Understanding UL certification can be important for your business if you’re in the process of selecting items for your industrial electrical needs. UL certification is relevant if you’re a business owner and you’re creating products that might require it. As a consumer, it’s also helpful to have an idea of what it is.
UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories. UL tests and evaluates products and components so they can then receive a certification. That certification marks the product. There are two specific marks you may see—UL Listed and UL Recognized.
Underwriters Laboratories is one of the oldest safety certification companies. They certify not only products but also systems and facilities based on industry standards. There are more than 20 specific UL certifications, and they’re country-specific.
You won’t, for example, see a UL mark that’s the same in the United States as Europe. There’s no general UL approval.
UL Certification shows manufacturers and service providers are competent and dedicated to providing quality in whatever it is they’re doing. For example, if you’re looking at it from a consumer’s perspective, you want to ensure a service company you’re hiring to install equipment is qualified and is going to meet and exceed any and all service standards.
Another indicator of the presence of UL Certification is that the company meets federal, local, and environmental regulations, promoting safety for employees and customers.
The particular focus of UL testing is on electrical components to make sure they work safely.
Specific industries where you’ll see the most benefits from obtaining UL Certification include consumer goods, power generation, automotive, oil and gas, and aerospace.
What Does UL Listed Mean?
UL Listed is a reference to a standalone and fully functional product or piece of equipment. A UL-Listed item fits into a particular category with a definition outlined by Underwriters’ Laboratory. If a product has a mark that says it’s UL Listed, it’s been comprehensively tested based on safety and industry standards.
Examples of the categories these standards may fall into include flame and fire resistance, mechanical function, and possible electrical hazards.
When something is UL Listed, it will have a seal.
If you’re a business owner, this seal can go a long way to show your sense of accountability and position your brand as one with a strong reputation for safety.
What is UL Recognized?
Another category of classification is UL Recognized. UL Recognized products are usually components that are manufactured in line with specifications relevant to their industry.
The components might not be all the way complete or have limited applications because they’re meant to be part of a more extensive system or product.
UL Recognition, as a result, means less stringent testing than UL Listed products.
Items that might have UL Recognition include electrical components and power supplies.
These products with the UL Recognition designation often can’t be used for anything on their own, but it doesn’t mean they’re lower quality than UL Listed products.
Is UL Certification Required?
The process of going through UL Certification can be time-consuming and expensive. Every component of a product is tested individually for safety and durability to make sure that it will adhere to the purposes it’s meant to be for. That means there may be a variety of scenarios under which the product is tested including heat, cold, UV resistance and longevity.
If the product undergoes changes, the design may have to be re-tested.
You don’t inherently have to be UL Certified, but if you’re a business owner planning to sell your products in retail stores, most won’t carry you unless you are. There aren’t mandatory safety standards in the U.S. for electrical products, but there are many other reasons you want to make sure your product is safe.
From the retailer’s perspective, when you have the UL mark, you’re providing what boils down to an insurance policy. When a company chooses a UL product, it helps them avoid potential liability issues. Manufacturers often feel the same way.
When you import products, you aren’t required by law to comply with the standards of UL, but importers are responsible for making sure products are safe. Again, the UL standards are one of the best ways to determine safety.
UL develops standards that integrate public comment and participation from the affected public and the industry involved.
If you want to figure out which standard would apply to your product, you can use the UL’s Catalog of Standards, with brief descriptions of what’s covered by each.