Navigating the Latest Electrical Standards for RVs

A new Australian Standard series – AS/NZS 3001 ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS – CONNECTABLE ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS AND SUPPLY ARRANGEMENTS was published on 18th November 2022 and takes effect following the expiry of a 12-month transition period on 18th November 2023.

Caravan Industry Association of Australia and industry businesses have been receiving numerous consumer enquiries about how the revised standards might affect their recreational vehicles.

Below are the Frequently Asked Questions we have received to try and assist you in understanding the changes:

Q. When does the new Standard for Recreational Vehicles wiring start?

A. The preface of the new standard states the existing Standard (AS/NZS 3001:2008) remains current for 12 months after the publishing of the new Standard (AS/NZS 3001.2.2022). The publication date of the new Standard was 18th November 2022 so for the 12-month period from that date (that is, up to 18th November 2023) both standards remain available as a basis for Electrical Installations.  Vehicles produced within this 12-month period are required to at least comply with the 2008 standard and may comply with the 2022 standard.

Q. Is the start date for the new standard set in concrete?

A. Technically NO, but practically YES. The standard (including its effective date) does not become law until it is drawn down by Acts of Parliament in each state/territory jurisdiction (and New Zealand).  However, as our RV industry sends vehicles to all states and New Zealand all manufacturers are aiming for compliance by 18th November 2023.

Q. I have a vehicle on order, which standard applies?

A. If your vehicle will be completed before 18th November 2023 the existing standard for compliance can be used (AS/NZS 3001:2008). If your vehicle is completed after that date the new standard (AS/NZS 3001.2.2022) will apply.

Q. How do I know which standard my vehicle is built to?

A. First stop, just ask your manufacturer. The correct answer at present will probably be BOTH! Australian manufacturers are working toward updating to the 2022 standard, as was intended by the 12-month transition arrangements included in the preface of the new standard. The one-year grandfathering period is given to help manufacturers transition to the new standard, allowing time for any changes to vehicle design or component sourcing that may be required. If your vehicle is built before 18th November 2023, it is completely lawful if it is built to either AS/NZS 3001.2.2022 or AS/NZS 3001:2008 or a mixture of both standards.

Q. Is the old standard safe?

A. Yes. The foundation for AS/NZS 3001 standards (existing and future) is the Electrical Wiring Rules AS/NZS 3000, with variations that are appropriate for installations in Recreational Vehicles (and other connectible electrical installations).  Standards are periodically revised for many reasons, including but not limited to changes over time in technology, product features, industry practices, as well as in response to any safety issues that are identified in current installations.  So, the publication of a new standard should not be interpreted as the old methods being unsafe, rather as the next incremental improvement in safety and best practice for your installations.

Another aim of standard’s updates, especially in relation to recreational vehicles, is to move toward more specific individual standards. A precedent of this can be seen in other mandatory standards such as LP gas standards for caravans, which now exists as a stand-alone document rather than referencing the household installation standard on which it is based. Similarly, AS/NZS 3001 now has more “stand alone” clauses so that if / when the foundation standard changes, the standard for RV wiring is not impacted and there is less chance of unintended negative consequences. It is also noteworthy that the game changer for electrical safety in RV wiring was the move many years ago to double pole switching and the use of residual current devices (RCD’s) which was many years before RCD’s were law for domestic houses. AS/NZS 3001:2008 is a safe standard. Australia has a really good safety record under AS/NZS 3001:2008.

Q: Do I need to update my recreational vehicle to the new standard?

A:  No.  In general, unless there is a safety concern, Australian standards are not enforced retrospectively so existing vehicles do not need to be updated.

Q. I hear there are new laws for Lithium Batteries. Is my current lithium battery safe?

A. The new standard introduces new requirements for all battery installations, not just lithium. However, the Lithium battery requirements generally represent a more significant change.

It is important to note that the type of Lithium battery installed in Recreational Vehicles is NOT likely to be the same type fitted to devices such as E-scooters, E-bikes, electric vehicles. (These are Lithium-ion, most likely Lithium and Cobalt.) The standard battery fitted to your RV is almost certainly Lithium Phosphate (LiFeP04) which has a long track record of safety – this battery chemistry is inherently MUCH safer, has a longer life, and is cheaper.  The standard has taken a conservative approach to all battery installations, and in particular makes no distinction in requirements for different lithium battery types.

Q: Do I need to replace my RV battery?

A:  No.  In general, unless there is a safety concern, Australian standards are not enforced retrospectively so you do not need to replace your RV battery if it still works.

Q. Do I need to comply with the new standard if I have to repair my vehicle or make alterations?

A. In general, Australian standards include clauses specifying how to deal with Repairs and Alterations.

This is best answered by examples.

If you are simply changing an existing battery “like for like” or replacing a damaged solar panel:  No.   This would be considered a repair and may be completed in line with the standards of the original installation.

If you are making changes such as adding circuits (eg. additional power outlets or appliances), upgrading a Lead-acid battery to a Lithium battery or adding an extra solar panel:  Yes. These are considered an “alteration” and would need to comply with the new standard.

It is worth bearing in mind that it may be appropriate for some more extensive repairs to also incorporate an update to the new standard.  For example, and heaven forbid, your caravan is side-swiped and requires the replacement of an entire side wall, it may be appropriate to complete this repair in line with the newer standards for wiring cable selection.

If you are unsure whether changes to your RV are considered a “repair” or “alteration”, you can consult an appropriately qualified and/or licensed electrician or the Electrical Safety Regulator in your local jurisdiction.

We hope this was helpful in answering your questions but if you still have unanswered questions, we recommend you contact your licenced electrician/repairer or the state electrical regulator for your jurisdiction.

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