What is high voltage? It may seem like a simple question, but there’s honestly no specific answer as to what constitutes as high voltage.
Although electricity has been around for as long as most of us can remember, there’s still not a universally accepted definition of what exactly HV is. Some standards do define high voltage as being a high voltage, but this is not necessarily accepted by other standards and those involved with high voltage systems.
Under the official dictionary description, HV is described as being ‘an electrical potential large enough to cause injury or damage’, but the actual technical bit behind this description is much more varied and this description isn’t an all-encompassing definition of what counts as HV.
For example, high voltage could be any of the following:
- A voltage of higher than 40V could be classed as high voltage as it could be potentially dangerous
- Voltages of 208V or higher
- The DOE Electrical Safety Guidelines define HV as over 600 volts
- High voltage can be any electric potential capable of producing breakdown in air at STP or around 600V
- Voltages higher than standard power distribution
- 10kV (10000V)
- A wire or cable operating at over 25000V (25kV)
- An electrical system or cable designed to operate between 46kV and 230kV
The list goes on and on. As we said, defining exactly what is meant by high voltage is tricky; the lack of a truly universal definition of the constraints of high voltage makes it almost impossible to truly determine where high voltage begins and lower voltage ends.
Extensive testing and preparation before working with equipment are essential to determine whether it counts as high voltage or not. If the area you’re entering or equipment you’re working with is above the threshold of 40V, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re checking for potential high voltage and every electrician should be aware of the importance of high voltage safety.