Updated 2020

Imported RV electrics

Imported RV electrics are often not fully compliant. Their owners often wrongly believe they are. They cannot legally be sold unless remedied.

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Lovely rig – but not electrically (and otherwise) compliant in Australia.

Current legislation enables locals to buy, import and use RVs that have wiring and 110-volt appliances. The original buyer can have an electrician install a 230-110 volt transformer. Plus basic safety components. This does not, however, make it electrically compliant.

Unless 100% compliant the above enables only the original buyer to use that RV. It cannot be legally sold. Nor even offered for sale. Not all owners realise this. Many non-compliant RVs have been sold. This leaves sellers (and buyers) in a tricky legal position.

This particularly affects imports (not just private) prior to 2010. Some had forged or flawed compliance papers. See Imported RVs. This is known by regulatory authorities. Many require certification upon re-registering. That is not possible, however, unless made 100% compliant.

Imported RV electrics – the basic issues

Many private imports have the transformer mentioned above. Original cabling, outlets and 110-volt appliances, however, remain. This RV may be connected to a 230 volt supply. But by the original buyer only.

The above cannot provide electrical compliance. It is because (in Australia) it is illegal to sell 110 volt items likely to be used domestically. That includes RVs. In some states doing so is a criminal offence.

The original private importer can thus legally use a non-compliant RV. That importer cannot legally resell it (in Australia) unless made 100% compliant except to dealers. Dealer liability is clear. They cannot sell an RV not 100% compliant. If you’ve bought one in Australia shown not 100% compliant, take legal action against the seller. Dealer – or otherwise.

The cost of obtaining compliance can be huge. In some cases, it’s not feasible. A dealer may declare insolvency to avoid payment. Then restart the next day under a new name. Meanwhile, you cannot use or resell that RV until it’s compliant.

Imported RV electrics – fixing the problems

Making a 110 volt RV compliant necessitates major rewiring. It requires double pole circuit breakers and socket outlets. It requires an RCD and a compliant inlet socket. Unless you remove RV’s skin for access, new wiring may need running interiorly.

The 12-volt ‘converter’ is usually a 110-volt unit. Before replacing it, consider better alternatives. Caravan & Motorhome Electrics shows why and how.

Private imports have many non-compliant features. Thoroughly check before starting. If beyond they are a few years old it’s probably not worth doing.

Imported RV electrics – legislation summary

Each Australian state and territory individually administer the legal (electrical) provisions

These are of the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004 and the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Regulation 2006. They include the sale of mains supplied electrical appliances and equipment. Approval schemes in the various states are substantially similar.

Certification by NSW Fair Trading relates only to electrical safety. That does not, however, imply that a certified article is endorsed. In Queensland, the issue is handled by the Electrical Safety Office of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. South Australia’s is by the Office of the Technical Regulator. Tasmania’s is by Workplace Standards of the Tasmanian Department of Justice. Western Australia’s is by EnergySafety (of its Department of Commerce). In the NT – it is by NT Worksafe. In the ACT by its Planning and Land Authority.

Victoria’s is complicated. There, EnergySafe Victoria formally declares an RV to not be an ‘electrical installation’. It does not define what it is. It implies, by extension, an RV in effect is an ‘electrical appliance’. Electrical appliances do not installation certification. They must, however, comply with relevant Australian (electrical) Standards. Unless made 100% compliant, an import cannot so comply.

The Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004 provides for the prohibition of any article that is unsafe. Or likely to become unsafe. It may compel remedial action (including recall). It also ensures the public is reasonably protected against risks of using unsafe electrical articles. Legislation concerning the sale and approval of electrical articles exists in all Australian states and jurisdictions.

Declared articles

Imported RV electrics issues relate to the electrical installation and all that is run from it. All electrical goods sold in Australia must meet specific requirements. That, in NSW, is the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004. Such Acts cover the sale and distribution of electrical items known as ‘Declared Articles’. The Acts and listings of such articles vary slightly from state to state. That of NSW is typical of all states. It includes almost every electrical item used in RVs.

A privately imported RV is almost certain to have Declared Articles. They can legally be used (in Australia and New Zealand) by the original buyer. But none may legally be resold.

The definitions and use of ‘sell’ (for this purpose) are extensive. They include auction or exchange, offer, agree or attempt to sell, advertise, expose, send, forward or deliver for sale. The list even includes: cause or permit to be sold or offered for sale, hire or cause to be hired, and display for sale or hire. This puts the reseller of any non-compliant RV at risk.

Imported RV electrics – the safety issues

The legal requirements are based on known safety issues.

Electrical systems in US and Canadian RVs differ substantially from those locally. An imported RV cannot be made compliant by simple changes.

Local requirements are in AS/NZS 3000: 2018 and AS/NZS 3001:2008 (as Amended in 2012). The latter is the main one concerning RVs.

Electrically isolated transformers are legal in some circumstances, e.g. 110-volt scientific equipment. Generally, anything electrically connected to such a transformer must be approved and certified. Contrary to vendor claims – no 110 volts 60 Hz ‘Declared Article’ has such approval.

Isolated transformers are intended to power only one Class 1 device at a time. (A Class I device has its metal chassis or enclosure connected to earth.) It is unsafe to so power two or more Class 1 appliances simultaneously. Such usage is forbidden by AS/NZS 3000:2007 as Amended 2012. Section 7.4.3. That item states ’all live parts of a separated circuit shall be reliably and effectively separated from all other circuits, including other separated circuits and earth.’

That many so-equipped RVs may have several such Class A appliances may be overlooked by regulators. Insurers, however, are aware of it. They may thus reject claims resulting from a related incident. Licensed electricians and a Senior Electrical Inspector confirm this.

Imported RV electrics – disposal

Australian law requires everything removed from a non-compliant RV to be permanently disposed of. It cannot even be given away. This applies also to the entire RV. You must destroy it.

Disclaimers:

I am not a licensed electrician. I do, however, have extensive experience in electrical design and engineering. The text of this article was checked and approved by a senior Electrical Safety Inspector (in his private capacity). This article takes in his suggested changes and clarifications.

Amendments may be made to the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004, or the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Regulation 2006 at any time. The information contained in these notes may thus become out-dated. For more detail see Section 3 of the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004.

Imported RV electrics – further information

Electrical requirements for compliance are explained in Caravan & Motorhome Electrics. See also Imported RVs.

The main and overriding electrical standards involved are AS/NZS 3000:2007 as Amended in 2012, and the RV-related AS/NZS 30001:2008 as Amended in 2012.

The main structural and on-road issues are covered in Caravan and Motorhome Compliance.

My other books include the Caravan & Motorhome Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, the Camper Trailer Book, Solar That Really Works (for cabins and RVs) and Solar Success (for homes and properties). About the Author – Bio.

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