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Pigtailing: The Cost Effective Alternative to Replacing Aluminum Wiring

The Cost of a Full Aluminum Wiring Replacement Can Be Prohibitive. Here’s an Alternative!

Aluminum wiring was once seen as the future of electricity. However, as houses were built using this lower-cost alternative to copper, the risks quickly became apparent. Today, aluminum wiring is a fire hazard in many homes and multifamily strata built between the 1960s and 1970s—a hazard that should be dealt with promptly. However, the cost of a full aluminum wiring replacement can be prohibitively expensive for many individuals.

Here at TCA Electric, we work closely with our customers to provide electrical solutions that are not just effective, but cost-effective too. We’ve helped many homeowners and multifamily building managers drastically reduce the risks of aluminum wiring through pigtailing—all at a fraction of the cost to rewire their entire building. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Is Aluminum Wiring a Problem?

As copper prices ballooned in the 1960s, it was necessary for homebuilders and electricians to find an alternative to copper wiring that was traditionally used to wire homes. Aluminum emerged as a candidate thanks to its significantly lower cost and excellent conductivity as a metal. Aluminum wiring was used to wire many homes throughout North America, especially in the US and Canada, until it was phased out and copper replaced it once more in the 1970s. 

However, the damage had already been done. Although aluminum does the job of carrying electricity from one place to another just fine, it does so while creating much more risk in the home. The most significant danger is from electrical fires. Aluminum is much more susceptible to overheating than copper, and it is also more liable to expand and warp in heat. This is a recipe for fire hazards, as aluminum wiring can shift around and create loose connections, resulting in a major fire risk.

What Does a Full Aluminum Wiring Replacement Cost?

The cost of a full aluminum wiring replacement—in which an entire building is rewired using copper—varies greatly depending on the size of the space. Homeowners of single family dwellings can expect anywhere from $50,000 upwards, while owners of individual multifamily strata apartments will likely face a cost of $20,000 or more.

Because of the dangers of aluminum wiring, it’s a good idea for homeowners and multifamily property owners to look for a way to mitigate this risk. However, the cost of a full aluminum wiring replacement is usually prohibitive for most. The cost is so high because replacing aluminum wiring throughout an entire building requires a great deal of labour. Not only must all wiring be replaced, but costs also mount due to demolition and repair of the building’s walls, which must be opened up.

Pigtailing Is a Cost-Effective Alternative

Luckily, there is a lower cost alternative to a full aluminum wiring replacement. Pigtailing aluminum wiring is a more affordable solution that tackles the problem at the source of greatest risk: the connections. 

Rather than rewiring an entire building using copper, pigtailing splices in copper wiring in all connections throughout the space, including outlets, light switches, and lighting. Rather than fully opening up walls, pigtailing only requires that all outlets and other wired devices be removed, a much less invasive process. 

Thanks to this reduced labour and materials, pigtailing often carries a cost as much as ten times lower than a full aluminum wiring replacement. For example, an individual apartment that would cost $20,000 to fully rewire with copper may only cost $2,000 to $3,000 to pigtail while still eliminating the risk of electrical fires.

TCA Electric Can Help Reduce Your Fire Risk!

If your home or multifamily residential building was built any time during the 1960s or 1970s, especially between 1965 and 1975, the chances are high that it was wired using aluminum. This creates undue risk for you, your family, and your tenants, as well as major liability problems in the eyes of insurance providers. Luckily, pigtailing is a straightforward solution that has proven to be highly effective at eliminating this risk. 

If aluminum wiring is a potential hazard for your building, it’s important to schedule a preliminary inspection right away. Contact us to get started!

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