Copper is known as the best wiring material for residential due to durability and safety reasons, however aluminum has its own benefit of being much less expensive. Both wiring are commonly used in residential electrical systems, though they are very different from each other in a variety of ways.
Are you a homeowner in Harford or Baltimore County and planning to build a new electrical system or repair an existing one? Perhaps you are a homeowner in the Great Baltimore area who wants to understand your electrical wiring better.
In this article, our experts at JPS Electrical will teach you all about aluminum and copper wiring and their properties, and what makes the two different. Keep reading to learn more about these differences and more.
Aluminum and Copper Wire’s Use In Residential Electrical Systems
Aluminum and copper wiring are both used in residential electrical systems in Harford County and all over the states, and are used to transfer power to your home.
The wires carry electricity from a transformer or another power source, and carry it through your home via wires to outlets, sockets, and other electrical appliances.
Both of these types of wires have been used since the beginning of the 19th century, and offer an irreplaceable part of a home’s electrical systems. Aluminum wiring was most commonly used to wire homes in the 1960s and 1970s, but poor wiring design at the time caused fire hazards.
Aluminum alloys that are used in wiring today have been improved from decades past, and there is promising research of more future improvements in aluminum.
While aluminum and copper wires perform similar duties in powering a home, they have some distinct differences. Learning about these differences can help you better understand your wiring system, as well as decide which material would work better for you in the case of building a new system.
Aluminum Wire and Copper Wire Primary Differences
The primary differences between these two wires are their cost difference, durability, and their conducting power. Not every project or homeowner will have the same needs or budget, and so these differences will mean different things to the respective homeowners.
Aluminum cable is around 40% less efficient at current carrying capacity than copper, and has a greater resistance than the equivalent copper conductor. Now, let’s compare aluminum and copper wiring side by side to better illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of both materials.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum and Copper Wiring
While copper is considered the gold standard for residential wiring, it’s not without its flaws; copper is heavier than aluminum, and aluminum is more malleable. Understanding the pros and cons of these different wires is an important step before you move forward with a new build or repairs.
Through supply chain shortages and cost of materials skyrocketing over the years, some people have seen aluminum wiring as the desirable electrical wiring choice due to its reasonable price. However, while inexpensive, aluminum doesn’t last as long as copper and is more prone to breakage.
- More affordable than copper
- Malleability is suitable for long-distance wiring
- Not very heavy
- More vulnerable to corrosion
- Less durable and prone to breakage
- Expands more than copper when heated which requires larger wires
- Not as good at conducting as copper
Copper wiring is the most popular choice for residential electrical systems due to its durability and excellent conductive capabilities. These qualities do not come with a small price though, and copper wiring can quickly become a very costly project depending on the size of the home.
- Expands less under heat
- Great conductive properties
- Copper wiring is more flexible and less prone to breakage
- Safer when exposed to high heat
- Tensile strength is 40% stronger than aluminum
- More expensive than aluminum
- Heavier than aluminum–requiring greater structural support
- For large wiring projects, costs can grow rapidly
When comparing the two materials, it is clear why copper is such a popular choice in residential electrical wiring. Understanding the material’s differences and the pros and cons of each respective system can help you make informed decisions about the electrical system in your home.
If you have any questions about wiring or your electrical system in general, reach out to JPS Electrical today on our website or via our phone at (410)656-4311. JPS Electrical services Harford and Baltimore County and has extensive knowledge of all things electrical.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is aluminum wire less commonly used in residential wiring?
Aluminum is a softer and less durable metal than copper, which means it can be prone to breakage and overheating. With the proper care and maintenance, this can be managed. However, many homeowners choose copper wiring instead for safety and peace of mind.
Should you buy a house with aluminum wiring in Bel Air, MD?
You can purchase a home with existing aluminum wiring, but hiring an electrician to perform an inspection on the wires is important, especially for older homes from the 1960s-1970s that may have compromised aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring from this time does not fit modern safety standards.
What kind of wire is best for house wiring?
Copper wiring is the preferred option for residential electrical systems due to its durability and conductive abilities. If you have the budget for it, copper is a great investment for a home’s electrical wiring system. However, aluminum wire can be a viable option as well.
How can you find out if your home is wired with aluminum wire?
When inspecting your wiring, look at the outside of the wires, also known as the “jacket”. There should be printed or embossed markings labeling the wire materials. Aluminum wires will have “AI” or “Aluminum” marked on the jacket of the wires.