HELP - Electrical / Wiring with new build of home

Hello and thank you for reading this.

As some of you know, I am in the process of building a new home, with a dedicated audio room, 5 dedicated 20A circuits, etc., and other features to hopefully help the system sound its best for many years to come.

While walking the house this evening, I noticed the large "umbilical" coming from the breaker box, running through the basement rafters out to the garage (I assume to be connected to the meter outside) appeared to be aluminum. The electrical drop must have been a good 2" or perhaps even 3" in diameter, with 4 distinct stranded wires inside. Again- all appeared to be aluminum.

I have done some forum searches, and didn't find much, but am quite sure I have been told to make sure it is all copper and NO aluminum. I have already shot off an email to the builder, but I will need help and/or "ammunition" as to why the aluminum is "unacceptable" and why it needs to be copper.

Please correct me if I am incorrect and the aluminum is fine. Please also give me all the info I need to get the copper if the aluminum is not good.

Thank you for all the help in advance!

This off the web:

The Hazard

Aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's, is a potential fire hazard. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard. Problems due to expansion can cause overheating at connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at splices. CPSC research shows that "homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than are homes wired with copper. "Post 1972" aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire "alloys" in 1972 time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems. Aluminum wiring is still permitted and used for certain applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits.
Reducing Risk

As of the current date of this page only two remedies have been recommended by the CPSC: discontinued use of the aluminum circuit or, less costly, the addition of copper connecting "pigtail" wires between the aluminum wire and the wired device (receptacle, switch, or other device). The pigtail connection must be made using only a special connector and special crimping tool licensed by the AMP Corporation. Emergency temporary repairs necessary to keep an essential circuit in service might be possible following other procedures described by the CPSC. A special installation method is described in the article we posted on 1/31/96 below.

Here is the site:

This may not convince your builder to change but it is enough ammunition to allow you to "be upset" with his choice.

With the price of new houses, I doubt this builder want's an unhappy customer, perhaps he will swap you for copper to appease you.

I did all copper except from the power transformer to the weather head. I scheduled copper to the weather head until the installer realized that the additional weight of the copper would pull my service box and meter off the house. Not wanting an additional creosote power pole in my back yard, I had to make that one compromise.

Where yours is run there is no reason except for the installer to save money. Copper is a lot more expensive.
Alberporter's comments are in line with what I have found on the web. The following post is from an electrician. Note the second paragaph were a representative from an aluminum company mentions that most aluminum today is being installed at the Service Entrance and is 8000 series wire. He goes on to say this is common in Florida. Where are you, Kirk?

How Safe is Aluminum wire?...
Aluminum wire is still approved by the N.E.C. But this on the assumption that everything will be done perfect. Having said that i would like to give a little advice on using aluminum wire when you are building a new home. For the sake of saving a few dollars, it is not worth the safety hazard you face when using this wire. This is not only my opinion but the opinion of many others in the trade. Many times i have been called to repair corroded connections using this wire. Most of the time the aluminum wire had to be replaced with copper. One other piece of advice, before you consider buying a home with aluminum wire you might want to check with the insurance company. Some of them may refuse to insure a house with aluminum wire.
There are a lot of homes that have been wired with aluminum wiring and it would not be financially possible to rewire the entire house or service. There are a few things you can do to make sure that the wiring is not becoming a problem. You should be on the lookout for devices or lighting going on and off. Breakers or outlets overheating. Have the main panel checked for corrosion or loose connections. When adding copper devices or wire to aluminum, make sure this work is done by someone who knows the proper procedure for this type of wiring. A little preventative maintenance can go a long way in preventing future safety hazards.

The article below was sent in by a rep. for an aluminum company.
Bob, Thanks for the information you've made available on your site. If possible, you may want to update the information regarding aluminum building wire. Nearly 95% of residential homes built today are using aluminum cable for Service Entrance. The aluminum building wire in use today (the only one approved by the NEC) is the 8000 Series aluminum alloy. Even though this cable is approved for sizes 12 AWG and larger, no manufacturer produces sizes smaller than #8 (for SEU cable)and #6 AWG for single conductor.
I agree, that if someone has aluminum cable in a house older than,say, the mid eighties, chances are it is NOT 8000 series. The previous product was actually the same aluminum utility cable (EC1350) that is still used on power lines today. However, it was a mis-application to bring this product into a house for switches and receptacles. The Aluminum Association, along with cable manufacturers, and CONNECTOR manufacturers set out to rectify this problem, resulting in the 8000 series alloy in use today. Here in Florida, projects ranging from single family homes to Raymond James Stadium, are incoporating 8000 Series for electrical feeders. Just thought you should know.

Here is the website's url:
Of course you need to verify your particular installation with an expert on your particular home.

