RVelectricity: Check for dangerous RV hot-skin with new dual-range detector

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By Mike Sokol
I’ve had a lot of questions from RV Travel and RVelectricity readers about feeling a shock from your RV when plugged into shore power at your home or a campground pedestal. So I’ve been writing about it and discussing how to test for RV hot-skin. I’ve just received a new Non-Contact Voltage Tester (NCVT) from Southwire. It has both a 100 to 1,000 volt AC testing range, and a 12 to 1,000 volt range for low-voltage circuits.

I thought this NCVT would be great for finding low-voltage Hot-Skin potential on an RV, and I was right. Please watch my 5-minute video where I demonstrate hot-skin testing with a VariAC transformer on my VW Mini/Micro Bus. To play the video, just click on the picture or HERE.

Why is this important?

While all RVs come from the factory with a proper ground wire, if you plug into shore power with a missing ground you can easily create a hot-skin voltage on your RV.

This RV hot-skin condition can become anything from a tingle to a life-threatening shock. It depends on the available ground fault current from your RV electrical system, and how wet the ground is that you’re standing on.

Never accept feeling a shock

NEVER accept feeling a shock from your RV when it’s plugged into shore power of any kind. If you do, then disconnect from shore power immediately and get out your meters to troubleshoot. For extra help you are invited to join my RVelectricity Facebook Group. We have some really tech-savvy admins and moderators there. Also, I follow it closely for posts about dangerous electrical problems, like an RV hot-skin voltage.

Basic RV hot-skin testing with a NCVT

  • First, make sure your Non-Contact Voltage Tester is powered up.
  • Next, test it on a powered outlet to make sure it’s operating.
  • While you’re standing on the ground holding the NCVT firmly in your hand, touch anything metal on your RV with the tip of the tester. The stairs, door frame, hitch or bumper are generally good places to test.
  • Don’t worry about paint or rust, since the NCVT is sensing the electric field generated by the hot-skin, not the actual voltage itself.
  • And don’t be concerned that you might be shocked, since the plastic tip on the NCVT is generally rated for direct contact with an object up to 1,000 volts.

RV hot-skin levels

  • If your NCVT only beeps when you’re in actual contact with your RV, then the hot-skin potential is probably around 30 to 40 volts AC.
  • If your NCVT beeps from 4 to 6 inches away from the RV, then you probably have a 60 to 80 volts hot-skin.
  • But if your NCVT beeps from 1 to 2 feet away from your RV, then you likely have an internal short-circuit in your RV wiring, and have 120 volts AC.
  • In all cases, for any kind of a hot-skin voltage to occur you must have a broken ground connection in your shore power connection.
  • Read more about troubleshooting hot-skin voltage HERE.

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.

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