April 15, 2022
If your electronic device poses a safety risk, it’ll need a UL certification; here’s a more specific example.
Suppose your electronic device uses a Lithium-ion battery (like the one cellphones use), in that case, it’ll most certainly need a UL certification.
If you remember the Samsung Note 7 incident, it’s easy to understand why these batteries pose a safety risk.
You might think you don’t have to bother with a UL certification if your electronic device does not use this battery type; well, you do.
If your device plugs into an AC power outlet, you’ll need to apply for a UL certification.
While technically, a UL certification isn’t a requirement to sell your electronic device in the US. You should not try to put your product on the market without one.
An electronic device that hasn’t been tested to ensure it meets quality standards and plugs into a power outlet is a fire hazard. If such a horrendous incident happens, you’ll be liable for it.
So, while expensive and time-consuming, a UL certification is a must.
But if you want to avoid applying for it without putting anyone at risk, here’s what you have to do.
- How to avoid applying for a UL certification?
- Alternatives to a UL certification.
- Certification key points
- Figuring out which UL Certification you need
- UL Certification – Frequently Asked Questions
How to avoid applying for a UL certification?
First of all, why would you want to avoid having to apply for it?
Depending on the product category, certification scope; the cost of the UL certification might be from US$5,000 to US$ 50,000.
It might take around 6 months to get it if the electronic device was designed according to the technical requirements applicable to the UL certification standards.
So, in short, it is expensive and time-consuming. So, what are your options?
Get a UL-certified power supply unit for your electronic device.
Provide the user with UL-certified wall socket adapter.
Design your product so the user can charge it using a USB charger; the UL certification falls on the charger, not the electronic device in itself.
You remove the need for a UL certification directly on your electronic device in any of the above options.
Going for, say, option 1 will be significantly cheaper than applying for a UL certification; a power supply unit sells for US$2 to US$3.
Alternatives to a UL certification.
CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
This certification is valid in Canada and the US; the CSA group is an expert institution in testing and certifying electronics to meet national and international compliance requirements.
CE (Conformité Européenne) Marking
The name of this certification translates to European conformity; having this marking on your device means that your electronic device complies with health, safety, and environmental requirements in Europe.
It’s similar to having a UL and FCC certification.
Certification key points
- Only certify your electronic device once you’re 100% sure you’re not going to make any design changes.
- If you make design changes after certifying, then you’ll have to start the certifying process from zero.
- Once you have your final prototype, you should be clear on which certifications your electronic device will need so you can design accordingly.
- To apply for a certification, you’ll need to submit a production unit.
- Testing for certifications is expensive and time-consuming.
- You’ll need to have your product manual ready to apply for a certification.
Figuring out which UL Certification you need
So, now you know that if your device uses a lithium-ion battery or plugs into a wall socket, it’ll need a UL certification.
However, this is not the only consideration for whether your electronic device will need a UL certification or not.
There are over 1000 safety certifications provided by UL ( Underwriter laboratories).
The main UL Certification categories are
- Sustainability standards
- Standards for electrical and electronic products
- Life safety standards
- Standards for building products
- Standards for industrial control equipment
- Standards for plastic materials
- Standards for wire and cable
Each category contains different certifications your product might need based on its characteristics and the environment where it will be used.
Within the Standards for electrical and electronic products, you’ll find one called
- UL 50, Enclosures for Electrical Equipment
If you copy and paste it into Google, you’ll find this result.
Click on that result. If you click on the “scope” option, you’ll get details on the UL certification.
This one reads
1.1 This standard applies to enclosures for electrical equipment intended to be installed and used in non-hazardous locations in accordance with the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, CSA C22.1, the provisions of the National Electrical Code, NFPA 70, and the provisions of Mexico’s Electrical Installations, NOM-001-SEDE, as follows:
- a) Enclosures for indoor locations, Types 1, 2, 5, 12, 12K, and 13; and
- b) Enclosures for indoor or outdoor locations, Types 3, 3X, 3R, 3RX, 3S, 3SX, 4, 4X, 6, and 6P.
You can read the rest on that page.
Questions to find out if you need this specific UL certification.
- Will your product be used in Canada?
- Does the enclosure of your electronic device fall within one of those categories?
- Will it be used in a non-hazardous location?
- Do similar electronic devices in the market have a UL certification?
- If you’re dealing with B2B clients, do they require a UL certification?
As you can see, it’s a circumstantial situation.
Suppose this is your first time designing and manufacturing an electronic device. In that case, it might be confusing to figure out which certification your product will need.
However, if you have a good design and manufacturing partner, they will most likely know if your product requires it or not.
UL Certification – Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean for your product to be UL certified?
When an electronic device has a UL certification, it means it has been tested by UL (Underwriter laboratories) and meets nationally recognized safety standards and things like
- risk of fire
- electric shock
Are no longer an issue.
What are the Types of UL certifications?
Products can either have a “UL Listed” or “UL recognized” mark.
- UL listed is for end products.
- UL recognized is for components used in end products, such as PCB.
Once a product has been tested and meets a particular quality standard, it’s granted the certification. Then, they are physically translated into markings or stamps.
- UL markers are most commonly seen on industrial equipment and home appliances.
- UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, a company in business for more than 100 years.
How do I figure out if my device requires UL certification?
- Figure out whether your B2B clients (factories, office buildings, etc..) require it.
- If you sell your device to end consumers, retailers might also require a UL certification.
- They will require the UL certification to ensure your device meets specific safety criteria and does not pose a safety risk.
- They also need it to be protected in case of a liability lawsuit.
What kind of device requires a UL certification?
It would be difficult to give you a detailed list because there are over 1000 UL certifications; your product could easily fall under one.
Speaking in broad terms
- Audio and video equipment
- Information technology equipment
- Medical equipment
- Equipment for laboratory use
Products in those categories will need a UL certification.
How to check if my product needs UL certification?
The best thing to do is ask people with plenty of experience in electronics manufacturing.