might terminate the contract at the inspection phase of the transaction because they either don’t want to deal with the issue or don’t understand that there are solutions. Handling the problem before you put the home on the market eliminates a lot of potential problems.
Older homes that were built in the 60’s and 70’s are great candidates for updating and remodeling because they now end up being located in pretty desirable neighborhoods. These areas have mature landscaping and tend to be in areas that have a lot of amenities, so the neighborhoods are very desirable.
Older homes with aluminum wiring do present a challenge when it comes to safety and obtaining homeowners insurance. The good news is that with appropriate mitigation, electrical work, and repairs, the risk can be minimized. This is good news for both home buyers and homeowners with aluminum wiring in their homes. There are a number of things to consider before buying an older home, aluminum wiring is just one and while conditions like this are common and while these conditions are not ideal, they are manageable. This is one of the reasons many people prefer to buy a new home, they are willing to sacrifice a mature neighborhood and location for the peace of mind a modern home brings.
At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference but most of the potentially hazardous conditions that come with owning an older home have solutions, unfortunately implementing these solutions often comes down to money.