AC Hotstick Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the AC HotStick?

The HotStick USA AC HotStick is a very sensitive AC voltage detector designed specifically for search and rescue operations.

Is the Hotstick used for moving electrically charged wires?

No, the name may be misleading to some.

Why would I want to purchase an AC voltage detector?

We can not see, hear, taste, or smell electricity and if we feel it, it is often too late. In many situations dangerous AC voltage may be present between fallen trees, on wire fences, in water puddles, even sometimes in wires which were considered as harmless telephone wires, guy wires and in areas which supposedly had the power disconnected.

To detect AC voltage with the AC HotStick, do I have to contact wires or make ground contact?

Definitely not! The AC HotStick will detect any exposed and dangerous wire or voltage carrying surfaces by detecting the alternating electrostatic field from a safe distance.

What is the distance from which I can detect voltage?

It will depend on how high the voltage is and how much of an area is exposed and not covered by shields, which are grounded. The higher the voltage, the larger is the distance from which it is detected. A “hot” 7500 V overhead distribution line can be picked up from 200 feet (60m) away. A car in contact with 120 VAC is detected from about 8 feet (2.50m).

What batteries does the AC HotStick run on?

Four (4) AA type Alkaline batteries power the unit in continuous use for 300 hours. If typically used intermittently on a first response vehicle, the batteries will last at least for one year.

Does the unit require recalibration?

No. The unit runs a 3 second self-test during turn-on from a built-in AC source. In use the battery voltage is monitored continuously. If the batteries should run down, a continuous tone is heard.

How do I know when AC is present?

The AC HotStick will start to beep and an LED will blink when AC is present.

How do I locate the source of the AC?

The unit will beep faster as the front part of the AC HotStick is moved closer to the source. The sensitivity can be switched down (from high to low sensitivity) to narrow in on the location. Finally, in a third setting called “Front Focused” the unit is made directional and picks up primarily from the front.

What if there are two sources of AC to be checked out — a car wreck beneath overhead wires?

You can use the “LOW” or “FRONT FOCUSED” setting and point towards the areas to be checked.

Can I detect live wires in the ground, in metal conduits or inside walls?

No. Wires which are completely enclosed in (humid) soil, conductive braid, or metal conduits, which are grounded, are not detected. However, in a fault condition, if current is running in the soil or a metal conduit becomes ungrounded, the AC HotStick will give a warning. Plastic enclosed wires which run in dry walls (sheet-rock) can usually be traced.

How sturdy is the unit? Is it fireman proof?

No. Nothing is fireman proof, but it is “firemen resistant.” It will easily take dust, shocks, vibration, splash water, and high and low temperatures.

Is it dangerous to accidentally touch a conductor which carries high voltage with the AC HotStick?

Touching wires which carry high voltage is always dangerous and should be avoided. If the AC HotStick is dry and clean it can withstand several thousands of Volts without causing an electrical shock. But the purpose of the AC HotStick is to keep you away at a safe distance.

Can I overload the unit electrically?

No. The input circuits are protected against damage from high voltage nearby.

Does the AC HotStick indicate DC e.g. from a car battery or the third rail of a subway?

No. These DC voltages will not be indicated. Electrostatic charges from rubbing on clothing or leaves on trees may sometimes produce irregular beeps. These will stop when the AC HotStick is held still.