Dealing with Aluminum Wiring


Aluminum wiring is an issue that we as real estate agents commonly deal with.  The misleading information scares many.  The false belief that a home will require rewiring if it has aluminium wiring can be daunting.  When used properly, it is perfectly fine & the following article by local building inspector, Bryan Freeman will explain.

Aluminum wiring was used extensively in the residential market from 1965 to 1976, but is no longer a popular wiring material for branch circuits. Problems have been reported from the overheating and failure of aluminum wiring terminations. Symptoms of this include receptacle discolouration, flickering lights, the smell of hot plastic insulation and sometimes an electrical-induced static noise on the radio and/or television.

Aluminum wiring in a home will operate as safely as any other type of wiring if the proper materials are used and it is installed to the manufacturer’s instructions and the Electric Safety Code of the jurisdiction where you live.

If you are trying to sell a home with aluminum wiring, one of the biggest obstacles will be when the potential buyers try to obtain insurance. The insurance underwriter often insists on having the electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician who has experience in inspecting and repairing aluminum wiring.

Your home inspector should strongly recommend that you hire a qualified electrical contractor experienced in repairing aluminum wiring to do a thorough inspection of the electrical system, even if the insurance company does not request one.

The inspection should include the following:

1. Visually check terminations at devices without removing or disturbing the devices.

2. Cut back any damaged aluminum conductors and join these to a copper tail using an approved connector for use with aluminum. These connectors are brown or purple depending on the manufacturer.

3. The copper tail is then terminated at the terminal screws of an approved ordinary device.

4. Sometimes the damaged section can be cut back, removing the damaged aluminum conductors and re-terminated at a new device bearing the marking CO/ALR.

5. Only devices bearing this CO/ALR marking are currently approved for use with aluminum wiring.

6.  Panel board terminations should be checked for signs of overheating.

7. Fuses installed for heavy loads should be temperature sensitive Type D or Type P.

8. Circuits should never be overloaded or over fused regardless of wiring type.

Someone who has not examined the wiring in your house cannot reliably assure you about the condition that this wiring is in. Yet, in response to inquiry by owners or buyers of homes containing aluminum electrical branch wiring, there have been reports that some individuals in the field say the aluminum wiring in your house is not likely to be a problem.

The condition of aluminum electrical wiring connections vary greatly from house to house and even from branch circuit to branch circuit within a particular house. It is possible for very unsafe conditions to be present, but not visible, in any house with aluminum branch circuit wiring.

It is inaccurate and even dangerous for anyone to make any representation about the condition of aluminum wiring in a specific property without an on-site inspection.

Are the connections to the aluminum wire in any branch circuit safe? Without determining what types of connections are in the system and how they were made, nobody can answer the question definitively.

Are the receptacles “push-in” or “screw-terminal” type? If screw-terminal wired, how is the wire placed under the screw? (Does the wire go straight in or is it wrapped around the connector)? Are the screws steel or brass? Are the screws plated with zinc on the neutral side? What kind of splicing connectors exist in the system? If they are twist-on connectors (“wire nuts”), are they the live spring or restrained spring type? Did the installer clean the aluminum wire to remove the oxide before making the connection?

Were the spliced wires pre-twisted together? Was a proper corrosion inhibitor used on all connections?

Only after having the answers to all of these questions (from direct observations), can an evaluation of the relative safety of the wiring system be made.

These types of questions cannot be answered by a visual home inspection. Consequently, when a house contains any branch aluminum wire circuits, the client is strongly advised to have the electrical system thoroughly inspected by a qualified, licensed electrical contractor familiar with aluminum wiring.

 Bryan Freeman operates CanInspect HRM Home Inspection Service in Halifax.

