Should I Switch to Copper Wiring?

Copper wiring has been used in electrical home systems since the late 1800s. Other metals have been tried, but nothing has proven to be better for electrical conductivity and affordability than copper.

Electrical wiring metals can include:

  • Gold – Gold offers superior electrical conductivity. It’s durable and flexible as well as highly efficient. Because of its high cost, gold is usually used as a wire coating rather than the main conductor. This coating can increase conductivity in thin wiring.
  • Silver – Silver’s durability and flexibility make it a good choice as an electrical conductor. But it’s an expensive option and often difficult to find. Plus it oxidizes faster. This means silver wires will degrade faster than copper wiring.
  • Tungsten – This thin metal is strong and durable against heat and erosion. It has a very high melting point, which makes it acceptable for electrical wiring but is cost-prohibitive.

In the 1960s a copper shortage led to the use of aluminum wiring as a cost-effective option. We knew it wasn’t a better electrical conductor, so we used bigger aluminum wires. But bigger isn’t better when it comes to aluminum vs. copper wiring.

3 Problems: Aluminum vs. Copper Wiring

Almost immediately after replacing copper wiring with aluminum, problems arose:

  • Creeping – Aluminum wiring expands and contracts too much as it’s heated and cooled. This causes the wires to slip (“creep”) out of the screws holding them in place. This leads to loose connections and overheating.
  • Fragility – Even at thicker gauges, aluminum wires were easily crushed, cut, or dented. The damaged wire led to overheating.
  • Rust – When copper rusts, the surface oxide is also electrically conductive. When aluminum wiring rusts, the whitish oxide interferes with the electrical flow and causes overheating.

Make the Switch to Copper Wiring

Homeowner insurance experts say you should replace aluminum with copper wiring. They cite what’s called a “connection reach hazard,” which is an arc fault fire risk. Aluminum wiring in houses manufactured prior to 1972 is 55 times more likely to cause a fire. Some homes have combination aluminum-copper wiring, which is still a high-risk fire hazard.

If your home has aluminum or a combination of aluminum and copper wiring:

  • Buying a home with aluminum wiring is possible but it is strongly advised against.
  • Full disclosure is legally required for homeowners when selling a property with aluminum wiring.
  • You may be able to find insurance coverage but will likely pay higher premiums.

Pigtailing aluminum and copper wiring is legal but must be done by an experienced, licensed Arizona electrician. It should only be an option when copper rewiring is not financially possible and should be considered a temporary solution.

When To Call TIO Electric

Call Turn It On Electric immediately if you notice:

  • Burning smells from outlets or switches
  • Frequent circuit tripping
  • Lights flickering
  • Power surges/flickering lights
  • Smoke or sparks from switches or outlets
  • Warm electrical switches or outlets

…or any time you have a question about your home’s electrical wiring. Again, any type of home electrical rewiring should only be performed by a licensed electrician. Professional electricians will guarantee their work.

Turn It On electricians do not receive commissions, so we make our recommendations based on safety first, followed by practicality and affordability. We’ll also ensure you have complete information about your unique electrical situation. You’ll be able to make knowledgeable decisions.

Home technology and electrical demands will continue to increase. Electrical upgrades, especially replacement with copper wiring, keep your home safer and up-to-date. For more information, contact TIO Electric.

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