However, to the best of my knowledge it is very common, normal, acceptable, and of no concern for a home's wiring to be aluminum from the service panel to the meter to the pole.

The BIG safety concern is the internal wiring within the home (from the service panel to the junction boxes and outlets and switches).

Many of these homes internally wired with aluminum throughout have already been retrofitted with copper wiring so it is actually unusual to stumble across a home with 'aluminum' wiring these days.

I found out this tidbit when we purchase a home built in 1960 where the owner listed the wiring as aluminum. It turns out he was specifying the wiring from the pole to the house but I still had the inspector thoroughly check the internal wiring and did a little research myself.

Tin plated copper looks like aluminum & is sometimes used, fwiw.
Anyway, aluminum wire at the service entrance to my house, that was landed on properly designed terminals, would not bother me in the least. The small gauge stuff, and connection to terminals that will not allow for creep or are not of the proper material (corrision) is where the cheese gets binding,
If you want to pay extra for copper the builders should give you that option, imo.
Great post! I'm looking to have a home built and was planning on dedicated circuits for audio. One prospective builder had no problem. This is valuable info.
Here is the reply from the builder this morning:

"all wiring in the home is copper except the feed from the panel to the breaker box which is aluminum I personally have never done a copper service line because of price I will get you a price for this a.s.a.p. aluminum is our standard included with the house. as for the feed from the street to the outside panel sawnee has a standard service cable which they run aluminum. I am not sure if they will up grade or not."

Please advise if this feed from the panel to the meter is acceptable in aluminum... also, will it affect sonics?

Thanks again
Based upon my experience in recently installing a new 200A service in our home (yes, I abide by all of the rules and had it inspected multiple times) here is what I have observed:

1: The service to the meter base will be provided by your local power utility company and will almost certainly be an aluminum cable. The utility is responsible for the care and maintainance of this cable up to and including the point at which it attaches to your meter base. IMO, you can view this as being to a great extent outside of your control. Once it is hooked up, you cannot service it without the utility being involved.

2: Albert makes a very good point regarding the service feeder as regards weight if the service entrance is overhead. The comparative weight of copper to aluminum if the feeder is long could be a really BIG issue.

3: FROM the output side of the meter base to the rest of your home is your property and your responsibility, both for installation and compliance, and for maintainance.

4: If if were me, I would insist on copper from this point on. How much cable are you really talking about here. I have what I thought was a really long run from the service panel to a sub panel which was about 75 feet, and we are still not talking about a lot of $ for cable here.

5: At least as important in all of this, IMO, from the point of view of the quality of power as it MAY affect audio, is to ensure (I mean really really ensure) that you have an absolutely top quality grounding system. All of the moving current has to go somewhere, and the cleaner the ground sink, the easier it is to get rid of noise pollutants that may appear on the house service lines.
Audiofankj, it should not be an issue (since everybody else would probably have the same config).

However, it certainly cannot hurt to have it upgraded (assuming there's no side affects such as moisture, the elements, etc.).

Additionally, have you considered an industrial grade service panel?


If I may jump in Copper is clearly better. So with that said you can't control what the ultility pulls to the house but from the meter into your house you can control. If you are paying a builder I'm sure a reasonable amount of $$$$$ you should be able to specify particularly considering the safty issues mentioned what kind of cable is used. The question I would like to see anwsered since I am upgrading from 100 to 200 amps is what recommendation do you guys have for internal surge protection. My electrician will be using square D. Also has anyone who has used these products detected a negative change in sonics? I don't want to side track this thread but I'm sure this should be a consideration for anyone with a new home or new service. Thanks in advance.
.....and one other thing that bears mentioning I think. Aluminum is not as good a conductor as copper, and presents a larger voltage drop per a given length than copper. If it's over 40 feet +/_ of wire run from your breaker panel to your system, even with copper, it's a good idea IMO to go up a wire size. From 10AWG to 8AWG for 20A circuits.
It's probably too late now, but your service line should have been run underground. It is much better shielded that way, less susceptable to RF, and various anomolies...

If weight is an issue, there's another reason to run it underground. I know that service lines can be done in copper. The cables are still being made, they are just not used with the same rate of frequency as in the past.

You're only going to do this once (theoretically) so make sure it's done right. It will be more expensive and harder to do down the road.
Walkelin - Why do you think copper is better? If you are worried about impedance you can get more mho per $ with aluminum. If you are concerned about safety, that is not a concerned shared by the electrical construction industry (assuming proper terminating devices and relatively heavy gauge wire).
I can see it now Jeff_jones, the NEXT big thing from Audio Research.


The new line of ARC REF products are now wired completely with aluminum, no more traditional low MHO per $ copper !

