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In this answer, Chris has mentioned that, before replacing a worn-out electric outlet, it is important to know whether the building has an aluminium or copper wiring. How can I get this information?

I live in a rented apartment, and the homeowner doesn't know.

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If the building is old and hasn't burned down yet, it is probably copper... ;-) – Michael Nov 21 '13 at 17:13
If you're a tenant in a rented apartment, then replacing a worn-out receptacle is the responsibility of the landlord, and if they're unsure of the wiring, they should be hiring an electrician. – mac Nov 21 '13 at 18:48
Yes, the homeowner came and replaced one receptacle and showed me how to do this, but then said it's so simple i can do it myself for the other receptacles. – Erel Segal-Halevi Nov 21 '13 at 18:52
If it's reddish, it's copper. If it's grey, it's aluminum. – Chris Cudmore Jul 23 '14 at 16:43
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Look in the panel

Carefully remove the cover of the main service panel, and take a look at the wiring. Looking at the neutral/ground bus bars, is probably the quickest and easiest way to tell.

Copper and Aluminum Wiring

You'll notice in this image, there is a mixture of both aluminum and copper wiring.

Look at the receptacle wiring.

Turn off power to the circuit you'll be inspecting at the breaker/fuse box. Then remove the cover plate from the receptacle. Use a flashlight to peek at the wiring attached to the receptacle. If you still can't tell. Remove the screws holding the receptacle in place, and carefully pull the receptacle out of the box.

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