It’s rare for any of us to go more than a few hours without using a product that has been UL certified.
The UL, short for Underwriters Laboratories, is one of the few global safety leaders that has achieved Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) status. It’s also a leading organization for inspecting and testing manufactured electrical products for sale. Since 1894, the Illinois-based organization has produced hundreds of safety standards that can be applied to every product it evaluates.
From furnaces and lights to electrical panels and tray cables, thousands of products are branded with the UL logo. Though the UL standard mark has a capital U and L inside a circle, it could also have a variety of other markings. These may include the word “Listed,” the letter “C” for Canada, or a “C” and “US” denoting the item has received safety certification in both countries.
UL’s reach stretches far beyond our borders. The organization works with companies in more than 100 countries, building a bridge of trust between manufacturers and users. Their approach to product safety testing and rigorous industry standards gives it a powerful voice in the construction industry today, and many times UL-certified products and materials are spec’d into project plans.
With all that said, manufacturers don’t HAVE to go through the UL certification process.
There aren’t any laws on the books in the United States governing whether products need to be UL certified. Manufacturers volunteer to have their products tested and recognized, but the marks do more than prove a product is safe. They provide critical peace of mind to billions of people globally, knowing their homes and businesses are outfitted with the highest quality products. It’s also become more common for electrical projects to require contractors to use certified materials rather than the cheapest option available.
No one wants to install electrical wire in a building or home using products that haven’t been thoroughly tested or vetted for safety. UL recognition ensures products and materials, including the electrical wire and cable Kris-Tech produces, meet strict quality standards. They test products in multiple environments to ensure each one meets the more than 1,600 standards Underwriters Laboratories developed to keep people safe.
If you thought getting a product UL certified was a walk in the park, think again.
The process is neither quick nor cheap. Chuck Beckwith, Kris-Tech’s Quality Team Leader, ensures every copper wire product our team makes receives its safety certification. He says the process starts with submitting information to the organization for initial review.
“You need to open a project with UL for whatever product you wish to make,” Beckwith said. “Once this happens, UL engineers will contact you for more information. Once they have all the information they need, they will request a sample.”
After the initial information is received, a series of product assessments and quotations are performed by UL to make sure the product is appropriately scoped based on intent. This process may also catch any initial problems that could delay the certification process. Once those are complete, the product moves on to the confirmation process. At this stage, the company has to prepare documents and samples for UL to test.
The testing and evaluation process is arduous but thorough, and standards are applied to the product that must be met before it can be certified. UL performs rigorous tests to ensure the product is safe, including analyzing its construction, performance, and durability in various situations.
“Once a wire sample is submitted under certain UL standards, they will test the wire for pass/failure,” Beckwith explained. “If everything passes, the UL will create an E-number (file) for the company, then they can order UL labels for the product.”
If the wire passes its tests, UL will release a certificate allowing Kris-Tech to add UL stickers to its products as they’re shipped out to distributors. And don’t think everything is over once the wire has been certified. Not by a long shot. Regular tests continue even after it is certified, and the certification can even be revoked if too many issues arise.
The rules are slightly different for respooled wire versus wire shipped out after being extruded.
“In the case of respools, Kris-Tech is required to keep logs of the customer, date, and the number of UL labels used to complete the order,” Beckwith said. “Respooled wire gets a process respool label, which is different from the labels used for the wire shipped after coming off the extruders.”
It might not seem like a big deal, but the peace of mind a UL-certified product offers goes a long way toward building trust.
It isn’t just that the smoke detector, fire sprinkler, or electrical wiring is going to work when you need it to, but knowing that the manufacturer creating them has been held to the highest industry standard possible. To achieve it, UL tests products and materials in nearly every environment imaginable, including heat, fire, UV protection, and corrosive situation, to ensure they’re safe and meet the demands of their specific utilities.
Certifications aren’t only for safety products, either. Many electronics that you and I deal with daily are included under the UL umbrella, including computers, TVs, circuit boards, electrical wiring, sensors, and hundreds of other items. It might seem like a lot of work for a sticker, but having the certification company’s stamp on a manufacturer’s product helps them stand out in the marketplace compared to those who didn’t bother with the process.
Despite all the influence Underwriters Laboratories wields, it’s vital to understand it isn’t an approval granting organization. That still must be helmed by the governmental agencies which weigh UL certifications when considering whether to approve new products or materials.
When more than 90% of consumers are doing their research before buying from companies and manufacturers, having an independent certification in your pocket is a big win. By partnering with the UL, manufacturers can maintain smooth processes, reduce downtime caused by miscommunications, and identify issues early in the process that could derail launches and increase costs.
It’s a lot of work, time, and dedication to quality, but UL certifications are meant to make us all a little bit safer.
UL compliant products are becoming more commonplace than ever before and can be seen on billions of products worldwide. For companies like Kris-Tech, the results are a safer, more standardized product that doesn’t have wildly different quality thresholds.
Keep an eye out for the familiar circular mark the next time you’re tasked with looking for project materials. Then, you can rest assured knowing the power of a global safety science organization has your back.