Halifax Regional Municipality's Housing statistics & rental growth

Many people are drawn to the Halifax Regional Municipality ( HRM ) for the slower more relaxed way of life & friendly people where people always greet you with a "hello".  Halifax is a port city with a strong military association with 4 bases located in HRM: CFB Shearwater, CFB Dockyard, CFB Stadacona, & CFB Windsor Park.  The recent awarding of the Irving Ship Building contract to Halifax has led to a renewed confidence in the area's economy.  It is expected to boost Nova Scotia's real GDP by an estimated $174 million in 2011 & expected to create 15,000 jobs annually for the next 30 years.  Economists are predictiing that the contract will help area residents buy 750 more cars & 450 more homes annually.  The news led to a sharp & sudden demand for single family detached homes & income properties on the Halifax Penninsula where we were seeing many competiting offers on homes in the area during the first 6 months of 2012.
Newer or updated homes with 4 bedrooms & a double car garage as well as smaller executive bungalows with a garage are in demand, especially those listed between $325,000-$500,000. 
In the last decade we have noticed a move from rural living to urban & suburban living, a growth in highrise high end condos & appartments designed for senior living.  More seniors today & selling their existing homes, investing their equity from the sale to pay their living expenses for such appartment living.  Apartment construction has been the driving force behind the growth in residential construction in Halifax during the past two years. New apartment starts climbed sharply in 2010, increasing by 74 per cent to 1,043 units from 599
in 2009.  The apartment vacancy rate in Halifax declined last year for the second
consecutive year. The decline was due primarily to steady demand for units and
reduced levels of new supply. This year, similar factors are expected to keep the
rate relatively low at again 2.6%. A higher level of new units was expected to enter the market in 2011 and exert upward pressure on the overall vacancy rate. However, with projects becoming larger in size and scope, it is impacting the length of time it takes to complete. Rents for a 2 bedroom appartment on the Halifax Penninsula range from $1250-3500 plus utilities depending upon services, area, & square footgage. In Clayton Park, rents are a bit more affordable starting at $895 + utilites.  Bedford demands rents starting at $925 + utilities.  The Dartmouth area would demand rents averaging $800 + utilities. Fair rent expectations for HRM as a whole would be $1050+ utilities.
The availability of Natural Gas is still relatively new to Nova Scotia, so the few areas that offer the service are in demand.  The Halifax penninsula is always in demand due to its great rental potential, the easy access to hospitals & 5 universities, & homeowners ability to walk to whatever they require, & the draw to heritage & character homes or condo living in the hub of the action.  Young executives & their families tend to be drawn to Bedford & some of its newer & growing developments.  Dartmouth neighborhoods, for those looking for a more suburban lifestyle & that have always been a good investment are Woodlawn for its reputable schools, central location, & affordability. Newer areas of executive homes such as Portland Hills & Russell Lake West, which also offer natural gas, access to lakes, & their easy access to commuter routes are very popular.  Sackville now has a development where energy efficient homes is promoted & is attracting many first time home buyers.
Areas that have unfortunately struggled with increased crime activity & gang violence to the dismay of the close knit communities have been certain localized areas in Spryfield, North end Dartmouth, & the Roleika & Kennedy Drive areas.

In 2007 the median price for a home in HRM was $215,645, in January 2012 it was $259,000 & is expected to reach $275,000 by the end of the year.  The annual increase in property value has average 5.6% over the last decade, except in 2010 when it was 4%.
For Halifax, June was the eighth straight monthly gain for MLS® properties, the longest such run among the 11 markets. Real Estate home prices, in the Halifax area, are up 0.8% for June, 2012 and 4.8% year to date.  The national average for real estate prices is up 5.4% so Halifax is a bit off.
Listings posted sharp declines in the Halifax in June 2012, not unsual for the time of year.
The average time it takes to sell a home in the HRM declined from 91 days last year to 87 in 2012.
House Affordability ( measured by the # of years of gross average wage needed to buy an average house ): in NS 5.2 yrs, the third lowest nationally & less than half of that of those on the West Coast where in BC the number of years soars to 11.9 yrs.
52% of all homes listed in the last year in Nova Scotia failed to sell.
89% of homes in Nova Scotia are sold by Realtors, including those that are For Sale By Owners.

Note: Statistics taken from NSAR & CMHC Housing reports.

Merv Edinger   
Associate Broker, REALTOR®   
Re/Max Nova Real Estate
( 902 )497-1217 cell
( 902 )435-0035 fax 

Recent Posts