RV Electrical Safety Tips That You Should Know

Electricity is essential to RVing. After all, electricity keeps almost everything in the RV functioning.

However, RV electrical systems demand the same respect as a home electrical system (or more). Here are some electrical safety tips you need to know when you're RVing.

What is RV Hot Skin?

Before we do anything else, let's talk about RV hot skin.

Every year, RV hot skin kills a lot of unsuspecting RVers. So, if you RV, you need to know what it is and how to avoid it.

RV hot skin is when the RV's electrical current becomes diverted to the frame, chassis, or metal parts outside the RV.  You may get a shock entering or exiting the RV, and sometimes, the shock can be lethal.

If your RV is shocking you (even mildly), disconnect the RV from its power source and find out what is causing the hot skin. Don't connect again until you deal with whatever is causing the hot skin.

Hot skin can be caused by: – Reverse polarity or bad wiring at the power source – Improper wiring – Improper grounding – Loose or damaged connections – Using a 20-amp extension cord instead of a 30-amp or 50-amp extension cable – A damaged cord set

You can safely test your RV for hot skin by using a non-contact voltage tester. Simply hold the voltage tester within a few inches of the frame of your RV.   If it turns red and beeps, you have a hot skin problem. If your RV has hot skin, you'll need to unplug and figure out what is causing it.

Using an EMS or surge protector is the best defense against hot skin. This provides a barrier by monitoring electricity for problems.  The EMS/surge protector will immediately shut off power if there is any problem that could cause hot skin.

If it's on when you plug in and there is something wrong with the electricity, you could damage your plug, surge protector, or your RV's electrical system.

1. Check that the pedestal breaker is set to "off" before you plug in or unplug

Before you plug in your RV, give the pedestal outlets a visual inspection.  If the outlets look worn, or the wiring looks burned, don't take a chance by plugging your RV in at that pedestal. Even if things look good, test the circuit using a multimeter.

2. Never trust a power pedestal to be properly wired 

Your RV electrical cord and extension cable need to be in good shape to do their jobs properly. Protect your RV electrical cord and extension cable when not in use, and regularly inspect them for wear and corrosion.

3. Take care of your RV electrical cords

If you try to run power through a 20-amp extension cord instead of a 30-amp or 50-amp cord, you could wreck your electrical system.  This is another situation that can cause hot skin.

4. Never plug in with a 20-amp extension cord

You can easily test your RV for hot skin using a non-contact voltage tester.   A non-contact voltage tester looks like a pen and is a quick and easy way to check your RV for hot skin.

5. Test your RV for hot skin using a non-contact voltage tester

The ground pin is there to protect you in the event of an electrical problem. Using plugs and adapters without ground pins gets people killed every year. Don't become one of them!

6. Electrical plugs and adapters should always have a ground pin

Tripped breaker switches are telling you something. Continually resetting them wears them out.  If you have a breaker switch that is continually tripping, find out what the cause is. 

7. Avoid repeatedly resetting breaker switches

Overloading an AC outlet with a space heater or another high-wattage appliance can cause plugs and wiring to overheat and start a fire. 

8. Avoid overloading electrical outlets and circuits

Loose electrical connections are always an electrical safety hazard.  A loose plug connection can cause an RV hot skin situation. Be sure to twist and lock your cord set connector in place with the locking ring.

9. Twist lock your RV cord plug and tighten the locking ring

Using a good surge protector will protect your RV's electronics from damage in the event of a voltage surge. It may also save your life if you happen to hook up to a bad power supply.

10. Always use a surge protector

Track your RV maintenance

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance.  Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.