Electricity is fundamental in modern society, since there is no other method that can deliver large amounts of energy with the same speed and efficiency. However, this attribute also makes electricity dangerous, and all devices that use it must be tested carefully before reaching the end user. Depending on the application, factors such as electromagnetic interference and hygiene may also be important.
There are many types of certification marks for electrical equipment, and they change depending on the country or the organization that conducts the corresponding laboratory tests. Since electrical devices have a wide range of applications, there are dozens of labels. This article will provide an overview of some common certification marks and their meaning.
Make sure your installation uses certified components.
UL - Underwriters Laboratories
The UL mark is one of the most widely recognized, even among individuals who are not involved in technical fields. UL has offices in over 40 countries, and US federal approval to carry out safety testing for equipment.
Underwriters Laboratories originally focused on fire protection and electrical safety, but its standards then expanded to cover areas such as food safety, performance testing and hazardous substances. UL is a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). There are other NRTLs with equivalent marks, but UL has a marketing advantage thanks to its popularity.
RU - Recognized Component
The RU mark is also applied by Underwriters Laboratories. However, end customers rarely see it because it is used for components that are part of larger systems, assembled by other manufacturers. The components that have RU marks are normally installed in factory settings, and are not intended for field installation.
CSA - Canadian Standards Association
The CSA has developed standards that cover 57 technical fields, and the organization is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. The CSA mark indicates that products have been successfully tested according to Canadian standards.
CSA is a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) in the US, which essentially makes the CSA mark equivalent to UL. They also developed the Canadian Electrical Code, and the first version was published in 1927.
ETL - Intertek
Intertek also has federal approval as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). Although the UL mark is more popular than the ETL mark, both are equal according to US law. There is a common misconception that the UL mark is superior, but the standards used for both marks actually the same.
Since UL is more popular and sought by more manufacturers, getting a product certified can take longer. Getting the ETL mark is a faster option when vendors want to launch a product as soon as possible.
NSF - National Sanitation Foundation
NSF International deals with sanitation and food safety, and it was founded in 1944 by the University of Michigan School of Public Health. NSF standards cover the entire food supply chain, from agriculture to restaurants, as well as water supplies and environmental aspects. The organization has now published over 80 standards.
In commercial kitchens, equipment with an NSF mark is often mandatory. The mark is highly regarded in the food industry, since NSF laboratories are accredited by both OSHA and the Standards Council of Canada.
Initially, NSF only published standards and provided certification for the food industry. However, their coverage has expanded to multiple areas where human health and sanitation are involved.
FCC - Federal Communications Commission
The FCC mark is used in electronic equipment, indicating that its electromagnetic interference is within the limits allowed by the Federal Communications Commission. Since the FCC mark is used in many products that are exported, it is recognized globally.
CE - Conformité Européenne
The CE mark indicates that the product meets EU standards, and it can be sold in the European Economic Area. Unlike Canadian marks, the CE mark is not equivalent to those issued by Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL).
In order to use a product with the CE mark in the USA, it must be certified locally. The CE mark allows self-certification by the manufacturer, while NRTLs are neutral third parties that test equipment.