The only thing that is certain about buying a home with aluminum wiring is that everyone has different thoughts on what a home buyer should consider. The biggest problem with aluminum wiring is that many insures will not insure the home. Some insurance companies will only insure your home after you get a Certificate of Inspection from ESA. (The Electrical Safety Authority).
Prior to obtaining a ESA Certificate of Inspection you will have to hire an electrician to inspect all the connection points of the homes wiring. This entails removing all outlets, light switches, appliance connections covers and of course the panel board. If approved devices have been installed for outlets and switches they will be stamped with “C0/ALR” or “AL-CU”, which indicates that are rated for use on aluminum circuits of 20 amps or less.
Aluminum wiring is prone to oxidation at its contact points when used in equipment designed for use with copper wiring. When the aluminum wire heats up due to gaps caused by oxidation it creates heat, this causes the metal to move away from heat source. This is known as “Cold Creep” as the aluminum does not return to original position or shape when wire is cooled. Some of the signs of problems in aluminum wiring is discoloration of light or outlet cover plates, smoke or sparking at devices, flickering lights or smell of plastic insulation burning.
Some studies have indicated that a home with aluminum wiring 55 times more likely to have an over heat or fire condition than a home wired with copper. Some home owners have added pig tails to their aluminum wiring and is currently an accepted method by ESA. Some studies in the US have found this method actually increases the risk. Changing all devices to one rated for aluminum wiring is also an option. Use CopAlum Crimp connectors on all connections, or re-wire entire home replacing all the aluminum.
Remember that when you put your home back on the market, many home owners will be asking themselves the same questions that you did when you bought the home. This is definitely a item of concern when it comes to resale value. Hopefully you hire a competent home inspector who understands aluminum wiring and is not afraid to tell you, the home buyer, the truth, thus allowing you to base your decision on buying a home on the facts.
As always, CAVEAT EMPTOR – BUYER BEWARE