Aluminum electrical wire in homes linked to fires
If your house is forty to fifty years old, you might want to take a closer look at what's coming out of your electrical panel.
Winnipeg homeowner, Bev Masters, said she’s had five fixtures melt on her over the past few years. Simple tasks like flicking a switch or pulling out a plug make her cringe.
Masters believes the problem is the aluminum wiring running through her home, so she’s going to pay nearly $15,000 to switch it.
Masters’s home is one of thousands in Winnipeg built in the fifties and sixties, when electricians chose aluminum wiring over copper to save money.
Fire investigator Ken Swan said he sees about two to three fires a year that can readily be identified as aluminum wire fires.
Swan said the material of the wire isn’t the issue. Unmaintained points of connection and the use of unrated fixtures create what he calls cold flow.
"It tends to pull away from a tightened connection making a very loose, bad connection that is going to inherently arch and spark and create heat," said Swan.
Electrician Chuck Lewis said he's completely rewired four houses this year, some at the request of the insurance provider to eliminate risk.
"If that risk is aluminum wire, they take it away, now they've got a safe investment," said Lewis.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada said they aren't aware of any blanket concerns insurance providers have with this sort of wire.
"There's like thousands and thousands of houses in Winnipeg built in the 1970s and they're all still standing," said Lewis.
To prevent having issues with home wiring Lewis said to check fixtures to make sure they’re rated for use with aluminum and retighten all electrical joints every few years.
For Bev Masters prevention isn’t enough.
"To me that is just like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg,” said Masters. “Just fix the thing so I don't have to worry about it."
Masters’s wiring is getting replaced January. Until then, she’s asked her insurance broker to review her policy and she may switch providers.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the market in Manitoba is still competitive for home owners with aluminum wire. The group encourages shopping around to get the right policy for your needs.
-With a report by Michelle Gerwing