Buy now before the rush.
Thanks to all whom have responded. It seems that it is more than widely accepted here in Georgia (not sure if this is a state or regional thing) that the drop from the breaker panel to the meter, as well as from the meter is usually aluminum. I have spoken to two different builders working for the company I am buying from as well as another from a different company. All have been using aluminum from the breaker to the meter. One had been in the industry 9 years, the other 15, forgot to ask the other. As for the drop from the meter to the street, that is done from the electrical company, but am also being told it will be aluminum.

I still haven't heard back yet as to price of the copper form the breaker panel to the meter...
Forgot and I meant to, that the builder building our home is supposedly a "very reputable" builder... Builder of the year last year, and they were selected by 'Better Homes & Gardens' magazine to build their annual "dream home" this year. So, it isn't like it is some shady builder. I have no doubt the wiring will work.

I am wondering if it will make a difference at all, if the drop from the street to the meter is aluminum, will there be much, if any effect from the meter to the breaker panel...
I am wondering if it will make a difference at all, if the drop from the street to the meter is aluminum, will there be much, if any effect from the meter to the breaker panel...

We are obsessive in this hobby, aren't we? But, you've gotta choose someplace to stop the madness. I'd suggest you to stop the madness by leaving well enough alone with the aluminum from the meter to breaker panel.

Now, I have to go polish and demagnetize my CDs...

LoL - Tvad, you have just about hit the nail on the head! That is, with the look I got from the wife, while I was discussing this with my father on the phone tonight... if I don't let it go, I just may get the nail in my head!

That is really going to be the "straw on the camel's back" ... if this continues to aggrevate the "better half" I just may have to take my lumps... hate to neglect what may help, but also have to have a pulse to listen and see if the aluminum did affect it, eh?
Tvad, demagnetize a CD!!. How do you demagnetize aluminum???
Oh, Jea48, there is much for you to learn. Don't you know audiophiles will ignore all common sense to gain an advantage?
Here is a review of the Furutech RD-2 Degausser from Also, my neighbor uses a $40 Radio Shack Bulk tape eraser to accomplish the same thing. I don't personally use these items, but there are some that do, and they swear by them.

I was simply using it as an illustration of Audio-Compulsia...
Hmm... perhaps I need to buy a few of those bulk tape erasers, and fabricate a contraption to "sweep" over my aluminum feed to the breaker box prior to listening sessions. Damn, Tvad! Perhaps this will work out alright!
Tvad, I was pulling your chain. I am quite familiar with this subject.
Tvad, I was pulling your chain. I am quite familiar with this subject.

Oh. It's hard to see the wink in print. :)

So, you're one of those who ignore all common sense!

Audiofankj, I recently completed an upgrade of my AC electric service, so I have some recent experience of relevance. I found, just as you are finding, that the standard protocol in my area of the country is to run all aluminum cable from the pole transformer to the circuit panel. Nonetheless, I was obsessive and persistent about insisting that copper be used in all instances on "my side" of the service. I was working with an electrical engineer who scoped and spec'ed my project for me, and, in my case, he recommended 250MCM copper as the service entrance cable. I believe it is rated for a maximum of 325A of current. Whether or not this specific cable is suitable for your application, I am confident that you will be able to find a suitable and cost-effective copper service entrance cable if you stick to your guns.

Some claim that copper makes for better sound than aluminum. I don't have nearly enough expertise to express any opinion on this topic, but I found that the cost differential was relatively modest, went to all copper and never looked back. One other area that I might mention (although your wife might regret this) is that many circuit breaker panels do not use copper contacts in the interior of the box. In my case, I made sure to use a higher grade circuit panel with quality copper contacts/conductors.

Good luck with your project!
My old home was wired with all aluminum wire. From the power company to my wall outlets. Aluminum.
For 12 years I ran ARC SP10's, SP11's D100B, D250MKII's
electric radiator heaters, anyuthing. No problms.
I replaced the CO fixtures with AL/CO fixtures and never
had a problem running my ARC D250 MKII.
There is nothing wrong with aluminum wire if it's installed correctly.
Unless your an audiophile.

A very trusted and long time friend who's getting ready to retire from the Eng. Dept. of one of the largest electric power companies in the USA had this to say about the use of aluminum...

and I'm paraphrasing...
We use aluminum wire all over the place. From .100" in diameter to 2.125" in diameter. From transmission lines to sub-stations to distribution lines.
But we buy fittings that are made for aluminum wire only.

All the wires from the pole to a residential home are made out of aluminum and the circuit breaker boxes are so designed to facilitate the use of aluminum without issues.
No big deal.

The problems arise when people try and use aluminum going directly to copper or brass connection and electrolysis occurs creating a galvanic reaction.
The power companies are sometimes forced to have direct copper to aluminum contact but they use a "special" grease that prevents the galvanic reation.
Although he did say that he's seen the special fittings, that were covered in grease, where the galvanic reation had destroyed the connection.
Thank you all for the continued information. Much appreciated.